Tonight, in Carolina, the Rangers’ winning streak and perfect road trip was on the line. Prior to tonight’s game the Rangers had beaten the Canes twelve times in their last thirteen meetings. The Rangers had the benefit of Derick Brassard returning to the lineup, although they were without Lee Stempniak who was out of the lineup with the mumps.
Early in the first period the Rangers were creating offense and scoring chances whenever the puck was in Carolina’s zone. The puck movement and work ethic behind the net and in the corners was the kind of stuff that made you feel like the Rangers were ready to go, and that this one was going to go well. Mats Zuccarello and Matt Hunwick both came close right in front of the net, but Cam Ward managed to deny both of them.
At 12:40 of the first, the first goal of the game went to the Hurricanes. The Rangers were hunting for a goal after Kevin Hayes was inches away from scoring on a three on one. The resulting scramble down low resulted in Dan Girardi pinching in without any one covering his spot and an errant pass from Hayes that went down the ice and created a two on one for the Canes. Nathan Gerbe set up Chris Terry for a one-timer that got through Henrik Lundqvist and just like that it was 1-0. At that point in the game the shots were 6 to 2 in favor of the Rangers.
With less than four minutes left in the first stanza Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider had a two on one and once again the Rangers were stopped on the rush. The resulting scramble created an empty net and the puck went to Derek Stepan who just couldn’t manage to shoot it through the tangled mess of defenders and Cam Ward. The Rangers had at least three quality odd-man rushes in the first period, and they failed to convert on all of them. After the first the Rangers led 11 to 6 in shots but a single bad play and great scoring chance resulted in them being behind by a goal.
The first half of the second period was marked by more of what we saw in the first period, although Carolina did look better than they did in the first period. The Blueshirts were enjoying plenty of possession and getting shots on net, but the quality scoring chances just weren’t there.
At 11:59 Henrik Lundqvist made a glove save on Eric Staal that you’ll be seeing a lot of replays of, and for good reason. Eric Staal got open in the slot and smashed a shot towards the net. Hank flashed his glove with a flourish and kept it a one goal game.
While killing Tanner Glass’ interference penalty the Rangers drew a 55 second power play thanks to the outstanding shorthanded hustle of Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Earlier in the game the Rangers had killed off two penalties and had even created some offense while on the kill. The Hurricanes looked ill equipped to handle the Rangers aggression while the Blueshirts were killing penalties. The Rangers’ power play certainly didn’t look amazing, but the puck movement was encouraging to see. Through two periods you couldn’t ask for much more from the special teams. With 5 minutes remaining in the period the Rangers led the Canes in shots 23 to 12, but going into the third the Rangers had only twenty minutes left to get a puck past Cam Ward and tie the game up.
About 2:30 into the third period Rick Nash drew a big penalty and earned the Rangers their second power play of the contest. After a sloppy first half of the power play J.T. Miller was sprung by Mats Zuccarello and he scored an insane power play goal to tie the game. I lost count of the amount of head jukes and feints that Miller threw in, but it was enough to finally beat Cam Ward and give the Rangers a huge goal. Miller’s highlight reel goal was his fourth of the season. Just 26 seconds later Henrik Lundqvist gave up a softie to Jeff Skinner who immediately stole back the Hurricanes’ one goal lead. Lundqvist’s stick was off the ice and Skinner just threw it at the net, and just like that the Rangers were hunting for a goal again.
With 7:36 left in regulation Cam Ward lost his helmet after a shot from a bad angle by Rick Nash damaged it. The helmet remained on Ward’s head just as Matt Hunwick blasted a shot from the point that went into the net. While the puck was going past Ward and across the goal line, Ward pulled his own helmet off with his glove and the goal was immediately waved off by the referees. There was a discussion among the referees during a TV timeout and because it was a broken strap the goal didn’t count. It would have been Matt Hunwick’s first of the season and first as a New York Ranger. It was the right call, but still incredibly frustrating given the score and the way the play came together.
Yes, what happened next actually happened. Kevin Klein scored his seventh of the season from Kreider and Stepan to tie the game at 17:37 of the third period. The puck deflected off of Lindholm on the way to the net and just like that the Rangers were energized and back in the game after feeling like they were just a few minutes away from defeat and seeing their winning streak die against Carolina. Regulation ended and the Rangers managed to pick up their sixth straight game where they got at least one point although their winning streak and Rick Nash’s scoring streak were in peril.
The Rangers couldn’t get enough of the puck to make any kind of attack in overtime thanks to lost faceoffs and miscommunication on rushes and failed cycling plays. Thankfully, the Hurricanes didn’t generate any major scoring chances and the Rangers survived to get the game into the shootout. A lot was on the line for both teams. Carolina was desperate to not let this game get away from them on their home ice, and the Rangers had their big winning streak in jeopardy against the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Jeff Skinner was stopped by Henrik Lundqvist.
Mats Zuccarello came in slow and then snapped a lethal shot past Cam Ward.
Nathan Gerbe looked to respond by making a deke but he put the puck wide trying to get around Lundqvist.
Which meant that Derek Stepan had the game on his stick. He tried his trademark wrister and was stopped by Cam Ward who stuck with him the whole way.
Chris Terry, who had Carolina’s first goal in the game, came in needing to score and was not equal to the task. Henrik Lundqvist stopped him and in so doing gave the Rangers the win and the two points they were so hungry for.
The Rangers’ shootout win was their first in their last five attempts in the skills competition.
Tomorrow night the Rangers and the Hurricanes will lock horns again, but this time around it will be on Garden ice. Unfortunately, Rick Nash’s point streak came to an end tonight. However, that is not indicative at all of how Nash played, he was absolutely dominant tonight against Carolina and was creating plenty of chances and offense when he had the puck. The Rangers will be looking for their sixth straight win tomorrow night after finishing off their perfect four game road trip tonight.