The New York Rangers fell behind early in this game, but found a way to rally back, and defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 at Madison Square Garden. With those two points in hand, the Rangers officially moved into a two way tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the New York Islanders. Technically, they are still tied, but given that the Rangers have two less games played, and two more regulation/overtime wins (ROW), they get the tiebreaker.
For those of you keeping count at home, that's now 9-1-2 since Henrik Lundqvist went down with his injury, but the Rangers continue to keep rolling. Cam Talbot had a shaky start to tonight's game once again, but he rebounded very nicely, and came up with a few big saves in the closing seconds of the game. Obviously this win was against the Coyotes, but you can't discount the Rangers rallying back down 3-1, and somehow finding a way to pull out the victory.
As mentioned above, the Rangers had quite a poor start to this game, and just 41 seconds in, the Coyotes grabbed the first lead of the evening. Mark Arcobello was able to take advantage of a turnover, walked right in on Talbot untouched, and ripped a shot right under the arm. Talbot probably should have had a better read on the shot, but the Rangers also can't let Arcobello walk right down the middle uncontested.
Now that the early game jitters were out of the way, the Rangers settled in a bit, and eventually found the tying goal at 8:11 on the power play. Mats Zuccarello started the entire play with a quick tap pass over to Kevin Hayes, which created a 2-on-1 coming in below the hash marks. Despite little room to work with, Hayes showed an immense amount of patience, and hit Chris Kreider wide open on the backdoor for the easy tap in.
Usually, when players get a chance in that close on the goalie, they figure the shot is the best option for a scoring opportunity. Not for Hayes, though, and his patience wound up paying off big time. I'm not really sure what Glen Sather and co. are seeing, but this team does not need to add another center to displace Kevin Hayes. With the way he has been playing as of late, he seems to be getting better by the game, and he keeps raising his game the closer the games seem to get.
Anyways, enough of the trade talk, because it's going to make everyone crazy. Soon after Kreider tied up the game for the Rangers, things started getting progressively worse as time was winding down. First, it was Martin St. Louis taking a tripping minor, followed by Kevin Klein bombing the puck out of play to send the Rangers on a 5-on-3 penalty kill late in the period. Sure enough, both penalties came back to bite the Rangers in the rear, and Sam Gagner was able to answer with a pair of power play goals.
Gagner's first tally was similar to the first, in that it was a mix between bad goaltending and terrible defensive zone coverage. Marc Staal let Gagner walk right out in front the net, while Talbot didn't necessarily come out to challenge the shot, and Gagner put it right under the crossbar. The second one, however, was just a terrible bounce through traffic, and Gagner was able to slam home the rebound through a slew of bodies. Talbot never even caught a glimpse of the initial shot, let alone locating the rebound that was bouncing around between five sets of legs.
After trailing 3-1 heading into the second period, this game had disaster written all over it. But, the Rangers knew they needed a better response, and wound up scoring two goals in the second to pull even at 3-3. Just five minutes into the middle frame, Lee Stempniak brought the Rangers back within one after redirecting John Moore's point shot. Mike Smith never got set for Moore's shot, and Stempniak's tip in front pretty much made it impossible for him to get any piece of the puck.
A little over 14 minutes later, Chris Kreider took advantage of a botch faceoff win by Antoine Vermette, and broke in all along on a breakaway. Smith was able to get his pad on the initial shot by Kreider, but Kreider followed up the play, and chipped the loose puck over his pad to make it a 3-3 game. After going down two earlier in the game, and tying it up late in the second period, the Rangers had to be feeling pretty confident heading into the third period.
The third period was a bit of a struggle early on, but with under five minutes remaining, the Rangers really elevated their game. Finally, at 17:46, the Rangers grabbed their first and only lead of the night on Lee Stempniak's second goal of the night. Once again, Kevin Hayes creates the entire goal with an incredible pass through traffic, and found Stempniak all alone on the doorstep.
Stempniak had plenty of time to work with as he made a quick move to his backhand, but Smith was able to sprawl out in the splits to deny him. However, with no help in the general area, Stempniak was able to get his own rebound, and ripped it top shelf to give the Rangers the late 4-3 lead. As time was winding down, St. Louis wound up taking his second minor of the game, and set up a huge opportunity late in the game.
In a last ditch effort, the Coyotes pulled Mike Smith to make a 6-on-4 advantage, but came up empty handed as the final buzzer sounded. Ryan McDonagh wound up making two huge shot blocks during the penalty kill, and essentially won the game for the Rangers. With the win, the Rangers have now won four straight games and will look to extend that streak on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.