Late Goal Leads Rangers Past Jets

My hope going into tonight’s game against the Jets was that the Rangers would come out of it in one piece. The Jets are known for hitting so I just wanted no injuries. Getting the two points was an added bonus.

A couple of pregame notes. Yesterday Chris Summers was sent back to Hartford meaning Matt Hunwick was ready to go tonight. Summers didn’t leave an impression one way or the other with me but he did get 15 minutes of ice time so we’ll see what the coaching staff thought if a defenseman is needed again.

In non-lineup news, you know it’s getting to the end of the season when we start seeing award winners. Today the NYR chapter of the PHWA announced that Marc Staal was once again their nominee for the Masterton trophy while Derek Stepan was this years’ John Halligan Good Guy winner.

Staal had been previously nominated for the Masterton in 2013 after returning from his concussion. Since he wasn’t able to be nominated last year (Dominic Moore, the eventual winner of the award, got that one), the writers gave it to him this year. Staal’s  initial response was “again?” but I agree with the nomination. You can read his complete reaction here. What I found most interesting was the breakdown in votes. Per Andrew Gross:

The chapter’s voting (on a 3-2-1 basis) for this season’s Masterton nominee was Staal with 13, Marty St. Louis with 11, Dan Girardi with nine, Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist with six and five others receiving votes.

St. Louis makes sense to me but the other three caught me offguard since we’re trained to think of this award as one for a player returning from injury or dealing with a hardship. Lundqvist will obviously get it next year unless something else happens to another player on the team.

As for the Good Guy award, that is given to the player who is best with the media. Players can only receive it once so Lundqvist, Staal and Girardi were ineligible. According to Gross, Stepan was an obvious choice for the award. Not surprised since there seems to be quotes from him every day.

Now onto the game.

Well I’m going to move onto the game. The Rangers didn’t show up for the start. Somehow the Jets only had a 1-0 lead after outshooting the Rangers 9-0 in the first five minutes. Yes, five minutes. Fortunately for the Rangers, the Jets took a penalty at 5:20 allowing them to get a couple of shots on net. But it took until almost ten minutes into the period for the visitors to get an even strength shot on goal. Lucky for them it went in as Mats Zuccarello found a puck in the crease and deposited it in the back of the net.

John Giannone said there was a sigh of relief on the bench after the goal and it was noticeable as after that, the Rangers actually looked like they had arrived in Winnipeg. But you could still tell the Jets were a desperate team and once again, the Rangers didn’t seem to know how to handle that. The good news was Henrik Lundqvist continued to get the practice he needs. Fortunately for the team, he showed up at puck drop as he faced 16 shots over the first 20 minutes only allowing one past him.

It’s a good thing he was still ready to go in the second as once again the Rangers weren’t ready for puck drop. But there was only so much he could do as ex-Ranger Lee Stempniak beat him high glove less than 90 seconds into the period to regain the lead for the Jets. Wonder if that shot was from being with the Rangers or what he knew before he came to the team.

The Rangers did wake up a little earlier than they did in the first but still didn’t have much going. They had some zone time and a couple of shifts where they pinned the Jets in their own zone but the puck was mostly kept to the perimeter.

Nine and a half minutes in, the Jets received another penalty after hemming the Rangers in their zone. I say received because if I’m being honest, it was a light call. Perreault was headed to the bench and somehow clipped Dominic Moore on the blue line and the veteran center went down. I’m not going to call it a dive because the view MSG showed didn’t show a good angle but let’s just say I was waiting for the makeup call. When the Rangers scored less than a minute later, I knew the makeup call was coming.

The goal was a beautiful one though as Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh kept the puck at the points and got it to Derick Brassard in the left circle. Brassard took a slap shot that Pavelec had no chance of seeing due to the maze of bodies, specifically Rick Nash, in front of him. I honestly needed to see a replay to see how the puck got in the net.

Three minutes later, the makeup call came as Nash was called for hooking. I knew it would be him or Hagelin. It’s not a Rangers game if one of them don’t end up in the box. Early in the penalty kill, Dustin Byfuglien took a shot from the point that Dan Girardi blocked. (He did a lot of that tonight as he was credited with a career-high 10 blocks. Of course he tried to pretend it was no big deal after the game.) Right away, Joe Micheletti said the iron man was hurt…as I watched him race around the zone to stop the Jets from taking other shots. He was fine. Again, not human.

