The New York Rangers may have lost in a shootout tonight, but they came away with three out of a possible four points tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers played an outstanding came from start to finish, only to have it interrupted by the skills competition. Either way, if you would have told me before the trade deadline that the Rangers would come away with three points against the Penguins, I'd have thought you were joking.
The new outlook of this team has that in your face type of mentality that they carried along all of last year. Ryane Clowe had a fight tonight after the Penguins tried to take some liberties on the Rangers in the first period. Soon after that fight? The Rangers got their legs back under them, and played an inspired period of hockey for the final ten minutes of the period.
The second period was much more of the same, as the goaltender battle remained in full effect. Marc-Andre Fleury and Henrik Lundqvist were trading spectacular saves after spectacular saves all throughout the night. The second period would end scoreless as well, and it would be one final 20 minute period to decide the fate of the game. Even though the Rangers were controlling the play for the better half of the game, the Penguins jumped on an early mishap by the Rangers. Jussi Jokinen was able to get wide open in the high slot, as Chris Kunitz chipped a pass out to him, and he roofed it over the shoulder of Lundqvist.
Following the goal, the Rangers had their best shifts of the game, and pinned the Penguins in their zone for a few minutes before they were able to release the pressure. Things got a little chippy after Michael Del Zotto clipped James Neal with an accidental elbow as he was protecting the puck behind the net. Neal looked pretty dazed after the play, and would remain in the locker room for the remainder of the game. With the Penguins looking for some sort of revenge against the Rangers, Matt Cooke brought out his dirty side and took a big swipe and Henrik Lundqvist behind the play. He didn't stop there though as he later challenged the entire Rangers bench after Pascal Dupuis took a late run at Michael Del Zotto on an icing call.
With Cooke still yapping at the Rangers, Ryane Clowe took exception and stepped in to share a few words with Mr. Cooke. It was funny to see how Cooke had so few choice of words when Clowe got in his face. Maybe he isn't such a tough guy after all. Either way, the Rangers kept battling and came very close to tying the game as Derick Brassard tried to bank the puck off of Fleury's back leg. The puck appeared to be in at first, but Fleury was sitting on the puck the entire time, which allowed no conclusive evidence that the puck crossed the line.
Just two minutes later however, Rick Nash does what Rick Nash does best, and comes up with an absolutely clutch goal to tie the game at one. Derek Stepan won an crucial offensive zone faceoff right back to Nash, who threw it on net through the screen, and beat Fleury through the legs. That was easily one of the biggest goals this season as the Rangers were able to snag a point as a direct result of that goal.
The Rangers continued their pressure in overtime, and had a golden opportunity to end it as Derek Stepan made a great pass to a wide open Ryan McDonagh in the slot. Instead of firing the one time, McDonagh elected to pass it backdoor to Stepan, but Fleury made a quick slide over to deny him on the doorstep. After much back and forth action, this game would be decided in the skills competition.
Jussi Jokinen was the only goal scorer in the shootout, and Mats Zuccarello was inches away from tying it, but Fleury extended the pad out to get the victory. After all is said and done, there really isn't too much you can complain about tonight. Every single player contributed and stepped up big time tonight, but they just ran into a goaltender who was on his game tonight. Three out of a possible four points is outstanding, especially with the Carolina Hurricanes on the docket tomorrow night.