Night Of Redemption As Rangers End Year With Stolen Win

The Rangers have only played twice on New Years Eve since the 2005 lockout, an overtime loss in Pittsburgh in 2005 and a regulation win in Carolina in 2009. Based on that schedule, we won’t be seeing another game on December 31st until 2017 after today’s shootout victory in Florida. I don’t clearly remember either of those games but if they were anything like tonight, I would be okay with the boys taking New Years off going forward.

While the Rangers defense was able to get by on Sunday night, it was probably a relief to most to hear Marc Staal and Anton Stralman were ready to go tonight in Florida. With Conor Allen playing well enough to get another look, that meant two of Justin Falk, Michael Del Zotto and John Moore would be coming out.

On recent play, I would’ve taken out the two kids but any chance to take Falk out of the lineup probably needs to be taken. And Vigneault did by removing Falk and Del Zotto. His reasoning on the latter? He felt Del Zotto has looked “jittery” recently which has led to turnovers. I can’t imagine why he would look jittery. Seriously, the Rangers just need to cut their losses and trade him already. It’s for the better of both him and the team at this point.

As for the game, we all know that afternoon starts don’t always go well for the boys as it takes them off their routines. But games that start at 5pm? Well that would confuse me too so I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. I should’ve known better.

They took a penalty just a minute in after their opening line got stuck on the ice and the sloppiness continued from there. Fortunately they were playing the Panthers so the penalty was killed and they weren’t burned as the team attempted to find their legs. It helped that the best player on the ice was Henrik Lundqvist.

I saw this tweet during the first period:

I won’t say when during the period that was tweeted as you can say it for the entire period.

That call didn’t come in the second period either. Yes the Rangers appeared to dominate play over the first five minutes but that was due to two “penalties” on the Panthers. (I placed the word penalties in quotes because the calls were light at best.) The power play had chances but didn’t do anything. I guess they heard they had the number one power play on the road coming into the game and wanted to make sure it didn’t stay that way.

Nine minutes into the period, Dan Girardi decided he didn’t like the scoreless tie…so he handed the puck to the Panthers behind the Rangers net and they buried it behind Lundqvist. Yes, I am one of Girardi’s biggest supporters and want him to remain a Ranger after this season but I can admit that was a bad play by him. Especially since the guy he was attempting to pass to was John Moore. That doesn’t mean I’m running him out of town or benching him for the remainder of the game.

The Rangers continued their New Years party poor play for the remainder of the period but again, since it was the Panthers, were only down one going into the third.

Things remained the same in the third and I fully expected the Rangers to give this game away. Then Richards took a double minor for high sticking roughly eight minutes into the period. Most people assumed Florida would put the game away at that point. I figured the Rangers would manage to kill it so they would still be in a game they shouldn’t be. I was right.

For the next ten minutes after the penalty was called, the Panthers did everything they could to hand the game over to the Rangers. And the Rangers did everything they could not to get back in the game. Then with a little over two minutes to play, a Panther (I missed who) lost their stick while in the defensive zone. Whoever it was ran to the bench to get a new one, leaving Girardi wide open. Stepan got the puck behind the net, found Girardi who buried it to tie the game. And that is why you don’t bench the guy after one turnover. The smile on his face was as big as the relief he probably felt at getting the boys back in the game.

Somehow, the two teams messed up enough to get the game in overtime. And in overtime, they tried their best to ensure neither fan base made it to 2014. I honestly don’t have words for that overtime other than Tim Thomas looked great and I’m not sure which the Rangers had more of – shots or turnovers.

Either way, it ended up in a shootout where the Panthers allowed the Rangers to shoot first. The first two shooters on each side missed. Next up? Brad Richards, another guy who could probably use some redemption after forcing his teammates to kill a four minute penalty. And what does he do? Buries it, leaving it up to Lundqvist to stop the last Panthers shooter.

A couple of weeks ago, I would’ve been worried. But Lundqvist has been great recently and was spectacular tonight (we even had a header!) so I actually felt confident. Lundqvist did what the Rangers pay him to do and the team got to walk out of Florida with all four points that were available. Honestly, they should probably run as fast as they can as every one of those points were stolen in my mind.

And with that, we say goodbye to 2013. I would say it was an average year for the team. Considering they went 46-37-6 in the regular season, which technically can be seen as 46-42, I would say average sounds about right. As for this season, they are 20-19-2 at the halfway mark so they need to be better in 2014. But the boys don’t need to worry about that tonight and can go celebrate four much needed points.