The Rangers killed the penalty as well as the remainder of the period to get to intermission tied at two. But not without a little action. With only a couple minutes remaining in the period, Dustin Byfuglien decided to do this:

http://streamable.com/e/rzly

Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were besides themselves for the remainder of the game. Not only that there was no call but that he threw that crosscheck. Luckily J.T. Miller was okay.

I remember Byfuglien when he was with the Blackhawks and that was not something he did in Chicago. I hope DoPS takes a good long look at that check. After the game, Vigneault did not mince words by saying it was “violent, deliberate, could have broken his neck. One of the most vicious cross-checks I’ve seen this year” while Steve Valiquette compared it to Chris Simon’s hit on Ryan Hollweg, which by the way garnered a 25-game suspension if I remember correctly. I don’t expect that again this time as I don’t think it was as vicious as that one but Byfuglien better get something.

Anyway, back to the game. The two teams battled it out in the third period and it looked like we were headed to overtime. Then J.T. Miller found the perfect revenge on Byfuglien by helping Chris Kreider do this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014021148-621-h

That reaction is priceless. So was the goal. It turned out to be the game winner as the Jets pushed but in the end couldn’t get another one past Lundqvist. It didn’t help that Byfuglien decided to go after Mats Zuccarello with 40 seconds remaining. Sam Rosen’s response to the referees finally calling a penalty on him? “It’s about time.” He did apologize as he usually doesn’t lose his cool but I think every Rangers fan agreed with him on that one.

And with that, the Rangers once again found a way to bounce back. The win gave them their 25th road win, most in the NHL and tying a franchise record set last year. Why do we want home ice again? Oh right, cause they have 23 wins at MSG. Six more games to go before the fun really begins.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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First Time In Two Months Rangers Lose Consecutive Games

It’s been two months since the Rangers have lost consecutive games. Two months. I’m not sure we can really complain about this weekend knowing that. The question is what is plaguing the Rangers right now?

Is it a clinching hangover? Now that they’re in and almost definitely going to win the Metro, probably going to win the East and possibly win the President’s Trophy, are they going at half speed to conserve energy for the playoffs? We’re all human so I can’t completely blame them if they are subconsciously doing that. I don’t agree with it and I think they know as well as I do that they shouldn’t be doing it, but I can’t blame them.

Or maybe the number of games finally caught up with them. We knew they had to make-up all those games in hand at some point. They aren’t done yet but they’ve gotten close by playing six games in the last nine days. That’s a lot of hockey. Problem is they still have seven more while most teams only have five or six. It’s why I haven’t liked the way the schedule played out this year and could play a major role in the team not completing what they plan to this season.

But right now asking those questions is useless as there’s nothing we can do about the lost weekend. It hurts. They just have to stop the bleeding now before it gets worse.

Before the game the Rangers announced that Matt Hunwick was day-to-day with an upper body injury and would not play tonight. Chris Summers was recalled to play his first game as a Ranger. I honestly have no idea what happened to Hunwick and when since he was on the ice at the final buzzer. I know there was a scrum at the end but wasn’t sure how involved in it he was. Either way, hopefully this isn’t a long term injury. Summers didn’t look bad but there’s a reason the 27-year old hasn’t cemented a spot as a full-time NHLer yet.

The game started interestingly as just 28 seconds in, the Rangers were given a power play. The team hadn’t had a power play their past two games and only one in their past three. Two minutes later all I could think was this is why I haven’t complained about not having a power play. The Rangers are a better team when they don’t have a man advantage. (Funniest part was some near me screamed “don’t you guys practice this?” and I replied no, they really haven’t recently. Between not having them in games and not having practices, they really haven’t practiced it…and it showed.)

Honestly, my biggest problem with this game was the Rangers usually shut down Ovechkin and today that couldn’t. It started two minutes after the power kill as the Caps captain got the puck in center and went around Ryan McDonagh to enter the zone. Then he beat Jesper Fast and put a shot on net that went through Dan Girardi to get the scoring started. Fast has been off since he returned from injury and I’m wondering if he’s not 100%. Granted he got moved up to the Stepan line today so maybe I’m just crazy in thinking that he hasn’t played well past few games.

Couple minutes later, the Rangers got another power play which had some chances but still couldn’t beat Holtby. Shortly after that, they had to kill a power play which didn’t look bad. It actually didn’t score only because Dan Boyle saved a goal. No really:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=794264

Garden crowd gave him a nice ovation when that was shown on the scoreboard.

