Saturday, January 22, 2011

Zuccarello Shootout Magic Finishes What Boyle Started In Rangers Gritty 3-2 Win

Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images
To say the Rangers keep finding a way is becoming an understatement of epic proportions at this point.  This team lost two more key players in Dan Girardi and Brandon Prust during the course of this game and somehow managed to battle back from another deficit heading into the third period.  This team is decimated by injuries and down on talent, but you can never question their heart and desire to fight.  Throw in a little Zuccarello magic and you get tonight’s 3-2 shootout win.

The Rangers opened the game with some energy and playing their system, at least for the first couple of shifts, and then they seemed to go to sleep for most of the first period.  The Thrashers would get the only goal of the period at 6:47 by former Ranger Nik Antropov.  The play was one where the Thrashers outworked the Rangers finally working the puck back to the point for a Tobias Enstrom shot that saw Antropov outmuscle Eminger for the deflection.

Early in the second period, Wojtek Wolski would convert to tie the game for the Rangers.  On the play Wolski would knock Hainsey off the puck, and Girardi would have a huge pinch to keep it alive, which allowed Stepan to get it along the wall and fire a perfect pass for an even better display of hands by Wolski for the goal.

Just before the middle of the period Andrew Ladd drove Marc Staal into the backboards head/neck/shoulder first and Girardi comes over and drops glove to protect his partner. I thought the hit was clean, but great for Girardi to stick up for his other half and take the fight with Ladd.  That should help erase some of the fans disdain for his lack of a reaction to the Gaborik/Carcillo incident last year.  During the fight, Ladd appeared to have busted Girardi’s nose and he would not return to the game.  After the game we learned that he pulled a ribcage muscle and is day-to-day.

Late in the second, Anthony Stewart would give the Thrashers the lead again.  Stewart would battle Ryan McDonagh for position in front when he was struck by Bryan Little’s wrister.  As luck would have it the puck would drop straight down at his feet leaving McDonagh on the wrong side of him and allowing Stewart to sweep it by Lundqvist.  For me McDonagh got unlucky on the play as he had beaten Stewart on the initial play for position in the slot, but the breaks went against him.

In the third, minus Prust and Girardi, the Rangers had a golden chance as they got a 5-on-3 power play.  In the end, they dropped the ball once again and did not even create any chances until late in the advantage when Marian Gaborik finally took a shot leading to two rebound chances for Wojtek Wolski that Pavelec turned away.

When they failed to score on that huge opportunity you had to think with their depleted lineup that they were going to come up short on the evening.  It was at that point Brian Boyle once again stepped to the forefront.  Boyle took the puck from the neutral zone drove by both Byfuglien and Enstrom and used a backhander off Pavelec’s glove to tie it with 5:19 left.

A quick overtime led to no goals and then the shootout.

In the shootout, as I tweeted, Mats Zuccarello worked his Hobbit magic again, going to the same move he did in Dallas, slow walking the play quick deke to the backhand drag to the forehand score move.

This team and their fight is something special that you cannot measure in terms of points.  You watch them fight through injuries to get comeback wins.  You watch Brandon Prust have to literally be forced off the bench by the coach cause he will not stop playing with an injured leg.  They just will not be denied.
On the injuries Prust's x-rays came back negative while Girardi is day-to-day with a rib injury.  As a result the Rangers recalled Evgeny Grachev and Michael Del Zotto while sending down Dale Weise.
In terms of players Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer really stood out to me tonight.  McDonagh had a couple of huge open ice hits and played another excellent game as if he has been in the league nine years not nine games.  Sauer did what Sauer does and with Girardi out for the third he moved up to play top pair with Staal and did beautifully.