Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rangers Get Crucial Points As Zuccarello, Christensen Work Shootout Magic To Give Lundqvist Win 200

Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images
This was not the prettiest game to watch, but what matters at this point of the year is the outcome and the Rangers walked out of Madison Square Garden with a critical two points in the standings.  The Rangers had another weak first period, and blew two leads in the third, but they got the win so have to be happy about that.  Once again it felt like in overtime the Rangers despite having a 4-on-3 powerplay to start were playing purely for the shootout and that is a dangerous way to play.
In the shootout, the usual suspects for the Rangers came through and delivered the victory.  Erik Christensen did his best Peter Forsberg impression on his attempt and then Mats Zuccarello learned from his mistake in his last shootout attempt and stick with his move until someone stops it.  Zuccarello came down in his slow methodical pace, basically stopped, slid the puck to the backhand, Bernier overcommitted and then he pulled it back forehand into an open net.  Both players made Bernier look foolish.  Jarret Stoll could beat Lundqvist on the Kings second attempt with a beautiful shot top corner and after Wolski was poke checked on an ugly move, it was down to Lundqvist vs Kopitar.  Kopitar attempted to do the same thing that Stoll did, but Henrik got enough of it to have it go over the back of the net and seal the victory for New York.  It was Lundqvist’s 200th career victory in his 383rd career start.
Early on the Kings controlled play and Henrik Lundqvist made a spectacular save on Anze Kopitar less than two minutes into the game.  A few minutes later Brandon Dubinsky took a bad penalty in boarding Willie Mitchell and on the ensuing power play Dustin Brown made the Rangers pay for the mistake beating Lundqvist for the 1-0 lead 5:25 into the game.  This was the sixth straight and 10th out of 11 in which the Rangers gave up the first goal.  That cannot continue to happen.  The rest of the period was be tightly contested and ended with the Rangers trailing once again after one.
The Rangers played their game to a larger degree in the second period as they finally started attacking the net.  They scored a typical Rangers goal as off the faceoff battle Derek Stepan beats his man and took a one hand shot which banked off Bernier leaving the rebound there for Callahan and he punched it home 4:01 into the period.  The period ended at 1-1.
Early in the third period, Marian Gaborik got off the goal slide with a less than picture perfect shot 6:10 in to give the Rangers the 2-1 lead.  As I said, it was not the prettiest goal, but they all count the same and it has to feel good for Gaborik to see it go in the net and hopefully it will set him off on a little run.  We all know the team could really use him to carry them for a little bit.
Los Angeles answered back only 100 seconds later when Matt Greene scored his first goal in 73 games to tie it again.  The key to start the play was a back-check by Wayne Simmonds who stripped Brandon Prust of the puck in the neutral zone and allowed the Kings to keep Dan Girardi on the ice after he had been clipped with a high stick that was not called.  The puck cycled around and came back to Greene at the point and his shot deflected off Brian Boyle’s stick and in.
New York took the lead again when Brandon Dubinsky showed that an Alex Frolov frapparound can work as he put it in off Bernier’s skate to give the Blueshirts a 3-2 lead with just 3:08 remaining in the game.  Officially the goal has been changed to Anisimov, but I saw no evidence that it hit anything other than Bernier’s skate.  Be interesting to see if that ever gets changed.
Problem was the Rangers coughed the lead up once again when Dustin Brown scored his second of the night just 47 seconds after Dubinsky put New York ahead.  The goal itself was a combination of skill and luck as it appeared to me that Brown shot the puck off the back of Lundqvist’s mask and in.  Beyond the goal itself you saw the problems the Rangers have with faceoffs bite them, as because of an icing they could not send out Boyle or Dubinsky to take the draw, which left Stepan to take a defensive zone draw in the final three minutes. 
Obviously the game ended 3-3 after regulation.  In overtime neither team really threatened even though the Rangers started the OT with a four minute advantage after a Ponikarovsky double minor for high sticking Marc Staal at the end of regulation.  Dubinsky took his third minor penalty of the night 1:48 into the extra session, leaving two minutes of the most cautious 3-on-3 hockey I have ever seen.  We all know how the shootout ended.
Rangers will be back in action tomorrow against the equally red-hot Devils.
  • Ryan Callahan played an excellent game tonight and so did his Western Conference version, Dustin Brown
  • Love Dubinsky, but he has to stop taking so many stupid penalties.  Other than the penalties he played a great game, but it was Callahan who kept bailing him out from those mental errors.
  • Ryan McDonagh is the Rangers best defenseman right now in my opinion.  The kid is doing everything and making me feel smart for yesterday praising how easy he is making his transition look.  Another +3 effort.