Then with less than two minutes remaining, things got a little crazy. First the Caps turned the puck over in their zone and Kevin Hayes gladly swooped in and put it past Holtby to tie the game. A minute later, Mats Zuccarello made a quick pass to Derick Brassard who absolutely sniped one top shelf to give the Rangers the lead. I don’t remember the last time I saw Brassard shoot a puck as quickly as he shot that one. With the quick goals, the Rangers would get out of the period with a 2-1 lead.

I have no idea what happened after that. Maybe the quick goals woke the Caps up. The second period was a typical Rangers second period where they spent the bulk of it on their heels. There were also a lot of penalties called giving both teams full and partial power play chances. The penalty kill units looked great for most of them, although the Caps did capitalize on one to tie the game. I’m trying to figure out which of the five penalties taken was stupidest – Rangers taking their usual too many men on the ice (they almost got it a shift before they actually did so the call didn’t surprise me at all) or Joel Ward taking a chop at Yandle’s leg to try and break it with his stick. I’m leaning toward the second one.

But even with the Caps having a little more jump in the middle frame, the two teams headed to intermission tied at two. Basically win a period, win the game. The Caps won the period by a landslide.

After the game, the quotes coming out of the locker room from the players and coach were that the Rangers didn’t have the necessary energy in the third period. Maybe they didn’t for the reasons listed above. Problem is they need to find it if they plan to play for three more months.

It started less than five minutes in when Keith Yandle attempted to clear the puck out of the zone and instead passed it straight to a Capitals player.  (I’m really curious when Yandle becomes the scapegoat for the Rangers fan base.) A couple of passes later mixed with some horrible defense in front of the net and Cam Talbot having no idea where the puck was and the Caps had the lead. Three minutes later it was Chris Summers turn to miss clearing the puck out and the Caps had a two goal lead.

I can’t even say the Rangers got close to getting back into the game at any point after that because they didn’t. But for some reason, Vigneault still tried to pull Talbot with over two and a half minutes remaining to see if his team could get two goals. Only one problem as while the puck was in the Caps zone, the Caps were the ones in control as Talbot was pulled. Needless to say the empty netter came five seconds later and the building proceeded to clear out. Who pulls the goalie when their team doesn’t have control of the puck? I’ve never seen that before.

And so the Rangers head out west for a two game swing against two teams battling to stay in a playoff spot in Winnipeg and Minnesota. The excuse the past few games has been the other team has been more desperate. These two teams will be desperate. The Rangers better pretend the games matter to them or we may be looking at our first four game losing streak of the season. And while the games don’t really matter, I don’t want to go into the playoffs on a losing streak.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Miss Flight To Boston In Lundqvist’s Return

Every team has off nights. The Rangers have had a few of them recently. Today it finally caught up with them.

Larry Brooks tweeted the following during the game:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsI’ll let you decide when it was tweeted.

We all knew what Vigneault was going to say when he met with the media before today’s game but that didn’t stop everyone from checking as soon as the news was available. And he said what we expected:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsIt’s been a long two months but the King has returned. If someone told me at the start of the season that Henrik Lundqvist would miss 25 games and the Rangers would go 18-4-3 in that span, I probably would’ve laughed. Honestly, I probably would’ve laughed if someone told me that on February 6th when we learned he would be out. And I think Cam Talbot is a very reliable goaltender. But here they are, at the top of the league, getting their best player back. The rest of the NHL must love the Rangers right now.

In other injury news, as expected Dan Girardi was fine after blocking a shot halfway through the third period on Thursday night. He did need four stitches to close a gash. I didn’t know getting hit with the puck could cause only a gash but I’ll take it. And say again that the man isn’t human.

That said, I’m sure both of them wished they missed this game. I know people will say I’m not a fan or discredit me for saying this but I’m going to be honest – I knew this was going to be a loss yesterday. The Bruins were a desperate team coming off six straight losses. From the sounds of it, they were close in their last game. We’ve all seen that before and how it turns out. And that’s why I wouldn’t have played Lundqvist today. He didn’t deserve this.

I’m just going to get right to it and start with the first Bruins goal. I know everyone, including the beat writers and MSG analysts, think it shouldn’t have been a goal. My response? Take off the rose-colored glasses and read the rule. Rule 49.2 was changed this year to state:

“A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident.”

The rule states “distinct kicking motion”. No matter how many times I watch the replay, I don’t see a kick. Do I see him change the direction of his skate? Yes. Do I see him re-direct the puck towards the net? Yes. Do I see him kick the puck into the net? Nope. And that’s why it counted. The rule is stupid and probably needs to be changed or better explained to everyone so that we have consistency with these calls (being that even Lucic didn’t think it would count) but as the rule is worded, that was a goal.

