While it may not have been aesthetically pleasing at times, the New York Rangers waltzed their way through Western Canada, and came out with a clean sweep over the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames. Tonight's 5-2 win over the Flames also marks the Rangers fourth straight win, as they appear to finally hitting their stride right around Christmas time once again.
This game didn't necessarily start out with a bang, as both teams were essentially feeling one another out. Later on the in the first period, however, the flood gates started to open, and the Rangers were able to grab their first lead of the night at the 11:22 mark. Rick Nash was able to cash in on his 19th goal of the year after the puck took a favorable bounce off the boards, and set him in all alone on Kari Ramo. With T.J. Brodie closing in on him, Nash dropped his shoulder, and powered his way to the net before slipping it around a sprawled out Kari Ramo.
Nash has simply been a monster all season long, and there doesn't appear to be any signs of the monster slowing down any time soon. A little over eight minutes later, though, the Rangers wound up chipping in their second goal of the period, and took a commanding 2-0 lead into the intermission. With eight seconds remaining in the period, Kris Russell attempted to relieve the Rangers pressure on the power play, and slid the puck over to Ramo for him to cover. Ramo apparently wasn't having it, and the left puck sitting in the crease for Chris Kreider to chip in over his glove. Whatever Ramo was thinking at that instance clearly wasn't in his best interest, but the Rangers will take anything they can get at this point.
That goal was also a huge confidence booster for Kreider, as he finally notched his first goal in 14 games, and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the Rangers finally catching their stride, it can only benefit them later on down the road if Kreider is able to get his game back on the right track. Tonight was easily Kreider's best game of the month, and if he can start stringing together points, the Rangers will be that much more lethal.
After potting two consecutive goals in the first period, the Rangers continued to hound the Flames, and piled on two more early in the second period. The first goal came just 3:06 into the second period, as Rick Nash game away with his second goal of the game on a shorthanded setup by Derek Stepan. Nash was able to make a great defensive play down at the other end to strip the puck from Johnny Gaudreau, and break in on an odd-man rush with Stepan. Stepan was able to freeze up T.J. Brodie in the middle of the ice, and made a quick feed over to Nash who was wide open on the far post. With the pass being so crisp, Nash essentially had all day to pick a corner, and flipped the puck over Ramo for the 3-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, the Rangers widened their lead to 4-0 as Derek Stepan capped off a counter attack right after the Flames rang a shot off of the post. Henrik Lundqvist wound up getting a piece of the shot before it rang off of the bar, and the puck wrapped around the boards up to the blue line. Martin St. Louis was able to catch the puck in stride, and fought off a check from Marcus Granland before tapping the puck up to Stepan in the offensive zone. Stepan sold the initial so bad that Ramo froze up on the post, which left the far side wide open on the wrap around, and Stepan tucked it home.
Shortly after the Rangers fourth goal, the Flames finally got on the board with a deflection in front which came courtesy of Juri Hudler. There's not much the Rangers could have prevented on the goal as it was just a perfectly placed shot by Mark Giordano, and an even better deflection in front by Hudler. Fatigue appeared to catch up with the Rangers in the third period, as they were capping off three games in four nights, but Lundqvist was up to the task late in the game.
Finally, with a three remaining in the game, Carl Hagelin was able to ice the game with an empty net goal to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead late in the third. However, the Flames had other plans, and Curtis Glencross cashed in at the 18:45, but the game was basically out of a reach at this point. The Rangers were able to kill off the remaining time on the clock, secured their fourth straight win, and went on to sweep their first western conference road trip of the season.
Unfortunately, the Rangers are scheduled to have another lengthy break after this win, and won't be in action again until Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. I guess we'll just have to enjoy this one for a little while longer!