The New York Rangers were facing a must win game tonight against the Florida Panthers, and they got it done in some decent fashion. The Rangers were good to start out the game, but collapsed quicker than ever during the middle of the game, and were riding thin ice there for a while. It was until they broke it open in the third period, as the flood gates opened up on Scott Clemmensen and the Florida Panthers. Henrik Lundqvist earned the first start of the game tonight, as he turned aside 34 of the 35 shots he faced.
Derick Brassard, John Moore, Mats Zuccarello, and Brad Richards all had big games tonight. Brassard continued his point streak as he tapped in two goals. Zuccarello scored his second and third goal of the season, and is turning out to be a pretty good deadline pick up for the Rangers, and John Moore took it to a whole new level tonight. Moore was very active in the offensive zone, and got a few scoring chances of his own as well. He surprised everyone tonight as he even dropped the gloves with Jack Skille early on in the third period, which sparked the Rangers following three goals.
Things started off early for the New York Rangers as they went 2-for-2 in the first ten minutes of the game and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Derick Brassard picked up the first goal as he jammed home a loose puck in the crease, as Rick Nash made a great play in the corner to force the puck on net. Derick Brassard also played a huge part in the second power play goal as well, even though he never registered a point on the play. As Ryan Callahan threw the pass cross ice, Brassard held up and let the puck slide right over to Rick Nash flying down the wing. In typical Rick Nash fashion, he ripped one from the right faceoff dot which beat Clemmensen right under the arm to put the Rangers up 2-0. It's a heads up play by Brassard to let that pass go, and had he not done that, the Rangers simply don't score that goal.
The lead would eventually be cut in half just six minutes later as Jonathan Huberdeau made a jaw dropping toe drag around Mats Zuccarello, and fired it far side on Henrik Lundqvist. There's not much you can really do when a player makes that type of move, and than scores the goal. It's just something you have to accept, move on, and keep playing your game. After trailing off near the end of the first period, and most of the second, the Rangers finally caught a break late in the second period to get some insurance.
Ryane Clowe had just stepped on the ice in relief of Taylor Pyatt, picked up the puck, and power behind the net with the puck. Somehow both T.J. Brennan, and Shawn Matthias blew their coverages, and both followed Clowe into the corner which left Zuccarello wide open in front of the net. Clowe made a spin pass which banked off of the side of the net, and landed right on the tape of Zuccarelo. Zucc wasted no time and ripped the backhand top shelf to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead with just minutes left in the second period.
The Rangers picked up their play in the third period following an unheard of fight from John Moore, which seemed to reignite the flame under the Rangers. With under five minutes left in the regulation, the Rangers pounded in three more goals to all but seal the game up. Mats Zuccarello would come away with his second goal of the game as Brad Richards tossed a puck to the front of the net, and took a deflection off of Zuccarello's skate and beat the goaltender through the dive hole. A little over a minute later, Brassard cashed in with his second goal of the night off of a beautiful pass from Michael Del Zotto. Finally, Brad Richards finished off the scoring as he collected his own rebound and slammed home the rebound on the opposite side of the net.
That type of finish to the game was something that the Rangers desperately needed heading into tomorrow's game against the Buffalo Sabres. With the New York Islanders, and Winnipeg Jets coming away with wins tonight, the Rangers needed these two points tonight and they got them. The Rangers still have a game in hand on both of these teams, so a win tomorrow would be even bigger.