Not that it mattered as it wasn’t as if the Rangers showed up to the game. I’m honestly not sure the team was even in Boston.

Eight minutes later, Dan Boyle ignored Lucic and the pesty winger scored his second of the game straight through the five-hole of Lundqvist. No real comment on that one as Lundqvist probably would’ve let that in if he hadn’t missed any games. The Rangers kept the great play up as Keith Yandle handed a puck over right in front of Lundqvist to force the King to make a huge save to keep it 2-0. But his partner Matt Hunwick wanted to one-up that pass and made a turnover of his own at the blueline shortly afterwards. Lundqvist couldn’t bail the pair out that time and it was 3-0.

Basically, this tweet sums up the Rangers first period:

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Intermission came and MSG had John Giannone interviewing a Bruin rather than a Ranger. I’m pretty sure the last time that happened John Tortorella was coach so the guess is Vigneault was not pleased with his team after twenty minutes. Whatever he said didn’t work as the next twenty weren’t any better.

The period started strange as just ten seconds in, Tuukka Rask took himself out of the game. There was a stoppage, he spoke to the referee, went to the bench, said something to Julien and headed straight for the locker room. Strange part was the puck never came by him in those ten seconds so no one had any idea what happened.

How did the Rangers respond? By taking a penalty 39 seconds later and then spending the first half of the period in the Bruins zone so Svedberg could get comfortable in net before facing a shot. That was so nice of the team to look after the backup goaltender like that.

In all seriousness, the period was better than the first but that’s like saying one foot of snow is better than two. Neither of them are good. Another bad defensive play would make it 4-0 less than six minutes into the period and I’m pretty sure the only reason Lundqvist remained in net was because he could use the workout. (And because they have another game tomorrow.)

The only positive to the period (and the game for that matter) was with a little over three minutes remaining in the period, we had a Rick Nash sighting. Yes, the man, the myth, the legend finally got goal number 40 on the season. It took him long enough. Honestly I was sitting on my couch saying all I wanted was a Nash goal and everyone to come out of the game in one piece. If those two things happened mixed with Lundqvist getting some work (although he got more than some), I was considering the game a success. Mission accomplished.

As for the third period, it was the Rangers best period. But if we stick with the snow reference, this time we only got 10 inches. Simply put, this one was a stinker. Unlike in past games when they pulled this against bad teams, the scoreboard showed it. And yes you can say goaltending has bailed them out in the past as well but there is no way I’m blaming this on Lundqvist. He looked fine. The eighteen guys in front of him are still in New York.

The good news with that is they have a game in New York tomorrow so they don’t have to worry about traveling tonight. I say we throw this tape out and move on. Games aren’t going to get easier as next up it’s the Capitals, who lost to the Predators in Washington this afternoon. Let’s hope the Rangers play 100x better than they did today. Otherwise it’s going to be a long afternoon at MSG.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Chase Hamburglar To Clinch Playoff Spot

Going into the game, all anyone could talk about was the goaltenders. It was the battle of the hot backups who became starters due to injury as Cam Talbot, aka the Goalbuster, was up against Andrew “the Hamburglar” Hammond. Goalbuster took this one.

In case you somehow missed it, the Rangers had other goaltending news yesterday as Mackenzie Skapski was sent back to Hartford. I’m going to miss his smile on the bench. If there was one positive in Henrik Lundqvist getting injured, it was that Skapski got to spend a month in the NHL. That experience alone is going to make a huge difference when the time comes for him to be permanently in the big leagues. While we lost Skapski’s smile on the bench, we gained perfection as that meant Lundqvist was the backup tonight. He will definitely be playing this weekend. No word yet which game but many believe it will be Saturday in Boston.

Fortunately the game gave us enough to talk about that we didn’t hear about Lundqvist returning all night as they were focusing on the two actually in net. Halfway through the first period, I thought they were going to be the game as both came up with big saves. Then with seven and a half minutes remaining in the period, things changed.

First, Derek Stepan threw the puck up ice to a streaking Chris Kreider. Hammond didn’t have a chance as Kreider got the visitors on board first. Just nineteen seconds later, Keith Yandle couldn’t control a puck near the Rangers blueline and the Senators tied the game. That’s what you’re going to get with Yandle. He’s great in the offensive zone. He will make Dan Boyle and John Moore look like elite defensive defensemen in the defensive zone.

