The New York Rangers picked up their third straight win tonight as they defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-0, and picked up two huge points in the process. Over these last three games, the Rangers have really turned up their play, and are starting to look like a pretty lethal team heading into the playoffs. Their defensive zone coverage is leaps and bounds better then it was a few weeks ago, and they're starting to get some contributions from their big time players.
Rick Nash had yet another big game, and picked up the game winning goal halfway through the second period. Henrik Lundqvist played out of his mind once again, and also picked up career shutout number 50, which sets him at the top yet another stats category. His critics from earlier in the season appear to be pretty quiet these last few months, as Lundqvist has brought his game to an entirely new level.
Coming into this game, you had to figure the Rangers would have some lapses after the emotional game they played last night up in Columbus. However, there were little to no signs of that as the Rangers completely shut down the Devils all night long, and Lundqvist was there to clean up the chances that weren't. Throughout the first two periods, the Devils only wound up getting 11 shots through to Lundqvist out of a 30 total shots that were attempted.
Finally, at the 10:33 mark of the second period, the Rangers broke the ice as Rick Nash rifled home his 23rd of the season. Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider almost connected on a sweet redirection in front of Martin Brodeur, and it wound up being a direct result of Nash sniping one home. With Kreider causing a ruckus in the crease, the puck wound up dribbling out to the left end boards. Nash, while seeing there was some major traffic in front, ripped the shot on net, and it wound up bouncing off of something in front before finding the back of the net.
It would prove to be a pretty big goal as the Rangers held onto that 1-0 lead heading into the third period. The Devils starting pressing in the opening minutes of the third period, and wound up doubling their shot output compared to the prior two periods. With the Devils taking some extra chances in the final frame, they wound up taking two undisciplined penalties in the period, which gave the Rangers two huge opportunities to convert. A lot of people wondered how Raphael Diaz would fit into the Rangers lineup, and I think it's fair to say he played pretty well.
He wound up getting some power play throughout the game, and was quite impressive with some of the clean, crisp passes he was making through traffic. I really liked the deal back on March 5th, and if Diaz continues to contribute like he did tonight, it will pay off for the Rangers big time.
After some late surges from the Devils, the Rangers were able to ice the game with an empty net goal coming from Derek Stepan. Stepan made an excellent play in the defensive end by scooping the puck out of a pile in the crease, and walked it down for the easy goal.
With the pair of wins this weekend, the Rangers picked up four huge points in the standings, are still remain one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for second place. They also built up a four point cushion between themselves and the Columbus Blue Jackets, but still have two more games played then both teams. The Rangers will likely have tomorrow off after the set of back-to-backs, before they head back to Madison Square Garden to take on the Phoenix Coyotes this upcoming Monday.