The New York Rangers picked up their second straight preseason win this evening by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 at Madison Square Garden. The Flyers didn't have a whole lot of NHL firepower up front, but the Rangers youngsters sure stepped up big time. Alain Vigneault is going to have a hard time trimming this roster down come opening night, and that's not necessarily a bad problem to have.
Anthony Duclair opened the scoring just five minutes into the contest by backing off Braydon Coburn with his speed, and quickly ripped a wicked wrister off the crossbar, and in behind Mason. Steve Mason didn't really play the puck well, but the fact that Duclair was able to create a scoring opportunity out of virtually nothing is extremely encouraging.
Duclair had yet another big game tonight, and built on his solid performance the other night in Chicago. Duclair tallied a goal and an assist tonight, and looked extremely comfortable with the puck all evening. He even got some penalty killing time early in the game, and didn't miss a beat. There's no doubt that Duclair can compete at the NHL level, and with two strong games under his belt, he may just have a legit shot at making this team.
Ryan Haggerty went toe to toe with Duclair tonight, and put up quite the performance of his own as well. His two goals tonight were simply amazing, and he did it against two NHL-caliber defensemen in Braydon Coburn, and Andrew MacDonald. Haggerty's first goal of the game came a little over two minutes after Duclair gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, and dazzled everyone with his puck handling skills.
He beat Andrew MacDonald to the outside, quickly cut back in front of the net while slipping the puck around the defenseman, and tucked it into the empty net. Duclair also picked up the primary assist on the goal after making a nifty kick-pass to spring Haggerty up the boards with speed.
Then a few minutes later it was Jesper Fast picking up his first goal of the night by deflecting in Dan Boye's point shot off of his leg. Just prior to the goal, Kevin Hayes made an excellent play to curl up at the blue line, and find the open ice to feed Boyle with a wide open lane to the net.
The Flyers and Rangers traded goals in the second period after Taylor Leier cut the Rangers lead to 3-1, on a nifty wraparound that caught Henrik Lundqvist flatfooted in his crease. The Ryan Haggerty show continued shortly after as he burned Coburn once again to the outside, and roofed a shot over Mason's shoulder for his second goal of the night.
Jason Akeson responded shortly after with a goal of his own on a cross-ice feed from Zac Rinaldo to cut the lead back to two. With under six minutes remaining in the second period, Chris Mueller scored a goal of his own by jamming in a rebound on a net-front scramble, and was able to chop it over a sprawling Mason. Jesper Fast closed out the scoring late in the third period as Kevin Hayes set him up with a pretty behind the back pass out in front.
Fast is also an interesting case, and hasn't necessarily received as much hype as some of the other prospects. Not many people remember he cracked the opening lineup out of camp last year, and has quietly impressed this year once again. He may not find himself in a top-nine role, but with the consistency he has in all three zones, he has a shot at taking over the right wing spot on the fourth line.
The Rangers will have a lot of important decisions coming up soon with another round of cuts on the horizon, and it's absolutely a good problem to have. The Rangers will head to Philadelphia tomorrow night for another game against the Flyers, and some cuts are expected to happen later on Wednesday.
So far this has been fun, just a few more games and we'll be on to the regular season!