While Rangers fans cursed that the team gave the goal right back, the Rangers had other plans. A minute forty-three later it was another rush started by Stepan, this time getting the puck to Kreider who instead of shooting, found Rick Nash. Nash then made a beautiful cross ice pass to Dan Boyle who regained the Rangers lead. He said after the period he was going for the top corner and missed. Looking at the shot, you can tell that’s exactly what happened. But it went in and that’s all that matters. After that, for some reason I hoped that would be the game winner. It was.

This time the Rangers didn’t give up a goal on the next shift. In fact, they didn’t give up a goal the rest of the period. They did, however, score another as with less than a minute remaining, Stepan took a shot that popped up high over Hammond. He didn’t know where it was and as it came down Kreider crashed the crease and pushed it over the goal line for his second of the game. Guess he didn’t like being placed on the 4th line against LA as he was absolutely on a mission last night. The best part about the goal? Kreider clearly went for the puck and not the goaltender. I can’t imagine what the reaction in Canada was to that. The goal was Kreider’s 20th of the season, the first time he’s hit that in the NHL.

The period ended well and I thought all the Rangers had to do was keep this up for another 40 minutes. Everyone knew they were the better team but the Senators have been hot recently so a two goal lead meant nothing to me.

Less than two minutes into the second, it was Kevin Hayes to Mats Zuccarello and the lead was 4-1. At that point I expected Hammond to head to the bench. I’ll admit I didn’t realize their backup had no NHL experience. (More on him in a bit.) The Senators left Hammond in and the Rangers continued to control play. How much did they control? Halfway through the period, the Senators still didn’t have a shot on net. And it wasn’t that they missed a bunch or had them blocked. I don’t remember any opportunities for them to take one either.

But at that point the Rangers got into some penalty trouble. It started with Rick Nash taking a tripping penalty. The Rangers killed that and less than thirty seconds later he went back into the box. While the Rangers were killing that, Tanner Glass took a penalty giving the Senators 35 seconds of 5-on-3. I’m not sure if the Senators were off tonight or the Rangers were just that much better but they killed both of those as well. Then, this happened:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2014021107-479-h

A. Tanner. Glass. Goal.

He asked Sam Rosen not to mention how many games it’s been so I won’t write the number but it’s been a few. Honestly Matt Hunwick had gone more so I don’t see the big deal. Especially since Glass isn’t supposed to score. The look on his face was priceless. So was this quote after the game:

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That would be all for Hammond, although John Giannone believed he took himself out due to something bothering him from an incident in their last game. I’m sure the coaching staff just figured they’d give him some rest. But it meant rookie goalie Chris Driedger (yes it sounds like Kreider so that will be fun in the future) got his first NHL action. The kid looked pretty good in the 23 minutes he played.

The Rangers managed to stop taking penalties for the remainder of the period and went to intermission up 5-1.

At that point I was pretty sure they would win (or didn’t deserve to if they blew it) but I still wanted them to actually play the third period. But it started like a typical Rangers third period. First Talbot decided to play a puck he probably should’ve held on to leading Girardi to turn it over. Shortly afterwards, the Rangers had another penalty as Matt Hunwick put the puck over the glass. Yet again, the Rangers killed that. Two minutes later, it was Derek Stepan for high sticking. The Rangers killed that. A minute later, it was Dan Boyle’s turn to put the puck in the crowd. And the Rangers killed that, although that one almost came at a cost.

Halfway through the kill, Dan Girardi went down as he always does to block a shot from the point. It hit his right arm (looked like his wrist) and down went the iron man. The whistle blew quickly afterwards and Girardi went straight to the bench and then straight to the locker room. And all of Rangers nation held their breath. Thankfully TSN caught him stopping on the bench to show he had a gash on his arm that needed attending. A gash. He gets hit in the arm with a puck and has a gash. If that isn’t proof he isn’t human, nothing is.

The Rangers never gave an update during the game and obviously he didn’t return. But as they went off the ice at the end of the game, he was standing in the hallway in shorts and a sweatshirt to high five everyone on the win. And each teammate stopped or gave him a look as if to ask if he was okay. You could tell from their reactions he said he was fine. After the game, Vigneault confirmed he needed stitches but shouldn’t be anything but that. To put into perspective how bad it would’ve been if it was worse? He missed half of the third period and still played 21:21 on the night. That’s ridiculous.

Anyway, back to the game. So the Rangers killed that penalty and then thankfully stayed out of the box the remainder of the game to take the 5-1 victory and get that pretty little check mark next to their name in the standings. They’re the only team to have one of those. Who would’ve thought they would be the first to clinch, especially after Lundqvist went down? Oh and remember the stats from the beginning of the season how everyone said teams not in the playoffs on American Thanksgiving rarely make it? The Rangers were on the outside looking in on the fourth Thursday of November.

