Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wolski Ties It Late, Wins It In Shootout To Give Rangers Critical Points

Phil Ellsworth/NHLI via Getty Images
Tonight was a huge game in so many ways for the New York Rangers.  Coming in the game was going to be about whether the Rangers could find a way to turn things around in time to stay out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.  Combine that with the fact they were without their most explosive scorer and this was going to be yet another gut check game for this team and as they have all season, they responded. 
New York would come out flat early in the third and it would cost them the lead, but they would not quit on the game and this time they would get some bounces and be rewarded for the effort.  After pressing the action for a number of opportunities late in the game the Rangers were rewarded with the tying goal from Wojtek Wolski with just 1:50 to go.  On the play Wolski displayed unbelievable patience with the puck and while everyone crashed the net he threw the puck across and it would deflect off Jay Harrison’s stick and in.
In the shootout it would be Wolski again, as he was the only shooter to solve the two tremendous goaltenders and he would solidify this as his best game as a Ranger.  Tonight he showed off the multitude of skills that made people so excited about the trade when he was acquired for Michal Rozsival.  This is the kind of elite skill the Rangers do not have enough of and Wolski for all the talk about the team record since the trade has been everything they could have asked for.  With the goal tonight Wolski now has five goals and seven assists in 19 games as a Ranger and he has not had the defensive or effort issues people were worried about when the deal was made.  Congrats to Wolski.
Rest of the action and player thoughts after the jump
The Rangers came out very strong to start the game and unlike previous games they cashed in the early opportunity as Brandon Prust scored.  The Rangers were actually outnumbered in the Carolina zone, but Sean Avery would win a battle along the boards and try a wraparound that led to a rebound that Prust would put home at 2:08 of the opening period.
Despite playing a very good period, the Rangers would end up having just a tie to show for it as late in the first period the Canes would tie it up on a goal by Jay Harrison.  Matt Gilroy in attempting to break up the ice with the rush forgot the puck and Michael Del Zotto was too wide on the other side leading to a wide open lane for Harrison and he shot it off the post, and it hit Lundqvist in the back and went in.
The key action in the second period would come late in the period.  With just over two minutes left in the second the Rangers would get a power play on Eric Cole’s delay of game penalty.  While the Rangers were on the power play Eric Staal would get a breakaway on Henrik Lundqvist following a Christensen turnover, but Lundqvist would turn Staal aside in what turned out to be a huge play.
As the power play continued the Hurricanes would get called for another penalty on Joni Pitkanen to give the Rangers a 5-on-3 advantage.  Bigger than the penalty though was Eric Staal laying out his brother Marc with a huge hit that saw Staal hit the ice and it appeared to have his head hit as well.  Staal would be on the ice early in the third, but leave for the locker room and not return.  In the postgame it was announced that the Staal injury was to his knee in the first and continued to get worse during the game and not related to the collision with Eric.
New York would capitalize on the advantage just as the first penalty expired when a Mats Zuccarello shot would be deflected by Ryan Callahan by Cam Ward with just 14 seconds left in the period.
Early in the third the Rangers were dominated.  Jussi Jokinen would score two goals to take the 2-1 deficit to a 3-2 lead for the Hurricanes.  On the first goal Matt Gilroy, who was out on the penalty kill because Ryan McDonagh was in the box, would lose a battle in the corner which eventually had the Hurricanes gain possession, work the puck back to the point and Jokinen score off a deflected shot.  The second tally for Jokinen was one where Michael Sauer just lost track of him along the boards and Jokinen beat him to the front of the net, stopping the initial shot from being handled by Lundqvist and then beating the Ranger goalie with a backhander.
  • Henrik made numerous tremendous saves tonight to keep the team in the game with the number of odd-man rushes that came at him and the defensive breakdowns the team had.
  • Other than Wolski, Prospal was the most noticeable Rangers forward as he was skating better than he has since his first game back.  The announcers mentioned he had the flu, so maybe that was a factor in his sluggish skating of late.
  • Michael Sauer had a tremendous game other than the Canes third goal.  The rookie defender was everywhere and did a tremendous job of pinching in the offensive zone.
  • Matt Gilroy was atrocious in this game and if he had trade value before tonight it took a hit and I expect him to be missing from Friday’s lineup if Marc Staal can go, if he is still here.
  • Del Zotto made some good plays defensively, but some of that was luck on his love for the dive with the two-on-one and he was absolutely schooled in OT by Erik Cole
  • Love Martin Biron and what he brings to this team as you watched him give shootout advice to Wolski.