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Rangers Vs. Devils: Late Game Heroes

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New York Rangers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
  • That game was interesting to say the least. The Rangers went from all out domination the first 40 minutes to getting their teeth knocked out the next 10 minutes and then managing to pull out a win in overtime. Antti Raanta gave up two very soft goals, Adam Clendening saved the day and Mika Zibanejad scored the OT winner. Guess that’s just another day at the office.
  • Let’s start with Raanta, who had a rare rough night. The first goal is a wraparound that somehow ends up between his legs and in the back of the net. The second goal (during the Devils explosion to start the third) he got no help from a useless Dan Girardi screen, but I’m not blaming Girardi there, it hit Raanta and trickled it. It’s a soft goal, period. The third goal? Girardi again provided the screen (the “box out” attempt on Miles Wood was pitiful) only this time it was a total screen and Raanta had no shot.
  • Girardi actually looked OK the first 40 minutes, too. But when the Devils started coming with speed he had no answer. And guess what? Alain Vigneault actually started mixing up the pairings and started sheltering Girardi. The Brady Skjei - Adam Clendening pairing (who had 69% and 75% possession metrics respectively) continued to look really good. Sure, there’s some defensive hiccups there, but at least you get the offense and the transition. And they’ve done a good job keeping the puck away from their own net.
  • Vigneault also did something else: He played Clendening down the stretch down a goal. And what did Clendening do? He scored the game-tying goal. Gotta keep him in the press box, though, so he doesn’t keep doing crap like that. Wait ... what?
  • Seriously, though, Skjei-Clendening was the Rangers best pairing for the second game in a row. Vigneault has absolutely no reason to not keep them together. Larry Brooks speculated Kevin Klein may have played his last game as a Ranger. Hopefully.
  • The fourth line (featuring Brandon Pirri right now) did the thing. That Jesper Fast fake pass to Oscar Lindberg -- who ripped the top shelf off -- was a thing of beauty. Not sure if Vigneault thinks Pirri is helping there or just a witness but I’d like to see Pavel Buhcnevich get in ASAP, obviously. We’ll see what happens there, too.
  • Is there a player who needed a goal worse than Zibanejad? Snake bitten to the point of it being criminal, he had a goal taken away from him last week against Washington and just couldn’t find the back of the net. That OT winner should do wonders for his confidence. And more importantly, I think it’s going to open the floodgates for his offense.
  • Second game in a row I really didn’t notice Michael Grabner all that much offensively. I told you he was going to cool down, and we might be seeing the start of it.
  • That third period outburst by the Devils was a little scary. Sure, it’s only one game, but the Rangers should be better prepared for an effort like that. Rannta’s soft goal/the parade to the penalty box didn’t help (neither did the fact that the two teams played 11 minutes without a whistle) but give Vigneault credit for shifting Girardi away from the madness and putting out what worked. That’s encouraging adjustments.
  • Thoughts?