Honestly, all of this just makes me want to…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Beaten By Desperate Kings

Going into tonight, the Rangers were sitting comfortably in a playoff spot while the Kings were two points outside of one. (Outside, as in not even in a wildcard spot.) To say the game would be any level of revenge for the Rangers is ridiculous. It was a regular season game which meant nothing more than two points. But I would’ve loved to have pushed that nail a little further into the coffin.

There’s a lot of cliches I could throw out right now – “you win some, you lose some”, “some nights the team just doesn’t have it”, “they aren’t going to win every game” – the list can go on and on and they all fit. Simple point is the Kings were the better team tonight. And the better team won.

I’m not sure how to recap this game as I don’t want to re-live it any more than any other Rangers fan does. Part of me wants to ignore it happened and just focus on Henrik Lundqvist practicing for the first time with his teammates this morning. But that would make it seem like the King returning would’ve changed the outcome of this game. It wouldn’t have. Cam Talbot was far from perfect. But he’s not the reason they lost. He didn’t help, but the blame can’t solely be based on him.

The worst part is the game started off well. Really well. As in the Rangers having the lead 51 seconds in well. J.T. Miller got the puck behind Quick and passed to Mats Zuccarello who threw it into the net to give the home team the lead. That was probably the last good thing to happen all night.

Over the next ten minutes, the Kings had chances but both Cam Talbot and Dan Girardi said no. (Yes, I am going to point out the latter because he had a very good period and honestly pretty good game, even though he nor anyone associated with the team will admit it due to the loss. But there were those who noticed.) And just when the Garden crowd really started to chant for Talbot, he let up a stinker to allow the Kings to tie the game. I don’t think the Rangers had the puck again until there was roughly four minutes remaining in the game and they were down 4-1.

I don’t really want to recap what happened over the second half of the first period, the entire second period or most of the third period. These quotes say it all:

“Obviously it’s very hard to explain. We were second on the puck and we were second on 1-on-1s. Our execution wasn’t what it needed to be against such a strong opponent, and we paid the price for it.”

“It’s frustrating all the way through. We just didn’t have it tonight…You don’t ever want to lose any hockey games. Tonight we just didn’t have it right from the start.”

As I said, you can throw out every cliche tonight, and the team did as there were plenty more where those quotes came from, and they all fit. It was just one of those nights. Kevin Hayes got a meaningless goal with a couple minutes remaining to make it 4-2 and that’s where it ended.

The good news is the only thing the loss did was not allow them to be the first team in the league to hit 100 points. They are still making the playoffs and will probably officially clinch this weekend. Unfortunately the Kings are now tied with the Flames for the third seed in the Pacific division. The Flames have the tie breaker but…I just really would’ve liked to make it just a little more difficult for the Kings to get in. We all know what they can do if they get in. Oh well, onto Ottawa. No hamburgers for me for the next few days.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Break Out Of Slump With Big Win Vs Ducks

I guess we got the answer to which was worse – having to play on the east coast 48 hours after being on the west coast is harder than a back to back all on the east coast. That said, I don’t think there is any question these two teams are part of the elite in the league. And I don’t think we can deny anymore that the Rangers are for real this year.

Earlier in the day, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau had one of the quotes of the year when he said:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

He’s right, the Rangers don’t allow goals and it’s probably not fair to other teams. But oh well.

Before the game, Vigneault mentioned there would be changes to the defense pairs. I couldn’t imagine why…other than the pairs the past two games were horrible. It didn’t really matter as with the score the way it ended up being, Vigneault basically rolled all six defensemen anyway.

As for the game, if you didn’t witness the first period, you aren’t going to believe what you’re about to read. I still don’t believe it happened. It started right away as Dan Boyle iced the puck on the opening faceoff and I thought, here we go. I had no idea what I was actually in for.

Just 1:24 into the game, Dan Girardi put a cross ice pass to Ryan McDonagh, who threw the puck towards the net. Derek Stepan pushed it towards the crease where Chris Kreider found it and put it in the net for his 18th goal of the season, a career high for the young winger. The point was Stepan’s first in twelve games. But the alternate captain wasn’t done.

A minute and a half later, the Ducks responded as Perry got his first of the period. For some reason, McDonagh and Girardi can’t handle Perry. I don’t understand it but he gives them so much trouble. Two minutes later, Girardi drew the first penalty of the game. To the shock of everyone, the Rangers had an actual power play. Not only did it look competent, a minute into it Rick Nash got the puck to Keith Yandle at the point who passed to Stepan who blasted it by Anderson for his first goal in fifteen games. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. The assist was Yandle’s first as a Ranger. Apparently all it took was one to wake him up.

