That game was both very entertaining to watch, and very nerve racking at the same time. The New York Rangers eventually prevailed with the 3-2 victory in Newark, which is their second straight win this week. After dropping three straight on their road trip last week, the Rangers have begun to erase any sort of bad memories that may be lingering. Two straight wins, and an even bigger win over the New Jersey Devils will do a lot for this club heading into Thursday night. But before we start looking ahead, let's go over tonight's game.
If you watched this first period, and managed to escape without any sort of breathing issues, you were one of the lucky ones. For the first time in who knows how long, the Rangers actually opened up the scoring, and had an aggressive start off of the opening draw. After Ryan McDonagh took a tripping penalty which prevented a goal, the Rangers were faced with a big task of shutting down the highly powerful power play from the Devils.
Not only did they kill of the penalty, but they wound up with the games first goal and it came shorthanded. On a clearing attempt, Johan Hedberg mishandled the puck in the right faceoff dot, and Derek Stepan gathered the puck deep behind the Devils net. After curling back around to the outside, he tossed a pass to the middle of the slot, and Michael Del Zotto was on the doorstep to chop the puck out of the midair, and make it 1-0 Rangers.
Michael Del Zotto has been absolutely spectacular over the last two games, and he's also been VERY active in the offensive zone. This goal was a perfect example of Del Zotto reading the open ice, getting there, and slamming it home. As if the first penalty kill wasn't good enough, J.T. Miller headed to the box for a hooking call, but the Rangers weren't so fortunate this time around.
Travis Zajac would be the recipient of the Devils goal on the power play, and he slid it between the legs of Henrik Lundqvist. It was a very broken play, and the Rangers had a few chances to clear the puck, but it kept getting caught up in skates. But nonetheless, lucky bounces count just as much as any other goal on the scoreboard. This is the point where both teams literally blew the doors right off of the this game.
A little over a minute and a half after the Devils tied the game up at one, Carl Hagelin converted on a bank pass off the back boards. Dan Girardi made the great play at the blue line, and threw it off the backboards in an attempt to get the puck in front of the net. His play may have worked out a little too perfectly, as it hit the backboards, and bounced right onto Carl Hagelin's stick, who was camped out at the right post. It was a huge response by the Rangers, but it didn't last very long.
Anton Volchenkov would convert on yet another lucky bounce, as he point shot took a strange redirection off of Jeff Halpern's skate and beat Henrik Lundqvist over the shoulder. Again, nothing you could really do but shake off those terrible bounces, and get right back to playing. After that very wide open first period, this game began to slow down throughout the next two periods.
Three minutes into the first period, things got a little feisty as Travis Zajac appeared to have run over Henrik Lundqvist, after he made a glove save on the play. However, when the replays were shown on MSG, it was actually Dan Girardi's elbow who whacked Lundqvist in the head, and not Zajac. Unfortunately, the referee's made the call, and sent off Zajac for goaltender interference. Nothing really came of it, as the Devils pretty much locked down the Rangers on the power play.
However, the Rangers were able to take their third lead of the night just a few minutes later, as Rick Nash ripped one through the five hole of Hedberg on an odd-man rush. It's just a prime example of Rick Nash freezing up both the defenseman, and the goaltender, before rippling the twine with a wicked wrist shot. Through two periods, Henrik Lundqvist was playing like a man possessed. His biggest save of the night came when he shut down three straight shots by Alexei Ponikarovski, before the Devils knocked it out of play. He held them in the game all night long, and was a big reason why this game didn't get out of hand earlier.
The third period was pretty much a lock down defensive period for the Rangers, as they camped four players in the neutral zone, and didn't allow the Devils very much room at all. Although there were a few defensive breakdowns, it was the most complete effort from the defensive pairings this season. And to boot, John Tortorella was running all six defensemen on steady shifts throughout the night.
The final buzzer finally sounded, and the Rangers came away with their second straight victory, which has moved them back into playoff position. They are currently in a three-way tie with the Winnipeg Jets, and Toronto Maple Leafs for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. With a few more wins, the Rangers could find themselves moving up the standings quicker than anyone would have thought.
- Even though Marian Gaborik didn't register a point tonight, I thought he had a great game in both the offensive and defensive zones. After coughing up the puck in the neutral zone, he made a great play on Ilya Kovalchuk cutting through the middle. He also had a great opportunity in the first period, but was denied by Hedberg. Overall, a decent outing by him, considering all of the trade hoopla surrounding him.
- J.T. Miller just continues to put his patience on display each and every night. He made some great plays tonight, including a strong offensive rush in the third period. He chipped the puck into the zone, received it, lowered his shoulder, and drove it to the net.
- There's not much you can complain about with Henrik Lundqvist's game tonight. He played out of his mind, and kept the Rangers in the game all night long.
Tomorrow will be an off day for the Rangers, before they head back to Madison Square Garden to take on the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Man, this whole winning thing feels pretty good.