Happy New Years everyone!

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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“Power Kill” Takes Night Off As “Power Play” Wins Game For Rangers

The Ranger power play went 3-for-3. Just let that sink in. The Rangers scored three power play goals in three opportunities.  I can’t believe I typed that nonetheless that it happened. And all three of them were started by the same guy (pictured above). The Rangers might have found a power play quarterback, even if he doesn’t play the point.

The big question going into tonight was how would the Rangers defense hold up with two veterans, three guys who a couple of weeks ago were taking turns in the press box and a rookie making his NHL debut. The answer? A lot better than most people, myself included, expected. There were no actual pairs as the coaching staff mixed and matched all night but somehow it worked.

And as for that rookie – Conor Allen looked perfectly fine to me in over fifteen minutes of ice time. According to John Giannone, he was being given tips after every shift from not only the coaching staff but all players up and down the bench. Even Lundqvist, who never talks to the players during the game unless he’s yelling at them in his crease, came by on a TV timeout to give him a tip. Sounds like they want him to succeed. As nice as that is, not sure he needs all the help they were giving as I saw what Vigneault did:

He almost made the team out of camp and may not be headed back to Hartford that quickly. Honestly, he may be another great non-drafted find.

In comparison to last time the Rangers were in Tampa, the first period started much better for the road team. Considering they were down 2-0 before anyone realized that game had started, keeping the score tied at zero would’ve been considered a success. Instead the boys dominated play, getting numerous chances on Lindback in the first few minutes.

Then at the four and a half minute mark we had a random sighting of some guys I thought were still on the team but hadn’t seen in weeks. First it was someone wearing #21, I think his name is Derek Stepan, stealing the puck and making a beautiful pass to some guy wearing #61, believe he is Rick Nash, who made no mistake in burying the easy put home. All joking aside, it was a great play by Stepan and Nash and even better to see the two of them appear in a game. They actually both had great games. But that’s not surprising considering both American and Canadian Olympic brass were in the building watching.

You would think the early goal would motivate the boys to keep their feet on the gas. Instead they decided to sit back and allow the Lightning to dominate for the next ten minutes. The outcome? The home team taking a 2-1 lead. The first goal was a power play goal that while I would love to blame the four penalty killers for, it was just a nice play by Tampa. The second, I’m still trying to decide who to blame. While Dominic Moore cleanly lost the face-off and then no Rangers forward was anywhere in site of the guy who scored the goal, there might have been a defensive breakdown too.

Then with less than two minutes to go in the period, the Lightning took their first penalty as Filppula was called for our favorite penalty here on the site – A FACEOFF VIOLATION! (Yes the site name comes from that ridiculous penalty.) It took the Rangers all of eight seconds, yes eight seconds, to put the puck in the net. And yes they put it in the right net as Zuccarello passed a puck from behind the net to Pouliot who was standing in front of Lindback. But the puck never made it to him as it hit a Lightning defenders’ skate and deflected into the net to tie the game at two.

Three minutes into the second, the Lightning took their second penalty of the night. The Rangers lost that face-off so had to actually play the power play. But it didn’t matter as 1:17 into it, it was Zuccarello again as this time he found Kreider coming off the bench who raced in and pushed the puck past Lindback to give the Rangers the lead.

Two minutes later, the Lightning were back on the penalty kill…and the Rangers were back scoring. This one took a little over a minute as it was once again Zuccarello who found Brassard who found Pouliot in his home in the crease for his seventh of the season. The goal also extended Pouliot’s point streak to a career high seven games. Funny part on that goal? I had yelled at Brassard earlier in the shift for losing the puck to start the power play.

A little over eleven minutes into the period, the Rangers took a penalty as Girardi was called for interference. I’ll admit I assumed the game would be 4-3 shortly thereafter as the team never kills his penalties when they have their regular defense. With Del Zotto and Falk having to be out on the kill, I figured there was no chance. I was wrong as somehow the boys killed it and the rest of the period to take a 4-2 lead into the third.

Of course the Rangers never make things easy as they decided it would be a good idea to try and sit on the lead for the full twenty minutes…against a team who is known for being a good third period team. Eight minutes into the period, after Lundqvist had saved them for the first eight minutes, it burned them as the Lightning got one back on a perfect deflection.