Things couldn’t all be good and a minute later McDonagh took his dumb penalty of the night. Fortunately the Rangers killed that to keep the one goal lead. A little over a minute later, Yandle got the puck to Kevin Hayes, who threw a harmless shot towards the net that hit the skate of Carl Hagelin and ended up in the net ending Anderson’s night. Three goals on seven shots would do that.

But a minute later, it was Perry again making McDonagh look silly as he dangled around him and put the puck past Talbot to make it 3-2. Keep in mind, we were only 11:12 into the game at this point. Honestly, I just wanted the period to end as I expected both teams to calm down once they had a chance to gather themselves in their locker rooms.

That would be all for the scoring in the period, but Dan Boyle would try to fight Perry after a hit against the boards he didn’t like (somehow they both only got two for roughing) and Girardi would draw another penalty but the Rangers couldn’t capitalize on that one. It wasn’t a power play but it wasn’t a power kill either. Oh and the teams would combine for 28 shots, 17-11 in favor of the Ducks.

And after all of that, the buzzer finally sounded to allow us to catch our breaths. I don’t think the Rangers have played complete games in the past few weeks with that much happening.

In respect to the first period, the second period was much calmer. But there was still some action. No penalties because the referees put their whistles away for the rest of the game. Not sure if that was a good thing or bad thing as I don’t think we would have had any 5-on-5 play in the second if they called every penalty they should have. I just get worried when the referees let the Ducks run around because they have no problem doing so.

But we had two goals. First came two and a half minutes in when Yandle again made a pass to start the rush up ice, this time getting it to Mats Zuccarello who found J.T. Miller for the snap shot and 4-2 lead. The second came with four minutes remaining when Derek Stepan took advantage of a Ducks turnover and snapped one past Gibson for his second of the game. Welcome back, Derek. We’ve missed you.

In between those goals we had hooks, holds, tackles and Cam Talbot trying to give Perry a hat trick by misplaying the puck behind the net. Yes I screamed at him. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. I know he knows how to play the puck but sometimes he just needs to stay in the blue paint. It’s safer for everyone when he’s there.

Going into the third, I was concerned. Not that I thought the Rangers would give up three goals, although it was possible considering they were on a back to back and we know how the Rangers play third periods. No, my concern was that the Ducks would go with their usual “if you can’t beat them, then beat them” crap and the home team wouldn’t make it out of the period in one piece. Thankfully I was wrong.

It did look like it was going to be a long period though as the Ducks came out flying and the Rangers were once again on their heels. Then six minutes in, there was a faceoff to the left of Gibson. Kevin Hayes shockingly won the faceoff and put the puck behind the goal line. Jesper Fast picked it up, went around the net and deposited it behind Gibson before anyone knew what happened. If that wasn’t enough, Derick Brassard joining the scoring two minutes later to make it a five goal lead and basically confirm the outcome of the night.

Boudreau would call a timeout after that but I think it was more to calm his team down (and maybe tell them not to do anything stupid). The Ducks did keep pushing after that but both teams knew the outcome wasn’t in question.

And with the win the Rangers were back in first in the league, one point away from 100 on the season. Let’s just put this in perspective – in 82 games last season the Rangers went 45-31-6. That gave them 96 points. That was in 82 games. The Rangers already have 99 points in 71 games. I’m just hoping they haven’t peaked too soon. Everyone is saying they’re the team to beat. If they can keep this up for three months, I think they might be.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Sweep Canes With Shootout Victory

There are some teams you need to play full sixty minutes against in order to get a victory. There are others you can get away with playing less. Personally, I don’t think the Canes are a bad team but somehow the Rangers got away with two points while only playing twenty minutes in regulation.

Before we get to the game, a quick update on the Rangers IR list. Kevin Klein spoke to the media yesterday and said that so far he was on schedule in recovering from a broken left forearm and hoped to start skating soon. He also said he knew something was wrong right away. No offense Kevin but we all knew something was wrong right away. It was pretty obvious he couldn’t hold his stick.

As for Henrik Lundqvist, he did not return to practice yesterday as scheduled. His second daughter didn’t want him back on the ice just yet:

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Congrats to Henrik, Therese and Charlise on their newest addition, Juli! Timing could’ve been a little better as Lundqvist really needed to be at that practice but nothing you can do about that. The plan is for him to be at the morning skate on Tuesday (there is no skate tomorrow and the team is off on Monday) and then practice on Wednesday. My guess is he’ll see how he feels after that and go from there. I’m sure he wants to play next weekend. We’ll see if that can be a reality.

