Monday, November 15, 2010

Lundqvist Returns In Top Form While Dubinsky Carries Rangers Over Finish Line in 3-2 OT Win

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

For the better part of 57 minutes tonight Henrik Lundqvist frustrated the Penguins and dazzled Rangers fans as he could not be beaten low or high, but then the Penguins after numerous chances they created and were created for them would solve him twice in 38 seconds.  Luckily for Henrik and the Rangers Brandon Dubinsky decided he was not going to let the effort Lundqvist put together tonight go to waste or end in an L and he would combine with Marc Staal on the game tying goal with 1:26 left in regulation and then with Ryan Callahan for the game winner 3:38 into OT.  This is one of those games that in the past the Rangers fold the tent and go home with a disappointing loss, but they battled through the Penguins and the officials to get two points and this is the type of win that can be a huge stepping stone for a club.  They did not by any means play their best hockey in this game and frankly without Henrik and the PK they get blown out, but they found ways to make the big plays they needed led by their core guys in Lundqvist, Dubinsky, Staal, Callahan and Girardi.

Full details of the game inside.

The entire first period was played in the Rangers end or at least it seemed that way as the Rangers did very little in controlling possession or getting their cycle going.  From the opening faceoff Pittsburgh slanted the ice in their direction and Evgeni Malkin was the best skater on the ice.  The only problem for Malkin and Pittsburgh is that the Rangers had Henrik Lundqvist in the net.  The best chance of the period for the Rangers came five minutes in when Frolov found Del Zotto who took a shot on the backhand that Fleury stopped but looked very shaky doing so as he almost backed himself and the puck into the net.  Lundqvist made several huge saves in the period and if he keeps it up he will frustrate the Pens by the time the third rolls around.  The best defenseman for the Rangers in the period were Staal, Sauer and Eminger while no forward really stood out.

The second period the Rangers played a little better, well the second half of the period they got going.  It took the Rangers more than seven minutes to register a shot, but just past half way they would be the first ones on the board as Erik Christensen, he of infamy today, would scoop up a loose puck in the slot and lift a wrister over Marc-Andre Fleury.  This came just after Tortorella started mixing up the lines moving Stepan with Gaborik and Frolov, and Christensen went with Prust and Fedotenko.  The Ranger play elevated after that, but it was still Lundqvist that was the crucial part of the Rangers having the lead.  At 17:15 of the second period Staal while falling down would lose control of his stick and clip Pascal Dupuis with it causing blood and leading to a double minor.  In killing the portion of the penalty in the second Brandon Prust was critical to killing time and then Dubinsky and Callahan did an excellent job.  At the end of 2 despite being outshot 24-14 the Rangers held the lead 1-0 and on the season are 7-0-0 when that is the case coming in.

Skipping ahead to the end of the third period because there were so many joke calls in the third to stomach writing about them.  I am one of the last to whine about the officiating, but in this game it was atrocious and leaves no doubt why there are conspiracy theories about favoritism towards the Penguins.  Lundqvist was brilliant in the frame as he made countless glove and toe saves with the best being on Crosby and Kunitz and the frustration for Pittsburgh was very evident.  That said each time they would stop the Pens it seemed the Penguins got another call to create more chances and they would finally cash in at 17:29 after a great save by Lundqvist and a mad scramble in front.  After the goal MDZ and Stepan would play patty cake and cough the puck up leading to an opening for Pittsburgh and Matt Cooke would beat Henrik Lundqvist short side on a perfect shot to make it 2-1 with 1:53 left in the game.  Lundqvist who had stood on his head all night sensed the game was now gone and in the frustration cracked his goal stick over the crossbar leading to a penalty being called.  So now in 38 seconds the Rangers have gone from up 1-0 to down 2-1 and are shorthanded with less than 2 minutes left.  In past years this turns into a 3 or 4-1 loss for the Rangers, but not this year.  27 seconds after this Dubinsky would move into the Pittsburgh zone draw all the attention and then give a backhand feed to Marc Staal who scored on a perfect shot under the bar to tie the game at 2 with 1:26 left.  The Rangers would kill the rest of the penalty in regulation and head to overtime with at least one point assured.

In the overtime it would once again be Dubinsky creating the goal as Callahan took the puck at his own blueline gave it to Dubinsky at the Pittsburgh line on the 2 on 1 and Dubinsky would toe drag around the sliding Paul Martin and instead of shooting perfectly pass the puck to Callahan for the redirection and game winner.  Rangers in a huge character building win take it 3-2 in OT.
  • Brandon Dubinsky showed again tonight that this year is different and all those waiting for his game to fall off might be waiting a long time.  He was spectacular on the PK, critical to the two final goals and while not great on the night in faceoffs had some huge wins against Crosby.
  • Callahan showed leadership again tonight in how he killed penalties took the body and also whipped up on Matt Comrie.
  • The only other forwards to really play were Boyle, Prust and maybe Fedotenko.
  • On D Marc Staal was phenomenal all night against Crosby, and his physicality the last few games if he keeps that up he will force his way into the elite category.
  • Dan Girardi did not play well early in the game but he showed huge toughness coming back after gushing blood from being hit in the face with a puck and was huge at the end of regulation and OT.
  • Steve Eminger and Michael Sauer both had excellent games while Matt Gilroy might have played his best game as a pro tonight even in limited action