From that point on it was all Lundqvist, who basically refused to lose this game and was rewarded with the Broadway Hat when it was over. (I am convinced that thing is now used to make guys feel better about themselves. If it works, I won’t complain about it.) It wasn’t pretty nor was it easy to watch but the Rangers pulled out the 4-3 victory.

As with Friday night, I’m not sure how to critique this game. For thirty minutes, the boys played an almost perfect road game. But the middle part of the first period and most of the third period were not pretty. Yes they got away with it and yes Tampa isn’t a nothing of a team. But I just don’t know if they win this game against the Penguins or Boston or anyone in the West if they play the exact same 60 minutes they did tonight.

But again, a win is a win and the Rangers need points so I’ll take it. It’s also hard for me to complain about a game where the Rangers power play went 3-for-3. Sorry I can’t get over that. And I don’t expect to ever see numbers like that again.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Lindberg Helps Wolf Pack Win Second Straight

It looks like the Wolf Pack just needed another holiday break to get back on track. After not winning a game between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, the Pack are now on a two game winning streak. Of course neither win was easy and they played two teams as bad as they are, but wins are wins and at this point the boys will take points however they can get them.

The Wolf Pack wasted no time getting into the game last night as it took just 18 seconds for Danny Kristo to get his team leading 12th of the season as he took a pass from Jesper Fast and put it five-hole on Sharks goalie Sateri. And I know what everyone is thinking so I’ll just get this out of the way – while Kristo’s offensive game seems to be coming along, I’m still not hearing great things about his defense so I still think he stays in Hartford.

Five minutes later, Kyle Beach took a bad high-sticking penalty. I said when that trade was made that it didn’t sound like a good one. Then I see tweets like these:

Looks like I was right. Fortunately the Pack was able to kill the penalty.

The Wolf Pack doubled their lead with just under seven minutes to go in the period when Arron Asham rifled one after a clean face-off win from Brodie Dupont for his first of the season. Unfortunately the boys couldn’t take a two goal lead into the intermission as the Sharks got one back with a minute to go in the period.

Fortunately the late goal didn’t give the Sharks momentum as they didn’t have anything going in the second. Then again, neither did the Wolf Pack as their wasn’t much action other than a couple of penalties (two for Wolf Pack, one for Sharks).

Other than a Sharks goal four minutes in, there wasn’t much to discuss in the third period either so to overtime the two teams went. Honestly didn’t expect much else when you have the 13th (due to tiebreaker with 14th place team) and 15th place teams in the conference playing each other.

It took more than three minutes but captain Aaron Johnson found Oscar Lindberg between the hash marks and he made no mistake in ensuring the Wolf Pack got both points available.

You can read the team recap here, see game sheet here and here are some of the highlights:

Seriously Wolf Pack? You couldn’t even show both regulation goals? That highlights package was horrible. Nice shots by Kristo and Lindberg though.

The boys are right back at it this afternoon as they head to Manchester for a game against the first place Monarchs. Now we’ll get to see if the team really has turned a corner or if they’ve just figured out how to beat teams as low as they are in the standings.

 

(Photo: Chris Rutsch/flickr)

Rangers Dominate Caps But Can’t Solve Backup Goalie Yet Again

One day I will be able to write that the Rangers beat a teams’ backup goaltender. I have no idea which team will be the unfortunate one to get that distinction but it has to happen at some point. Right?

I’ll be honest and say that I expected the Rangers to look rusty in the first period. Yes both teams should have because they have both not skated since Monday but I just expected the Rangers to look worse. They surprised me a little bit by being in the game through the first twenty minutes. It wasn’t pretty hockey but it was more or less competent hockey (even though Sam and Joe tried to blame rust on every mistake they made).

The Caps got the first power play of the game seven minutes in when the Rangers failed to get the puck deep leading to Nash tripping Green. There is a part of me that wants to blame Nash for the penalty but I’m not sure that would be fair. The Rangers killed all but fifteen seconds of it when they decided to leave Green wide open at the point. Really Rangers? Mike Green? The only guy worse would’ve been Jason Chimera.

Four minutes later, the Rangers had a chance to get it back as they got their first power play. Sorry, power kill. It didn’t even get a shot on net. They got another one, power play that is, three minutes later that had some chances but still couldn’t manage to beat Grubauer. It doesn’t matter what new rookie the Caps have in net, they can stone the Rangers. I don’t get it.

