There are games in a season that a player, a fan, and even a coach will remember for the rest of their lives. Tonight's 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was one of those games, and for the youngsters, was also a key learning experience as well. The Rangers showed heart, they showed persistency, they showed determination. They overcame adversity several times and earned a huge two points against a division rival. Yeah, I think this is one that I will save in the memory bank for a long time.
The Penguins heavily outshot the Rangers in the opening period, 12-5, and were dominating in the offensive zone. But Henrik Lundqvist was playing out of his mind and did not allow any of those twelve by him. The main event of the first was when middleweights Ryan Callahan and Mike Comrie dropped the gloves in the second half of the period. It looked like Comrie was doing a lot of yapping in Callahan’s ear at the faceoff circle just before the fight, and right when the puck was dropped both threw off their gloves and removed their helmets, proceeding to swing away. It was a pretty even fight; Callahan landed more punches but Comrie had the takedown in the end. Not sure what Comrie was saying, but apparently it ticked Cally off.
More Lundqvist domination came in the second period as he continued to stand on his head, specifically against Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins were given a powerplay in which they moved the puck very well and generated numerous chances, but Lundqvist wouldn’t budge and gave them nothing. Then, at the midway point in the period, Erik (the rat) Christensen scored on a spin-around shot that beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Ruslan Fedotenko picked up the primary assist on this goal against his former club.
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Things heated up in the third period, mainly due to the extremely poor officiating that ‘just so happened’ to be in favor of the Penguins. Pittsburgh was really bringing it in the third and throwing everything they possibly could at Lundqvist. Just like the first two periods, though, Henrik was not about to allow the tying goal. That is, until the officials decided to take control over the game and give Crosby and friends opportunity after opportunity to come back.
First it was a weak call on Marian Gaborik for hooking, even though Pascal Dupuis grabbed his stick. Thankfully the Rangers killed that one off, but then came an even worse call on Ryan Callahan for holding, which was more of Evgeni Malkin losing an edge during a battle than Cally pulling him down. New York thwarted that powerplay too, but they were worn out at that point. The Pens came out flying and Chris Kunitz would eventually tie the game when Malkin took out Lundqvist, allowing Chris to bury a rebound into an empty-net with Hank down.
Just 38 seconds later Matt Cooke would score the go-ahead goal, prompting Lundqvist to slam his stick over the crossbar and fling it. Henrik was penalized for this, but I cannot blame him. He stood on his head and then the officials take that right away from him. I would be slamming things too.
Despite being shorthanded, Dubinsky and Staal were able to rush down ice with Lundqvist pulled and the extra attacker on the ice. Dubinsky made a drop pass to Staal, which Marc rifled over the shoulder of Fleury. That would send things to overtime, where the Rangers would ultimately get what they deserved. They deserved two points and they got it at 3:38 of extra time when Dubinsky and Callahan converted on a 2-on-1. Dubinsky executed a smooth toe-drag around a sliding defender to give Callahan a perfect feed, which Ryan easily tapped into the net.
I am not one to complain about the refs much, but what went on tonight was absolutely ridiculous and if I am GM Glen Sather, I am making calls to the higher ups in the National Hockey League. The officials tried stripping that game from the Rangers’ hands and win it for Sid and his little buddies. But in the end, that only makes this win five times better for the guys in white and blue.
The reason the Blueshirts won this game was Henrik Lundqvist, and I do not think there is a single person on planet Earth that will deny that. In his first game back from being under the weather, King Henrik made 37 saves on 39 shots faced. He made a countless number of sprawling stops, he was tremendous on the penalty-kill and most importantly, kept Malkin and Crosby off the board. His performance this evening was not human – plain and simple.
The Rangers’ defense also had a hell of a game. That starts with Steve Eminger and Mike Sauer, because to me they were the best on the blue-line for either team. Both were physical and both were lights out. And Sauer really impressed me when showing composure in overtime. He is a rookie playing in overtime in the craziest game of his career so far, but there he is lugging the puck and starting a rush. Good for him.
And then the big boys in Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were also solid. Girardi took a puck to the face late in the third and the blood was flowing from his face. In overtime, though, he was out there throwing around the body and doing everything to get the win. That is real heart and soul right there. Gotta’ love it.
The penalty-kill came up real big thanks to Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust. They did not allow a powerplay goal, including on a four-minute double minor that they killed off. As I have said again and again, Prust and Boyle are really starting to establish their role on this team and have become a part of the core group. They have been great so far.
Brandon Dubinsky is my offensive player of the game. He had assists on both the tying and winning goals, had several shots on net and his forechecking is just fun to watch. Him and Callahan were giving 110 percent effort all night long and earned that overtime winner. Their faces, by the way, were priceless once they won.
The Rangers improve to 10-7-1 with tonight’s victory and remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They will host the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, looking to win their fourth straight game.