Now onto this game, just because we have to talk about the game. For some reason, Vigneault chose to start his fourth line…and it was all downhill from there through the first period. Just two minutes into the period, Cam Talbot let in an absolute softy to put the Canes on the board. I really can’t blame anyone else except Talbot on the goal as it’s one he should’ve had. According to John Giannone, even Lindholm (the player who scored it) was surprised it got through.

Somehow that was the only goal of the first twenty but the home team was clearly the better team through the first frame. Any time the Rangers got control of the puck, which wasn’t often, they had brain farts that caused them to give it right up. And we won’t even discuss the one power kill they had. The best part was with 23 seconds remaining when Ryan McDonagh took a (lazy) penalty of his own. The penalty kill was the only thing that looked good in the period.

Honestly, with all due respect to the Hurricanes, the only reason the Rangers had a chance in this game is because they were playing Carolina. If they play the first period tomorrow against the Ducks like they did in this game, the game will be over in twenty minutes. But the Rangers were still in it and took advantage in the second, coming out of the locker room with a purpose.

I wouldn’t say it was perfect to start but they looked much better than they did in the first period. After a couple of really good chances in the first three and a half minutes, I was starring at my TV laughing that the Rangers were somehow going to be shutout by Anton Khodubin. The very next play, Derick Brassard won a faceoff to left of Khodubin, got the puck to Mats Zuccarello who put it towards the net where J.T. Miller tipped it in to tie the game. If the Canes first goal was a softy, this was just a bad one to let in. I’m guessing the Canes were just as surprised as the rest of us that the Rangers won the faceoff.

Thirty seconds later, Eric Staal took a penalty and my first thought was there went any momentum the Rangers could have. The man advantage looked better than their first one but I’m still not ready to call it an actual power play. I know they got to the Final last year without one but they really need to fix this. It needs to at least look competent if it’s not scoring.

The Rangers kept pushing the play and it paid off with roughly seven minutes remaining in the period as Kevin Hayes made a beautiful pass to Jesper Fast to give the Rangers the lead. Fast had a couple of golden chances earlier in the game that we all had the same reaction when the puck hit the back of the net – he earned and deserved that one. The goal broke a 22-game goalless drought for the rookie.

But as good as the Ranger were in the second period is how bad they were in the third. I don’t even want to write about it. Honestly, the good news was they got out of the period in one piece as they had a few scares over the final frame. That said, they were lucky to end up in overtime after the way they played that period. I’m going to pretend the couple of days off is what hurt them and nothing else. Because if it’s anything else, it’s going to be a long two weeks.

Anyway, yes they ended up in overtime after a bad Carl Hagelin penalty led to the Canes tying goal after Dominic Moore couldn’t clear the puck on the kill. As for overtime, there was an icing 26 seconds in. The next stoppage of play was when the buzzer sounded. In that four and a half minutes, both teams had great chances to end it but it wasn’t meant to be and to a shootout we went.

Fortunately Cam Talbot was up to the task as he stopped all three Canes shooters. Kevin Hayes missed on his first ever shootout attempt (although he did make a good move) but Mats Zuccarello got the puck past Khodubin for the winner giving the Rangers a five-game sweep of the Canes this season. They have also won 16 of their last 17 games against Marc’s brothers. We talk about their dominance over the Flyers but that stat is just as ridiculous. (Side note: I was trying to remember the one loss and then it dawned on me it was last March and I was there. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to go back to Carolina for a game anytime soon.)

I don’t usually do stars of the game but need to point out two players and not sure how else to do it so my two Rangers of the game are Jesper Fast and Dan Girardi. Fast was flying all over the ice and absolutely deserved the goal he finally got. And he didn’t stop after that. As for Girardi, he basically hung out with Marc’s older brother all night. And I’m sure Eric wasn’t pleased about that as he was kept completely off the scoresheet. To tell you how good Girardi was, I didn’t even notice Eric Staal on the ice most of the night. The one shift I did was because Girardi was on the bench.

The Rangers now head back to New York where hopefully they can figure out and fix what went wrong tonight in the next 24-hours. The league leading Ducks are waiting for them for a match-up tomorrow night. We’ll find out which is worse – having to play a game in New York 48 hours after playing in California or 24 hours after playing in Carolina. I’m really not sure on this one.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)