Somehow the Rangers outshot the Caps 14-7 in that period. I really don’t think that stat tells an accurate story of the period. In fact, the only stat I looked at after twenty minutes was ice time as I wanted to know why Ryan McDonagh had already played 10:46. Stralman had left the ice for a couple of minutes but there was no reason for McDonagh to have played over half the period, especially when Ovechkin had played under six minutes.

Speaking of Stralman, whatever happened to cause him to leave for those few minutes prevented him from coming out for the second period as the Rangers announced he was done for the night. This is why I keep saying the Rangers can’t trade Del Zotto. They want to. They just don’t have the manpower to cover for him if an injury occurs. Fortunately Vigneault said after the game that they don’t expect his injury to be serious. Will be interesting if they bring someone to Tampa just in case. Since they aren’t sure if Staal will be ready (he is close), the Rangers made a move after the game just in case:

Great. Another rookie who isn’t ready. Why can’t they call up Syvret or Johnson or Bickel? Are they seriously afraid they will lose them on waivers? And if so, do they even care? (For anyone who says cap hit, that definitely isn’t it as Allen has the highest cap hit of anyone in Hartford.)

Just one minute into the second, the Rangers went back to the power play. In the first forty seconds, I finally found a purpose for Benoit Pouliot – sit him in front of the net on the power play and let him tip pucks past goalies every night. It seems to be working as he tied the game to extend his point streak to a career high six games.

But the Rangers tried to give it back a minute later as Hagelin went off for hooking. Somehow the Rangers killed that. Then three and a half minutes later, they thought it was a good idea to have six guys in the offensive zone. (Editors Note: MSG showed six but I was told the Caps broadcast showed seven.) I figured Sam and Joe would blame that on rust too but instead they went with the fact the Rangers were mixing up defense pairs with only five D. They should’ve stuck with rust…or stupidity.

With two seconds to go on the kill the puck went towards Talbot, hit the post and then ended up under him. For some reason they called it a goal. I’ll admit I initially thought it was too although Girardi’s reaction (he was standing right there) had me second guess that as he looked completely baffled by the call. On replay, it obviously never crossed the line. I know the game is fast but the referee was standing right there so I’m not sure how he called it a goal. Marty Biron felt the same way:

After that the Rangers had a number of dominating shifts, outshooting the Caps 9-1 in a little over a three minute span, but once again couldn’t beat the Caps rookie. Of course one bad play ended up in the back of their net as McDonagh lost the puck, Backstrom found it and Talbot couldn’t stop it. Because of the goal against, McDonagh only played exactly ten minutes that period. (Editors Note: That had nothing to do with it as the goal came with roughly a minute to go in the period. I just needed a reason to place McDonagh’s ice time down.)

Then with thirty seconds to go, Miller took a bad offensive zone penalty and I figured that would be it. (Yes, I’m very pessimistic when it comes to this team. Forgive me.) The Rangers barely killed the remainder of the second period but they did to only be down a goal. Then seventeen seconds into the third period, Girardi hit Brouwer leading to McDonagh finding Hagelin who raced down the ice and scored the Rangers second shorthanded goal of the year. It was beautiful.

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2013020570-448-h

“Their assistant captain Dan Girardi got away with an elbow…” Never change Caps announcers.

Even more beautiful than the goal? The Rangers killed the remaining time on the penalty to actually make that goal matter.

From that point on, it appeared to be a defensive battle as neither team wanted to give up an inch (or make a mistake that would lead to a penalty). With a little under six minutes remaining, we got to see some 4-on-4 action. The Rangers controlled play to start getting a golden opportunity to take the lead but Girardi hit the post. The puck ended up behind the net, Hagelin put it out to no one, the Caps took it, John Moore misplayed the breakout…and you can guess the rest.

The Rangers tried to get the equalizer again with Girardi getting a number of chances but it wasn’t meant to be and the win streak ended at two as the Caps won 3-2.

This game was an interesting one. The Rangers played well but every mistake ended up in the back of their net. McDonagh and Girardi played a ridiculous amount of minutes yet the one who cost us wasn’t the one who has been the past month. The forwards dominated at 5-on-5 yet two of the Caps three goals were scored at even strength. Talbot made some great saves but I’ll admit I wondered if he switched with Lundqvist on the goals as those were ones Henrik had been letting in. (Not sure if that means the goals against Lundqvist haven’t been as bad as we thought or if Talbot looked bad tonight. Either way, I guess Lundqvist gets a chance to get his crease back on Sunday night.)

