There is something about the third period in Pittsburgh that really works for the New York Rangers this season. After playing one mediocre and one awful period the team had a furious final 11 minutes in which they turned a 2-1 deficit into a huge 5-2 victory. The turning point of the game was clearly Matt Cooke's vicious elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh (video) at 4:36 of the third. Cooke was assessed a five minute major and given a game misconduct for the hit. I expect he will get a lengthy suspension of 7-10 games as well if the league really wants to send a message about getting these hits out of the game.
Following the elbow by Cooke the Penguins would actually gain the initial momentum when Chris Kunitz scored a shorthanded goal beating Henrik Lundqvist on a perfect shot far side, top corner. The Rangers who were struggling to get anything going got more help from Pittsburgh when Matt Niskanen was called for a double minor as he high-sticked Ryan Callahan across the nose and drew blood.
Late in the 5-on-3 advantage the Rangers tied the game as a Bryan McCabe drive led to a rebound which Marian Gaborik put home at 9:28 of the period. It was the first thing Gaborik did all day and easily his most important goal this season. Ryan Callahan struck just 11 seconds later from a bad angle to give the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish.
Derek Stepan would add a rebound goal to seal the game with 1:15 left and then Brandon Dubinsky capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 40 seconds to go to make it 5-2.
This was a huge win for the Rangers and their third character building triumph in Pittsburgh this season. The team is now on a season high four game win streak, three points back of sixth place Montreal and six points clear of Carolina in the playoff race.
For the rest of the action and key players of the game join me after the jump.
Note: As George pointed out, talk about the game here there is no reason to go troll at Pensburgh over Cooke.
The Rangers had a slow start in the first period, but they would tally the first goal just over midway through the when Artem Anisimov converted a beautiful feed from Ryan Callahan at 11:20. Dubinsky with excellent work behind the net eventually worked the puck to Callahan and his saucer pass found Anisimov in front of the net for the finish.
The lead would not last long as Jordan Staal tied the game up at 14:59 on a breakaway goal. Dan Girardi with a horrible read on the play as he got caught stepping on Alex Kovalev in the neutral zone assuming the pass, which left him trapped too far inside and Staal with tons of room.
You had to expect that the Penguins were going to take every chance to crash the crease considering the questions about Henrik Lundqvist's neck and Max Talbot certainly made that happen late in the first. Talbot clearly ran Lundqvist and Ryan Callahan took exception and tossed Talbot to the ice. Only Callahan was assessed a penalty which rightfully incensed coach John Tortorella.
The second period was an embarrassing effort by the Rangers and if not for the stellar work of Henrik Lundqvist the game would have been over.
- Henrik Lundqvist's performance today cannot be understated regardless of the neck issues he was having before the game. He single-handedly kept this team in the game and gave them a chance for that rally.
- With each game the love for Michael Sauer grows stronger as he will do whatever it takes to help this team and his willingness to defend his goalie is something the rest of this team needs to learn from.
- Ryan Callahan needs to be cut more often because each time he sees his own blood he seems to score a goal, so we have to work that into future gameplans.