A few hours before the game we learned that the Rangers were going to have to find a way to win without Derick Brassard in the lineup after their third-leading scorer was diagnosed with mumps and sent back to New York to protect the rest of the team from the contagious condition. Losing Brassard in the eleventh hour brought Tanner Glass back into the lineup, moved J.T. Miller into a center slot, and got Chris Kreider out of the Blueshirts' fourth line. So the Rangers came into tonight's game with a big hole in their top six and some jumbled lines against a team that they knew they had to beat.
The first three-fourths of the first period went by without much happening. The Rangers killed a hooking penalty five and a half minutes into the period and denied the Oilers anything on their man advantage. 16:04 into the first period Rick Nash swooped behind the net and found Dan Girardi cutting towards the slot from the boards. Girardi snapped a pass over to Mats Zuccarello, who was attacking the net, and Girardi's pass hit off of the skate of the Edmonton defense and got past Ben Scrivens to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead and to give Dan Girardi his second goal of the season. Zuccarello and Nash picked up assists on the play. Nash's point streak is now at 10 games which is a career high for the star forward. How special has he been this season? Unbelievable.
The first half of the second period was filled with stagnant hockey and more stoppages than you could shake a stick at. Halfway through the game the shots were 11 to 7 in favor of the Rangers, and the vast majority of the quality chances belonged to the Rangers. The second period was, in a word, boring. However, boring worked out just fine for the Rangers considering their 1-0 lead and their absolutely staunch defense that simply didn't surrender quality chances to the Oilers or allow them to have the puck in their zone for long stretches of time. With about 5 minutes left in the second period, the Oilers managed to put on some pressure and challenged Lundqvist once or twice but just as soon as the fans at Rexall Place were getting into the game the Rangers shut down the chances and got the puck out of the zone.
With two minutes left in the second period a Lee Stempniak shot created a juicy rebound that Ryan McDonagh pounced on. McDonagh had a wide open net but Ben Scrivens lunged laterally with a great kick off and denied McDonagh who raised his hands thinking he had a goal. The entire net had moved when Scrivens' right skate hit the right post making the save. The instant replay revealed that the Rangers hadn't found their second goal of the game, thanks to a dazzling save by Scrivens, and the second period ended with the Rangers retaining their 1-0 lead. After two periods the Rangers led the Oilers in shots 15-10.
In the first half of the third period the Oilers managed to have a lot more of the puck and put good pressure on the Rangers. There were some spooky moments in what had been a very sleepy game where Lundqvist was challenged, but the Rangers were able to put out the fires as they sprung up and keep the Oilers hunting for a goal. Lundqvist was exceptional and turned some scary shots away, sending the rebounds far from the net and letting his skaters get the puck out of the zone. The Rangers rolled with 5 defensemen for the third period. John Moore played less than 9 minutes in the first two periods and spent the third drinking Gatorade on the bench. John Moore finished the game with 12:06 of ice time.
At 8:53 into the third period Chris Kreider finally registered the Blueshirts' first shot of the period which triggered a television timeout that the Rangers needed to try and regroup and rest their legs that were probably quite heavy from playing last night in Vancouver. The Oilers continued to put the pressure on, especially when the Taylor Hall - RNH - Jordan Eberle line was on the ice, and Lundqvist had to turn aside shots coming from the sticks of Edmonton's most dangerous players again and again to hold on to the 1-0 lead.
With 4:58 to go in the third period the Rangers worked hard in the offensive zone to earn their first power play in two games. The power play once again failed to generate much of anything despite spending a good chunk of time in the Oiler's zone but it did manage to shave two minutes off of the clock without the Oilers being allowed to put any pressure on the Rangers.
The Oilers pulled their goaltender to get the extra attacker with about 2 minute left in the game and started to tilt the ice with their advantage in man power to hunt for the tying goal. Dominic Moore blocked a point shot from the Oilers and Carl Hagelin's speed allowed him to get to the puck before anyone else. He buried it in the empty net and iced the game. The Rangers beat the Oilers 2-0.
Henrik Lundqvist registered his 5th shut out in the league which ties him with Marc Andre Fleury for the league lead. Hank didn't have to be amazing tonight, making just 16 saves, but he did have to answer the call when the Oilers brought the pressure and he did just that. His rebound control was great and he turned aside the best the Oilers could throw at them. This was Chris Kreider's best game in a very long time. He had 3 shots, 4 hits, and 2 PIM and most importantly he stood out in the lineup as a guy who was skating and working hard to make things happen.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rangers?src=hash">#Rangers</a> Lundqvist now alone in 20th place on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHL?src=hash">#NHL</a> all-time shutouts list, passing Parent and Giacomin.</p>— Seth Rothman (@RothmanHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/RothmanHockey/status/544356036438917120">December 15, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Tonight's win was the third win in a row for the Blueshirts, improving their record to 14-10-4. This was a game that the Rangers had to win. They were expected to win. They needed to win... and they found a way to come up with their third straight win and second win of the weekend. This was not at all a pretty one for either team. The Rangers' goals were a deflection off of a defenseman's skate and an empty netter, but they were the better team and they deserved to come out of this game with 2 points. The Rangers play the Calgary Flames on Tuesday at 9:00 PM EST and will be looking for their fourth win in a row and their third on this road trip.