I just don’t know how to critique this one so I won’t. It’s a loss and at this point, it doesn’t matter the score or how close the game was but just that they didn’t get the two points. (Doesn’t help that six Metropolitan division teams played tonight and every one of them got points except the Rangers.) And so they move on. Here’s to hoping Sunday night has a better outcome.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Hold The Presses! The Wolf Pack Win!

It feels like forever since we were able to say the Hartford Wolf Pack have won a game. That’s because it has been forever. Their last win was November 27th, i.e. exactly one month from today. Yes that was the day before Thanksgiving. I understand they don’t play every night but that’s still a long time as the boys were on a nine game losing streak. That’s approaching Islanders territory which makes last night’s victory even sweeter as the boys beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (baby Islanders) by a score of 3-1.

First, some lineup news. Dylan McIlrath missed his first game with a knee injury he sustained last weekend. We know that he went for a MRI on the knee and that it is the same knee that caused him to miss half of last year but we don’t know how serious the injury is. All we know is that he will be re-evaluated in a week. While week-to-week isn’t great news, at least it isn’t being considered a long term injury yet.

Also, I missed this news but Jesper Fast returned to the lineup last weekend after being out with an ankle injury. Here’s to hoping he catches up quickly as I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on a short list of call-ups if/when necessary.

As for the game, the Wolf Pack wasted no time taking the lead as they scored the first goal of the night just seven minutes in while on the power play. It seems the Wolf Pack’s power play is the same as the Rangers as they either score or don’t get a shot on net. (The goal came on their second power play of the night. The first was a typical Rangers power kill.) Syvret took the initial shot and Lindberg got the rebound for his sixth of the season.

Four minutes later it was another power play goal as Fast got his first of the season after a beautiful pass from Kristo, who according to Mitch Beck had a phenomenal game:

Considering how well Zuccarello has been playing, that’s some pretty high praise. And before anyone says it, no I wouldn’t bring him up to New York just yet. Let him continue to dominate down there until they are sure he is ready. But this is the Rangers so yes I expect to see him with the big club before the end of the calendar year.

Other than a couple more penalties that was all for the first period. (Honestly, looking at the stat sheet it’s pretty clear how these two teams think about each other.)

The Sounds Tigers came out ready to get back in the game during the second period. The Rangers Wolf Pack, on the other hand, didn’t appear prepared for that. (Seriously, it is so obvious these two teams are part of the same organization.) After giving them a couple of power play chances, Bridgeport finally got one with less than a minute and a half to go in the period while on a 5-on-3 after O’Donnell and Allen took bad penalties just 16 seconds apart.

Fortunately for the Wolf Pack, it appears the Sounds Tigers are as bad as they are as the Pack had a horrible first half of the third period, most of which they spent on the penalty kill, and managed to come out of it unscathed. With just under four minutes to go, Allen slightly redeemed himself by scoring his fifth of the season on a shot I’m still not sure how found the net. Bridgeport pushed for the remaining three plus minutes but it wasn’t meant to be and the Wolf Pack walked away with a much needed win.

The good news is they won. But they better not think this effort will work continue to work against future opponents. It may against the 14th place Worcester Sharks, who they play at home on Saturday night. But it won’t against the first place Manchester Monarchs who they visit on Sunday. The Monarchs have almost double the amount of points as the Wolf Pack (47-24).

But for now, let’s celebrate the win. For those who want to read another recap, you can do so here. The game sheet, showing all the penalties, can be found here. And here’s the highlight video, courtesy of the Sounds Tigers:

Stick tap to Bridgeport for showing all the goals. And that Johnson kid looks like he’s going to go far in the league with that type of respect for his opponents. I know the supposed “code” has been questioned recently but common sense says what he was doing was wrong. Then again the Sound Tigers made it sound like it was the best part of the night. Although considering how the night went for them, it might have been.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Prince Cam Leads Rangers To Victory In Entertaining Game Vs. Leafs

Not sure if entertaining is the right word for the game we just witnessed. It was wide open and had a little bit of everything so I guess that makes it entertaining. But it was also nerve-wracking. And had that feeling that it could turn at any moment even if the Rangers were dominating most of the night. I mean how many times have we seen a team dominate and lose? Luckily that didn’t happen tonight and all is well in Rangerstown.

