After failing to score for 58 minutes of the game, the New York Rangers closed out the game in dramatic fashion tonight by picking up two huge points over the Florida Panthers. Henrik Lundqvist played unreal the entire game, and the only shot that beat him was off of an ugly turnover courtesy of Dan Girardi behind his own net. Other then that though, Lundqvist was lights out in crucial points during the game, and shut down the Panthers in the shootout to steal two points in this one.
This game was relatively dry in terms of entertainment, but the Rangers were able to withstand some early pressure by the Florida Panthers, and kept this game scoreless after one period of play. Heading over to the second period, things started to get ugly for the Rangers in the first half. The Panthers were hemming the Rangers in their own zone for minutes on end, and they left Lundqvist to do the dirty work in front of the net. However, they could only lean on Lundqvist for so long before the Panthers finally broke through with the games first goal.
On a routine puck battle in the corner, Dan Girardi practically spoon fed the puck to Aleksander Barkov behind the net, and he quickly dished it out to Brad Boyes who was wide open in front. In the fraction of a second, Boyes collected the puck and slipped the puck between the legs of Lundqvist to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead midway through the second. Dan Girardi's play has been up and down all season long, and the play that he made behind the net is unlike anything we've seen from him in these past for years.
The Rangers had a late power play opportunity to get back into the game, but it eventually went unanswered after a few great looks from the Rangers power play unit. It was much more of the same for the Rangers early in the third period before they started to kick it into high gear during the closing minutes. Dan Girardi eventually redeemed himself with about two minutes remaining in regulation as he ripped a shot over the should of Tim Thomas to tie the game at 1-1.
Derek Stepan and Rick Nash did some wonderful work behind the net in order to dig out the puck, and Stepan capped it off with a beautiful feed out to Girardi cutting down the middle. Tomas Kopecky wound up breaking his stick covering the front of the net on an earlier play, and went to the bench as soon as Stepan corralled the puck behind the net. In doing that, he left Girardi a wide open lane in the high slot, and the Rangers took full advantage of it.
Unlike regulation, the overtime period contained more scoring opportunities than three periods prior, all in favor of the New York Rangers. Ryan McDonagh has three glorious opportunities to end this one early in overtime, but he and Tim Thomas were have quite the battle in the extra frame. Finally the buzzer sounded with a scoreless tie once again, and this one would head to the shootout the be decided.
Brad Richards would be the only goal scorer throughout the entire shootout, and Henrik Lundqvist shutdown Brad Boyes to seal the deal for the Rangers. Over these last two games, Lundqvist has appeared to return his normal form, and was on a completely different level tonight. With this win, the Rangers have won two straight heading into the New Year, and will faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday evening.
Happy New Year everyone!