The New York Rangers extended their winning streak to eight games this evening, as they defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-1 at Madison Square Garden. During this winning streak, which is the longest since 1974-1975, the Rangers have crept up on the New York Islanders and are now just five points back while having two games in hand.
Tonight was quite the night at MSG, as Ranger fans were finally able to celebrate a hat trick, after Rick Nash's hat trick last game was put on hold until the next morning. This time around, it was Derek Stepan who celebrated his third career hat trick, which now gives the Rangers number one center 22 points over a 21 game span. On the other end of the ice, Henrik Lunqvist also had a very strong game, even though he wasn't necessarily tested early on in the game.
Throughout most of the game, the Rangers were able to limit the Devils chances in the offensive zone, and the ones that they didn't, Henrik Lundqvist was there to clean up the rest. During the opening minutes of the game, the Rangers controlled a majority of the play in the offensive zone, but Corey Schneider stood tall in his crease. Finally, at the 18:14 mark of the first period, the Rangers were able to cash in on Stepan's first goal which came while shorthanded.
With the Devils applying pressure in the offensive zone, Stepan was able to pressure Travis Zajac at the blue line, and forced him to turn the puck over. Stepan was able to get a step on Zajac, and created himself a breakaway from the red line. Stepan had a year and a day to make a decision on a move, and decided on a nifty head fake to slip the back between Schneider's legs for the 1-0 lead.
Coming out of the locker room with a 1-0 lead, the Rangers carried their momentum over to the second period, and were eventually rewarded with a power play goal. Just 6:51 into the second period, Tanner Glass was able to suck Jordin Tootoo into taking a retaliatory penalty in the offensive zone, and gave the Rangers their second power play of the night. A little under a minute into the man advantage, the Rangers capitalized on a bomb from Martin St. Louis, which wound up deflecting off of Derek Stepan in front, and in behind Corey Schneider.
About three minutes later, though, the Devils were able to get on the board with a goal of their own coming from Steve Bernier. The Devils were able to take advantage of the Rangers sloppy backchecking, which allowed Eric Gelinas to find Bernier sneaking in on the backdoor. As a result of the Devils cutting the lead to one, they carried their momentum over to the third period, were they hemmed the Rangers in their zone on numerous occasions.
Henrik Lundqvist was simply lights out all throughout the third period, as he was up to the task with whatever the Devils were tossing his way. As the period continued to wind down, the Rangers finally put the game away at the 19:05 mark of the third period. Derek Stepan was able to cap off his hat trick with an empty net goal from the red line, and the hats finally flew at Madison Square Garden.
After going 3-0 during the mini homestand, the Rangers will hit the road as they take on the Dallas Stars this upcoming Monday. Hopefully the winning streak continues!