Other than two Rangers penalty kills (one just a minute and a half in on a dumb play by Brassard, the other four and a half minutes after that one ended when Stralman was forced to hook a Leafs due to a horrible pass by John Moore), the first period was the kind of hockey Rangers fans have longed for – absolutely wide open. Surprisingly the Rangers didn’t fair too badly, getting chances and make good plays to prevent too many the other way. But this team isn’t built to play that way and on the second half of a back to back, I figured there was no way they would last three periods doing so. I was wrong.

The second period started where the first left off as both teams got numerous chances as the puck went up and down the ice. The best chance in the first half of the period came roughly six minutes in as McDonagh fooled everyone with a shot from the point…and hit the post.

Then halfway through the period, the Rangers hemmed the Leafs in their zone for what felt like over two minutes and did everything but put the puck in the back of the net. It ended with them drawing a penalty. I figured that would change momentum. They didn’t score on the power play, but it got chances (four shots!) and looked competent. Less than two minutes after it ended, the Leafs took another penalty. At that point there was roughly five minutes remaining in the period. The teams didn’t play at even strength until two minutes into the third.

During the second power play, Nash drove to net and fell into Bernier when he had nowhere else to go. I hate that penalty but it’s a penalty and there went the remaining thirty seconds of the power play. The teams played four aside and then the Leafs attempted to gain some momentum. A minute into that, Lupul decided to push McDonagh into the boards. As a fan, I wanted a penalty because no one pushes McDonagh into the boards but to be honest, that was a light call. It’s usually called because refs err on the side of caution not knowing how hard the push actually was but doesn’t mean it’s actually a penalty every time.

So we had a little more four on four before the Rangers got another chance on the power play. Then with 14 seconds remaining in Lupul’s penalty and 17 seconds remaining in the period, the Leafs decided to put five guys on the ice. Unfortunately for them the refs caught it and it was a brief 5-on-3 for the Rangers. I honestly expected a lost face-off and the period to be over. But I have to give the Rangers credit as they got a couple of chances in those 17 seconds before the buzzer rang.

Unfortunately the score was still tied at zero after two but not for a lack of effort for the home team. After outshooting the Wild 17-5 in the second period yesterday, the Rangers did even better tonight outshooting the Leafs 22-5 during tonight’s second twenty minutes.

Of course the remaining 1:43 of man advantage that carried over into the third was the familiar power kill I know and love. But the Rangers kept going and finally broken the deadlock seven minutes into the third thanks to a pair of rookies as Kreider fed Miller from behind the net who made no mistake in burying it. The goal also gave the Rangers the first goal since the first game of the home stand.

From that point on the Rangers did the exact same thing as they did yesterday – not ignore any scoring opportunities but not look for them either. It wasn’t easy to watch as the puck continued to go up and down the ice but it was effective. Then with three and a half minutes to go, Kreider took an easy clear…and put it directly over the glass. He knew the second he did it. The team tried to convince the refs it was deflected but it wasn’t and to the kill they went.

Miraculously, the team did kill the actual penalty but I don’t consider it killed until the puck leaves the zone and it didn’t after this one. Ten seconds later, well I’ll just leave it as the Leafs tied it. The puck did enter the net so it was a goal. But the whistle should’ve blown and it’s absolutely absurd that it didn’t. I also have no idea what they were reviewing since the ref should know if he intended to blow the whistle. Plus last I checked that isn’t reviewable. Last point on that goal – Al Trautwig absolutely nailed it on the start of the post game. (For those who didn’t see it, he was furious the whistle didn’t blow and let it be known he disagreed with the call.)

The Rangers managed to compose themselves and get the game to overtime where we were treated to another five minutes of back and forth action. Apparently this is how the Leafs like to play. I wonder if it’s what Vigneault’s system is supposed to be. If it is, I may have to backtrack on saying this team can’t handle it. Because on the second half of a back to back, they did just fine with it.

As with most of regulation, there were no goals in overtime and to a shootout we went. Best play of overtime? McDonagh just taking the puck from Kessel as he broke in on Talbot. Honestly, kid is just amazing.

I know we shouldn’t let the outcome of the skills competition decide how we feel about a game but I would’ve been so pissed if they lost this game. Honestly was one of the best efforts I’ve seen from the entire lineup from top to bottom. The defense, led by McDonagh and Girardi (yes Girardi who finally looks like the defenseman we know and love), was great. The forwards were all creating chances. Talbot was solid. It was a just a great effort and it would’ve been horrible to lose, especially how the Leafs tied it.

