With the Rangers down 3-2 midway through the third period, Ranger fans everywhere were taking steps closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. The entire season was flashing before our eyes as it appeared the Blueshirts were going to lose yet another key game in the standings. But just as they did often in the first half of the season, they fought back and they fought back hard. Effort, desire and desperation all factored into the comeback and eventual shootout victory. A win like this is exactly what they needed confidence-wise, and now they have to build off of it.
The Rangers came out firing tonight in Carolina, and for the second straight game got on the board first when Brandon Prust's goal just 2:08 into regulation gave them an early 1-0 lead. The play was sparked by Sean Avery's strong move to the net, where his attempted wraparound slid through the crease and right to a crashing Prust. The Blueshirts grabbed instant momentum from that goal and continued to pepper goaltender Cam Ward with constant shots. Ward, though, rose to the challenge and did not let another in.
Henrik Lundqvist was just as good down the other end in the first period, but unfortunately was beat by Jay Harrison on a breakaway at 16:35. Well, maybe I shouldn't say that since Harrison's shot hit the post and then bounced off Henrik's back and into the net. So yes, typical Rangers' luck came into play and despite dominating the first twenty, New York found themselves tied going into the intermission.
The second period was more closely played as the Hurricanes had awoken, but I still gave the Rangers the edge as far as chances and time of possession went. Both Ward and Lundqvist were putting on a clinic in net, so it was no surprise that it took a deflection by Ryan Callahan late in the second to finally give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The goal came on the powerplay when Mats Zuccarello perfectly placed a point-shot low for Callahan to redirect; that's just what the alternate captain did and Ward basically had no chance of stopping it.
But that lead did not hold up for very long as Jussi Jokinen found the top corner on Henrik Lundqvist at 3:32 of the third. About three minutes later Jokinen scored again when he was left wide open by Michael Sauer, and that would give the Hurricanes a 3-2 lead. Time was going on and on and still no answer from the Rangers. Then, just when we thought they were down and out, Wojtek Wolski made a strong move into the slot and threw a shot on goal that was deflected by a Carolina defender and into the net. That tying tally came with just under two minutes left in regulation.
Overtime was very entertaining with consistent back and forth action, but once again both goalies stood on their heads and stopped everything that came their way. Neither one of them was going to budge, so to a shootout we would go to find the winner of this one.
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Just before the beginning of the shootout, while the ice was being cleared off by the Zambonis, Wojtek Wolski skated over to the corner of the rink where back-up goaltender Martin Biron was watching the game. The two stood there and chatted for a good minute or so before Wolski headed back to the bench.
Well isn't it funny that Wolski turned out to be the only scorer in the shootout for either team, and ended up winning the game for the Rangers with a laser of a wrist shot over the glove of Ward. Does Biron get an assist on that?
Staying on the topic of Wolski, I said earlier on twitter that he has been one of the Rangers best players as of late. Well ain't that the truth. He finally looks comfortable on this team and has confidence with the puck. When he has possession, it is very difficult to knock him off the puck. He showed that tonight and he showed it Sunday against Philadelphia as well. Watch out for Wojtek GOALSKI, because he could turn out to be a very important player for the Rangers in the final months of the season.
Besides Wolski, the other player that stood out to me tonight was Mike Sauer on defense. He'll probably take the blame for the third Hurricanes' goal, but besides that I thought he had one of his best games of the season, if not THE best. He's now learning how to join the offense and get shots to the net, and he is picking it up rather quickly too. Just look at the tying goal; he may not have scored it, but he was standing right there if there was a rebound. Silent player, but a very effective one.
Speaking of defensemen, Marc Staal left the game after the second period and did not return. Many thought it was because of the high hit his brother applied on him when Marc had his head down along the boards, but it turns out it was just a twisted knee that he suffered early in the game. Doesn't seem too serious and I would fully expect him to play Friday in Washington.
Last but not least, we cannot forget about Henrik Lundqvist and his 30 saves. Without him I think the Rangers lose this game.
In my opinion, this is the biggest win of the season for John Tortorella's squad and I'll tell you why. The Rangers remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but are now eight points ahead of ninth place Buffalo and only one point behind the sixth place Habs. They are in decent position considering how frequently they have lost as of late, and they will have a chance to carry on the momentum Friday when they visit Ovechkin and the Capitals.