The New York Rangers came away with a huge 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and snagged two points to pull within a single point of clinching the Eastern Conference. The Rangers certainly made this one interesting tonight as Derek Stepan scored late to tie the game with 28 seconds remaining, and then scored again in overtime to seal the deal.
Henrik Lundqvist was an absolute monster tonight once again, and despite giving up three goals, he looked ready to go for the playoffs. On a few different occasions, Lundqvist bailed the Rangers out, and a couple of those were highlight reel material all packaged into one game. Keith Yandle also had a monster of a game as well, and even though he only registered a single assist, his puck moving ability haunted the Jackets all night long.
Cam Talbot receiving the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award at the beginning of the game set the stage, and the Rangers came out of the gates absolutely flying. Just 5:38 into regulation, the Rangers were able to come away with the first goal, and Martin St. Louis registered his first goal since returning from injury. Kevin Hayes started the play off by lugging the puck into the zone, and attempted to shot through the legs of Justin Falk. Falk was able to poke the puck away, but whatever reason, followed Hayes to corner which left St. Louis wide open in front.
The loose puck deflected over to St. Louis cleanly, and he ripped it under the glove of Sergei Bobrovsky for the early 1-0 lead. For the first ten minutes or so, the Rangers were in complete control of this game, but as soon as they transitioned into the second half, the wheels started falling off. That eventually lead to the Blue Jackets tying up the game with under three minutes remaining, and we headed to the intermission deadlocked at one.
Just prior to the goal, Tanner Glass was robbed twice at the other end by Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Jackets found a way to clear the puck. With the Rangers regrouping at the other end, Ryan McDonagh coughed up the puck at the blue line, and Jeremy Morin broke in on a partial breakaway. Henrik Lundqvist was able to force Morin wide, but he was able to force it under Lundqvist, and found Matt Calvert cutting in all alone.
It was certainly unfortunate to give up the tying goal at the end of the period, but the Rangers found a way to quickly respond in the second period. Just 36 seconds into the middle frame, Dan Girardi sniped home his fourth goal of the season, and restored the Rangers one goal lead. This goal doesn't happen with the excellent work along the boards by J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider, and Stepan's pass to find Girardi cutting in on the backdoor was ridiculous.
Once again, the Rangers were able to generate a handful of chance early on, but the Jackets turned it on late in the period, and once again found a late tying goal. This time around it was Mark Dano, who was able to bang home the rebound after Lundqvist stoned Artem Anisimov in the high slot. Marc Staal attempted to block the shot at the top of the crease, which allowed Dano to slip away, and he found the loose puck for the easy tap in.
Unlike the similar trends that took place during the first and second periods, the Jackets were able to capitalize early on in the third period to grab their first lead of the night. Ex-Ranger players always seem to come back to haunt the Rangers at some point during the season, and of course, Brandon Dubinsky was the recipient of the goal to put the Jackets up 3-2.
Nick Foligno created the entire goal by dragging the puck into the zone, drawing a player to him, and quickly dishing it off to Dubinsky cutting to the net. The Rangers had a bit of a miscue on the goal, and no one decided to pick up Dubinsky in front which led to him getting a wide open chance. Lundqvist was essentially left out to dry at this point, and Dubinsky popped it through the five hole to give the Jackets the lead.
With two points slipping out of reach as the time ticked down, the Rangers went to work in the offensive zone with Lundqvist on the bench. The Rangers had some solid puck movement up top by Yandle and Ryan McDonagh, and McDonagh fired a quick shot towards the net. J.T. Miller wound up getting a piece of the puck as it came in on net, and it wound up hitting Chris Kreider in the chest. In a last ditch effort, Kreider swatted at the puck, deflected it over to Stepan, and Stepan wired it into the back of the net.
No one picked up Stepan off to the side of the net, and he caught a fortunate bounce right on his tape to knot this game up at 3-3. If you thought the tying goal was entertaining, you should have seen the overtime period between this two teams. Chances were being generate at both ends of the ice, but with about a minute remaining, the Rangers found their chance to pounce.
Derek Stepan was able to force Dalton Prout into coughing up the puck along the boards, and lugged the puck to the middle of the ice. He wound up losing the puck, but Keith Yandle was able to collect it, and tossed a light wrist shot towards the net. Bobrovsky had trouble kicking it to the corner, and wound up leaving the puck sitting in the high slot. Chris Kreider made an excellent play to tie up the stick of Justin Falk to leave the puck for Stepan, and he finished it off with a beautiful move.
Tonight certainly wasn't the Rangers best effort by any means, but they kept fighting, and found yet another way to earn two points. They showed a ton of heart tonight, and despite some blemishes, this team showed why they are sitting atop of the Eastern Conference with 109 points. With two points in hand tonight, the Rangers have a chance to lock up both the Eastern Conference and Presidents Trophy with a win tomorrow against the New Jersey Devils.
A few more games, and then we move onto the playoffs. I'm ready, how about everyone else?