Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rangers Rebound To Control Playoff Destiny With Shootout Win Against Flyers

Tom Mihalek/Associated Press
The New York Rangers took on the rival Philadelphia Flyers today in what had to be seen as a must win game given the ever tightening Eastern Conference playoff race.  You just had the feeling with how last year ended in Philadelphia that today’s game was going to come down to a shootout again and it did, but with a different result this time.  Coming off two subpar efforts in their last two the team responded with an excellent effort this afternoon and was rewarded for it with the 3-2 shootout win which moved them into seventh place in the East and gave them a three point cushion on ninth place Carolina.  The shootout saw Henrik Lundqvist erase the memories of last season’s finale in Philadelphia stoning Nikolai Zherdev and Claude Giroux while Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski both beat Bobrovsky with forehand shots. 
This win is the type of character performance that has come to be expected this season as they were able to put a bad game/games behind them, bounce back and put in an effort to get them the critical points they need.  This is a huge momentum type win heading down the final three games of the season and reduced their magic number to 6 with Carolina and Buffalo playing in an hour.  New York will certainly have to bring this level of effort and intensity out there tomorrow night and the rest of the season if they look to win.  When they play like this they are a legit threat to any and all teams in this league.
Overall the Rangers played a solid road first period, but it would be the Flyers got on the board first on a goal from James Van Riemsdyk when he converted the rebound Sean O’Donnell shot from the point at 12:25.  On the play Steve Eminger utterly failed to clear out JVR from in front of the net which allowed him to easily pick up the rebound and slide it under Henrik.
Late in the first the Rangers power play would get a chance to atone for the debacle that was their power play on Thursday when they went 0-7 against the Islanders.  The first penalty was to Matt Carle for hooking and then 1:06 later Brayden Coburn would go off for two minutes when he high sticked Marc Stall.  The Rangers looked like they were going to head into the first intermission down 1-0, but then Bryan McCabe fired a tremendous drive from the point that beat Bobrovsky with .7 seconds left in the period.  That drive is the reason that McCabe was brought in here to begin with and gives the Rangers momentum heading into the second.
The second period saw the Rangers play excellent hockey as they were able to play their game and dictate the tempo by exercising puck possession and establishing the forecheck. At 13:30 of the period the hard work would be rewarded as Ruslan Fedotenko took a feed from Vinny Prospal and roofed it from in front to give the Rangers the 2-1 lead.  The goal was Fedotenko’s first since January 19 and much of the credit has to be given to Marc Staal and his effort on the play.
New York headed into the third with the 2-1 lead looking to hold onto their perfect 27-0-0 record when leading after two and while they didn’t play a great third period they were able to hold on for the OT.  The Flyers got the tying goal during a 4-on-4 from Nikolai Zherdev who was left all alone in front.  Earlier in the play Ryan McDonagh blocked a shot off his leg and limped to the bench.  This created some confusion on the coverage and while a replacement defender was coming on, it was Brian Boyle who failed in the coverage on Zherdev that led to the goal.
  • At this time of the year special teams is critical to wins and losses and that was certainly the case today.  The Rangers got the huge goal from McCabe late in the first and their penalty kill did a great job of neutralizing the Flyers on all four of their attempts. 
  • Marian Gaborik did not score today but he was very noticeable on the ice in all zones, but especially in his defensive work early in the game
  • You cannot say enough about how the minutes and effort from Staal and Girardi today.  Staal put in 34:01 of ice today while playing the last two periods with a broken nose.  Girardi had 32:36 and blocked seven shots in the game.

Video: Ovechkin Wins It For Caps, Does Victory Dance