The Rangers came into this game riding the momentum of solid second and third periods on Monday night. I mentioned on Twitter that this was perfect timing for a back to back, as it gives the Rangers less time to forget what they did right. This was a complete 60 minute effort in a very entertaining contest. The biggest thing is that the Rangers came away with two points in regulation, and leapfrogged the Devils in the standings. On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Devils 0
After what can only be called a wild sequence –a sequence that included an Ilya Kovalchuk shot that got deflected, went off Henrik Lundqvist’s stick, hit the post, and bounced away– the Rangers cleared the zone while on the kill. Johan Hedberg went to play the puck at the half-boards to try and limit the amount of time killed off, but was trapped by a forechecking Derek Stepan, who stole halted Hedberg’s play just enough that he had to retreat back to the net. Stepan worked the puck to the corner, and threw the puck to the front of the net in the air, where Michael Del Zotto was wide open due to bad backchecking. MDZ made a fantastic play to bat it out of the air and into the net.
Devils 1, Rangers 1
The Devils won a face off clean on the powerplay, and Ilya Kovalchuk wound up with the puck initially. He drops to Peter Harrold, who rips a shot from the point. The shot deflects off Cally to Zajac, who takes a shot that he flubs. The puck goes to MDZ, who attempts to clear the puck from the middle by kicking it, but it goes right back to Zajac, who fired it past Hank. The Devils got two lucky bounces, although some will point to Del Zotto’s kick as a bad play (it wasn’t good, but you could see what he was trying to do).
Rangers 2, Devils 1
The Rangers had a great cycle, and eventually work the puck to Dan Girardi at the point with about 30 feet of room on either side. Girardi spotted Carl Hagelin uncovered at back door, but instead of firing a pass, which likely would have been picked off, Girardi took a perfect “shot pass” off the end boards right to Hagelin for the easy tap-in. The Devils blew the coverage, as Hagelin should not have been that open at the back door. Both of the Devils’ defensemen went to Stepan in front, and neglected to find Hagelin (or Ryan Callahan, who was behind the net).
Devils 2, Rangers 2
Right after Rangers scored their second goal, the Devils fourth line created a good cycle on the next shift. Anton Volchenkov ripped a shot from the point that was going wide on the short side, but the puck hit Roman Hamrlik, and it wound up redirecting under Lundqvist’s glove for the goal. This one was just bad luck as well.
Rangers 3, Devils 2
These two teams went back and forth trading chances and phantom penalties for a good portion of this period. The Rangers got the puck deep in the Devils zone, and the Devils eventually cleared the zone, but made the mistake of not getting it deep in the Rangers zone. Del Zotto took the puck, and noticed the Devils were changing. MDZ fired a pass to Nash, who was cutting to the far boards, also recognizing the change. Nash broke in with Brad Richards on a 2-on-1, and beat Hedberg far side.
Depending on the outcome of the rest of the games tonight, the Rangers could sit in a three-way tie for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, with a game in hand on each team they are tied with. This was a huge win, especially considering they got it in regulation and prevented the Devils from getting a point. Another great thing is that this was a complete effort for all 60 minutes. Let’s hope this isn’t a flash in the pan, and a sign of more consistent hockey to come.