The New York Rangers defeated the Phoenix Coyotes tonight by a score of 4-3, and picked up a massive pair of points in the process. After being down 3-2 late in the third period, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi went to work with a pair of goals, and completed the unthinkable comeback. We all knew just how good of a player Ryan McDonagh is, but man, did anyone ever anticipate him becoming such an offensive force?
Joe mentioned something similar after the game on Twitter, and wondered when the last time the Rangers possessed such a lethal weapon from the point. Michael Del Zotto was originally projected to be that offensive force, and obviously never panned out, but McDonagh on the other hand? He's absolutely thriving in the role, and it's just amazing to watch.
Anyways, the Rangers didn't necessarily have the "hottest" of starts to this game, and found themselves down a pair of goals less then ten minutes in. Both Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jeff Halpern (ugh) were the recipient's of the goals, and both goals came off of defensive breakdowns in the Rangers defensive end. The first one Ekman-Larsson caught Ryan McDonagh flatfooted in the neutral zone, and was able to blow right by him for the partial breakaway. Then it was Jeff Halpern who tapped in a centering feed from Kyle Chipchura, as three Ranger players appeared to be lost, and completely forgot about the player cutting to the net.
With both Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan battling flu-like symptoms, the Rangers were essentially playing with ten forwards through the game. After the game, Alain Vigneault admitted it was a mistake playing both of them, as neither of them were able to provide much energy, and rightfully so. It was kind of remarkable how they were able to overcome such adversity late in the game, and rally to take home two points.
Just as the Coyotes did in the first period, the Rangers responded with two goals of their own early on in the second period. First it was Brad Richards who redirected Carl Hagelin's shot from far out, and beat Mike Smith through the legs to pull the Rangers within a goal. Then just four minutes later, Derick Brassard jammed home a rebound from the right dot, and beat Smith under the bar to knot the game up at 2-2.
As impressive as the first comeback was, the Rangers would eventually let up a goal with a little under four minutes remaining in the second period. Chris Kreider wound up knocking it into his own net after he came back on the backcheck to defend against Antoine Vermette. You can't really fault Kreider for his effort, and it was just an unfortunate bounce that wound up going in favor of Phoenix.
With a huge third period coming up for the Rangers, they buckled down and went to work in the offensive zone for a majority of the period. That was until, Derick Brassard was shoved on top of Mike Smith, and Smith was left there screaming in pain at the top of his crease. It appeared as if Smith's skate got caught in a rut as Brassard landed on top of him, and it made for an unfortunate situation.
As a result, Smith was forced to leave the game, and Thomas Greiss came in to relieve Smith of his duties. Following the goalie change, the Rangers continued to put pressure on the Coyotes, and finally caught a break at the 16:32 mark. The goal wound up coming from Dan Girardi, as he migrated his way to the front of the net, and got a stick on a point shot from Ryan McDonagh.
The game wound up working it's way to overtime, and set up the stage beautifully for Ryan McDonagh to put the icing on the cake. Just 1:56 into overtime, Carl Hagelin fed the puck out to Dan Girardi, who blasted a shot at Greiss. Greiss kicked the rebound right out to the slot where McDonagh was parked, and he slammed home the rebound for the easy goal.
As mentioned above, with the Rangers essentially playing down two men in the game, it show a tremendous amount of heart for them to come away with this game. With another huge game looming on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers appear to be catching their stride as of late. If they continue this upward trend into the closing week, they could be on the right track heading into the playoffs.