The Rangers' early afternoon matchup began with quite a few of the faithful openly rooting for Detroit, who were staring down a possible end to a 24-year playoff streak. Yet somehow it finished as always, with everyone on the edge of their seats, just hoping to hang on. Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Dan Girardi, and Viktor Stalberg were all out; Antti Raanta was in for Henrik Lundqvist. No one knew exactly how bad things were going to get up in Boston (a game that ended up involving digestive issues, a police escort, and a very angry Patrice Bergeron), so the fate of the Red Wings' postseason seemed to rest on the Blueshirts' B-team.
Jimmy Howard turned his season around by shutting out the Rangers back in February (MSG seems to help opposing goalies that way), but this game belonged to Raanta and the rest of the second-stringers and problem children: Dan Boyle, Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg, Brady Skjei, and Dylan McIlrath.
The first frame began with a nifty little steal/spinorama combo from Boyle, but less than three minutes in, callup Joakim Andersson managed to shove a rebound across the line behind Raanta. Anyone who thought the Rangers might throw this one for Motown was proven wrong when AV challenged the goal as offsides. The Rangers won the challenge, and hockey Twitter cursed the Rangers.
Goal or no, Brady Skjei had clearly abandoned his man before the play ended, which, with no definite dates for the return of McDonagh or Girardi, was definite cause for concern. Ultimately, though, the Not-So-New Kids acquitted themselves well. Marek Hrivik got off a couple of quick hard shots, and McIlrath and Skjei looked solid. Dan Boyle found himself in a 2 on 1 with Kreider; he held on to the puck and shot down low, scored, then nearly killed himself celebrating. Easy there, Grandpa.
— NHL (@NHL) April 9, 2016
With that goal, Boyle became the 6th defenseman in NHL history to score 10 or more goals at age 39 or over. The period ended 1-0 Rangers.
The Wings came out harder in the second, and it paid off on the power play. A shot from the point by Pavel Datsyuk deflected up off Riley Sheahan’s outside elbow and bounced in behind Raanta. This was followed by an extraordinary amount of flailing on the part of the Rangers: whiffs, turnovers, and passes to nowhere. At one point Eric Staal stood behind the net with tons of time, but no one in front of the net to pass to (seriously, can you guys maybe count heads behind the goal line?). With 1:35 left in the 2nd, a fluke collision with Jesper Fast after the face-off left E. Staal down on the ice for an uncomfortably long time. When he got up, he went straight to the room and didn't return for the rest of the game. Forty minutes ended with the game tied and the Rangers outshot 24-14.
The third period was when the Baby Rangers really shone. Almost immediately following an intermission spiel by Dave Maloney about how the team should avoid blocking shots to prevent further injury, McIlrath blocked a shot. He looked shaky on his feet for a few minutes until he revived himself by pummeling the crap out of some candy canes in the crease. (This was followed by a sequence in which one could argue that he was more effective without a stick than some Rangers D are with one.) Then, obviously determined to make the most of his ice time, the Wrath sent a beauty of a blast from the point that Kevin Hayes deflected perfectly. 2-1 Rangers.
Then it got weird. Jeff Blashill pulled an incredulous Jimmy Howard with almost 3 minutes left while the Rangers had possession. Jesper Fast fed the puck to Oscar Lindberg, on the ice for the first time in 11 games, for the empty netter, the Rangers' third goal. Howard returned fuming, and Detroit got one back off former Ranger Brad Richards' feed to Justin Abdelkader.
And then it got weirder. With 1:13 left, Dan Boyle went off for a crosscheck in the crease, followed by a tripping call on Mark Staal. The game that nobody was supposed to care about ended with 19 seconds of 6 on 3. Skjei made the final clear, and the Rangers took home the points. Depending on what happens tomorrow night in Brooklyn, they may wish they hadn't.