The Rangers willed themselves to a 4-3 overtime win over the Islanders tonight. Trailing three times, on the receiving end of some questionable refereeing and unlucky breaks that resulted in Islanders goals, this team refused to give in and got the three points their play deserved. The better team won tonight. To the game points:
The Islanders and Rangers sleep walked through the first half of the first period. The Rangers played conservatively, perhaps timidly (given their recent slump, not a surprise) and the Islanders were more than happy to go along with that start. The slow start meant zero offensive zone pressure from either team and almost no shots to speak of.
Brian Boyle laid on a big, clean hit early in the first. If he used his body as effectively as he did with that hit – more often – he’d be a scary hockey player.
Another unnecessary Bickel duel. That aside, Bickel was solid tonight.
Whenever the Rangers raised the ante in the last few minutes of the first, they put pressure on the Isles and generated offense. A few solid scoring chances came out of the last five, six minutes because the Rangers did a better job of getting the puck in deep, and controlling the boards.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Evgeni Nabakov was tremendous in the first period and made smart stops on Mitchell in front and Dubinsky.
The Tavares goal was from a quick break out from the Isles zone and the Rangers being unprepared. The forwards were slow to get back and the defensemen were too close together allowing Parenteau space on the right and thus able to get his shot off cleanly. Lundqvist gave up a juicy rebound in front and Girardi swatted the puck straight in to Tavares who was driving to the net. Several Rangers looked sloppy on the goal.
The Dubinsky line had a real strong shift late on. The line displayed great puck control, impressive strength and determination along the boards– particularly from Dubinsky – that led to a few opportunities and a great Dubinsky chance that Nabakov was equal to.
The shift was everything that’s good about Dubinsky: hustle, strength and determination resulting in generating his own scoring chance.
The game tying goal: Like with Dubinsky it was a showcase of everything good about Brad Richards. He skated coast to coast with the puck, beat a defenseman up the middle and used another as a screen to get his quick wrist shot off that beat Nabakov. Richards has such puck carrying ability and we don’t see it nearly enough.
Note for future reference: the Rangers cannot deal with the Tavares line. That line has been a thorn in the Rangers side all season long.
The Rangers had to try and kill a dubious (at best) double minor to Stepan. Great penalty kill until a freak bounce off the boards gave Moulson a banker from the left of the goal; Lundqvist didn’t have a clue where the puck was.
End to End action: Rangers had a huge chance to tie it up following great stick handling at the top of the Isles zone by McDonagh which led to a melee in front of Nabakov. Somehow the puck didn’t go in. The Islanders went straight up ice and had a two on one with Tavares but despite the puck going across the crease they couldn’t convert. The play ended with the Rangers taking a weak boarding call for a hit on Tavares.
The following penalty kill was merely a continuation of great Rangers penalty killing. Pressure high on the points taking the time away from the Islanders and the Rangers were able to generate turnovers, clear the zone and even manufacture a huge breakaway chance for Hagelin.
By the middle of the period the Rangers were skating really well, generating plenty of pressure and as a result were drawing penalties. Brad Richards converted for his second powerplay goal of the game from the point. Why was it successful? Simple: traffic. Boyle went to the net (where he should always be on the PP) and screened Nabakov who couldn’t see the shot.
Hockey Awareness: despite playing a great period (busy throughout) the Isles’ third goal was in part caused by an error from Gaborik. With PP time expiring he should be aware of the threat of a breakaway for the Isles should his team cough the puck up. He shouldn’t have tried to pass the puck across which led to Tavares springing McDonald for the breakaway third; all this despite more great PP pressure by the Rangers. The goal was a real kick in the teeth goal.
After two it periods it was another case of the Rangers beating themselves. They dominated the Isles at times and yet trailed after two.
Plenty of head scratching calls (again) in this game.
The third began with a huge chance for Hagelin out in front as he circled toward the net but he couldn’t convert 4 on 4.
Rangers tied it up on a Boyle re-direct via a point shot from McDonagh. The goal was about getting traffic in front of Nabakov who was stopping everything he could see.
The Rangers impressed with their puck handling, and above all, puck movement tonight. They got the Isles defense moving around and generated several quality chances because of the way they used the puck, all game.
Shock: the powerplay looked threatening all game.
A late too many men penalty didn’t prove costly to the Rangers. That would have been a horrible way to lose a game after coming back from behind three times.
Ryan McDonagh played a great game throughout; strong off the puck, confident on it, positionally sound and had a huge diving block on a Parenteau shot late in the third period. Also set up the game tying goal – the biggest goal of the Rangers season?
Late on; the Dubinsky/Prust line had another strong shift late in the third, controlling the puck for a long period before getting a shot on net. Great cycling around the net.
The overtime period didn’t generate much until Lundqvist had an opportunity to showcase his skills with a huge stop on a point blank Nielsen slap shot right in front. Clutch.
More Richards excellence: great play as he drew a penalty late in the OT period shortly after he had pick-pocketed an Islander at the top of the Rangers zone.
Patience is a virtue: The Rangers scored the game winner off the Richards-drawn penalty. After a few looks at Nabakov and the Islanders collapsing right in front – amid screams to shoot by the MSG faithful – Richards drew the defense to him then fed Gaborik who wristed the puck up past a partially screened Nabakov to drive the crowd wild. Great patience on the powerplay which displayed constant movement on and off the puck while looking to create traffic and shoot with frequency. Powerplay was the best it has been all season.
- Mats Zuccarello helped the powerplay and deserves games with the big club. Regardless of Callahan’s eventual return he’s earned an extended look.
- Carl Hagelin and Brandon Dubinsky may get overlooked with the way Richards and Gaborik played but my word they put in strong shifts tin tonight’s game.
- Look up the words resilience, determination and the desire in the dictionary; you’ll see the Rangers logo right next to the words.
- Brad Richards: exceptional – best game as a Ranger; controlled the puck throughout.
- Marian Gaborik: got better as the game progressed, lively, dangerous and confident on the puck.
- Brian Boyle: Went to the net, played physical, won battles and worked tremendously hard – rewarded with a goal.