Fortunately Zuccarello and Stepan (yes Stepan!) were able to get pucks past Bernier and only one Leaf found the back of the net behind Talbot, who won his first NHL shootout.

And so the Rangers head into the holiday break with a 3-4-2 record on this home stand. Eight out of eighteen points isn’t great but it’s better than anyone thought it was going to be a week ago. Are the Rangers finally getting it? Were they banged up and now getting healthy? Were they not worried about being traded the past few days due to the trade freeze? No idea but they’ve looked good the past two days and we just have to hope it continues when they head on the road (finally!) at the end of the week.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Finally Get Regulation Win On Eighth Try Of Home Stand

Wait…is that a stick salute? At home? After only 60 minutes of play? After the Rangers once again gave up the first goal? Miracle do happen!

After the game the Rangers said this was their best 60 minute effort. I beg to differ. I thought the first period, specifically the first six minutes when they iced the puck six times, was average at best. The last forty, yes that was good. But still not a sixty minute effort. Also helps that Minnesota just isn’t a good team.

As I mentioned, the first period didn’t start well with the Rangers icing the puck a number of times over the first few minutes. And this wasn’t the normal attempted breakout pass gone wrong. These were legit “I’m going to throw the puck from my end to the other end just to get it out of the zone” icings. The third time they did it, I believe they tried to make a change. Or do something. There was a long delay as it looked to me like the Rangers were playing games to get the breather. Then when they finally picked five players, there was still something going on preventing them from dropping the puck. I’m surprised the Wild weren’t screaming by that point. And guess what? The games didn’t work as the Wild opened the scoring five seconds after the puck was finally dropped. Because why would the Rangers score first during this home stand. Honestly I called the goal while all the BS was going on.

I wouldn’t say the Wild played well following the goal but they looked like the better more competent team on the ice to me. Eleven minutes into the period, the Rangers got the first power play of the night. Sorry, power kill of the night. It was a complete waste of two minutes. Although after Friday’s debacle I guess it was successful since the Wild didn’t score either.

Two and a half minutes later, Stepan drew another penalty. I’ll admit I yelled at him and told him that’s not what first line players do. (Look the Rangers power play is that bad, I don’t think players should be praised for drawing penalties.) The good news was the first line was on the ice to draw the penalty meaning the second unit got to start the power play. Which meant it was successful as twenty seconds in, Pouliot tipped a McDonagh pass into the net. (I originally thought it was a shot. It wasn’t. The Rangers don’t shoot on the power play. If they score, it’s passes gone wrong.)

That tip allowed the teams to enter intermission tied. I’m not sure what happened during the first intermission but the home team woke up as they completely outplayed their visitors, outshooting them 17-5 and outscoring them 2-0.

The first goal came right after the boys killed a penalty to Boyle for holding. I’m pretty sure what he did wasn’t a hold but it did look illegal so it was two minutes for doing something he shouldn’t have. He came out of the box and McDonagh found him to get the puck up the ice. Of course Boyle lost it but it went to Dorsett who found Hagelin on the other side who was able to bury it. You would think Hagelin hadn’t scored in weeks with the reaction he had.

Seven minutes later, Brassard took the puck from the Rangers zone up the ice and went behind the Wild net. Zuccarello somehow got in-between four Wild players to plant himself in front of the net where Brassard handed him the puck and he buried it. It was a great shot by Zuccarello but that goal was all Brassard. We need more of that Brassard going forward.

The third period looked like it was going to be a play defense for twenty minutes period. If the boys got a chance, they didn’t ignore it but there was a lot of time in their zone as they just tried to get the win. With a little over seven minutes to go, the Rangers took a three goal lead when this happened:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=519057

I had no words then and still have no words now so I’ll leave it to the writers at Blueshirts United:

If Chris Kreider were a baseball pitcher and Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom the batter, there would be no better description for what took place late in the third period of Sunday’s 4-1 Rangers win at The Garden then saying that Kreider slipped a changeup by the surprised Backstrom.

Kreider laughing made my night though.

That would be all as the Rangers would finally win in a regulation on their eighth try of the home stand. Honestly, they did deserve it as a lot of guys played their best games in weeks. Brassard, Hagelin and Zuccarello were all noticeable. Nash looked like an actual threat. I didn’t find myself yelling at Girardi for making a mistake even once. I have no idea what clicked but something finally did. They get a chance to get another win tomorrow night as the home stand mercifully comes to an end after they play the Maple Leafs. I wouldn’t mind seeing them end on a high note.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)