Tonight's 4-1 defeat of the Ottawa Senators is not something to get overly excited about, but it was definitely needed. Considering where they are in the standings and who they have coming up on the schedule, two points were a must for New York in this game against the last place team. Not only that, but they were also in need of a confidence booster after all of the recent heartbreaking losses. Again, this win doesn't mean all that much unless the Rangers build on it, but it at least is a stepping stone on the path to regaining their game and remaining in the playoff race.
For the second straight night the Blueshirts got on the board first when Vinny Prospal fired and scored from the circle at 10:08 of the opening stanza. Another play started by the hard work of Sean Avery behind the net, as he picked up an assist on the goal. Prospal was due as well so it was nice to see him find the back of the net.
The Rangers added to their lead in the second period with back-to-back goals from Mats Zuccarello and Artem Anisimov. Zuccarello had gone nineteen games without a goal before tonight, so obviously that tally meant a lot to him. The rookie showed great patience with the puck as he waited until Anderson was completely down and out to lift the backhander over the sprawled goaltender.
On Anisimov's goal, Callahan made a strong play to chip the puck ahead and off went Anisimov. Artem showed off his soft hands by putting a silky smooth move on Anderson to bury his 15th of the season. Some fans think that Anisimov is not worth keeping around, but that goal right there shows why he is. The kid has tremendous talent, and I think they key word there is "kid". Give him time and he will be doing that on a consistent basis.
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Leading 3-0 going into the third, it was very important for the Rangers to maintain their intensity and finish off the win. While Ottawa came out and got some early chances, Derek Stepan crushed any hopes the Sens may have had of sparking a comeback with his 18th goal on the year at 2:25. Actually, I give most of the credit to Wojtek Wolski for making an amazing pass to find Stepan open in the slot. Derek made a slick deke and easily made it 4-0 Rangers.
Ottawa did end up getting on the board when Sergei Gonchar's blast from the point made its way through traffic and past Henrik Lundqvist, but that would be the end of their offense for the night. The Blueshirts tightened up late and Lundqvist also made a few big saves. Somewhat of an easy win, but they still had to work for their goals, so well earned.
In my opinion, it was Dubinsky and Callahan who again took the team on their back and carried them to victory. Dubinsky may not have gotten on the scoresheet, but he played an excellent game for many other reasons. I felt like he had the puck a lot tonight and made something happen each time he touched it, as did Callahan. Those two were clutch on the penalty-kill as well.
Dan Girardi was stellar on the blue-line on this night. In fact, it was probably his best game in a while and it came at a good time with Ryan McDonagh (knee) currently out of the lineup. Danny is quietly effective out there, but he is one of the more important players on this hockey club. He's not always labeled as that, but it's the truth.
And then it was Henrik Lundqvist shutting the door in goal all game long. Believe it or not, he ended up facing a total of 29 shots and some of the saves he made were absolutely beautiful. And I don't know what it is about Canada, but for the second time while playing up North, Hank jumped into a scrum and threw some jabs. Gotta' love it!
Again, beating on the last place team is nothing to brag about, but for their own sake, this was a huge win for the Rangers. Depending on what happens in the Carolina-Chicago game (Hawks winning in the 3rd right now), these two points could potentially put the Rangers back in seventh after spending only 24 hours in eighth. That's good news because I don't exactly expect any points out of Sunday's matinee with the Flyers at MSG for obvious reasons.