Last night’s New York Rangers looked nothing like the Blueshirts that lost to Phoenix four nights ago. This was a team that was aggressive, strong in all three zones, capitalized on mistakes, and limited the Kings’ chances off their mistakes. Four days off seemed to be the perfect recipe for the Rangers, who looked like they saw everything they did wrong, and fixed it.
Through the first period and a half, the Rangers absolutely dominated the game. They looked stronger, played better in the defensive zone, generated offensive chances, got better goaltending, was more physical, and just seemed more engaged in this game. There were still defensive miscues, still some coverage fails, but the team overall looked much, much better. The bigger things to notice were more zone entries via carry-in, and more effective DZ pressure on the overload.
On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Kings 0
This goal began in the defensive zone, with John Moore diving in front of Hank to clear the puck from a pair Kings. The puck wound up on Rick Nash’s stick, gaining the offensive zone. Drew Doughty eventually took the puck from Nash, but promptly turned it over after pressured by Derek Stepan. Nash, who was circling behind the net after losing the puck to Doughty, scooped up the loose puck for a mini 2-on-1 down low. With Willie Mitchell taking the pass lane, Nash shot from point-blank range. Jonathan Quick made the save, but the rebound went to Brad Richards at bad angle. Richards kicked the puck to his forehand, and had an empty net.
Rangers 2, Kings 0
The Rangers seemed like a brand new team in this period. They just pressured the Kings shift after shift, touch after touch. This time, Nash forced Kyle Clifford into a turnover at the blue line. With Nash now in possession of the puck both Colin Fraser (#24) and Jake Muszzin (#6) were watching Nash, but no one was watching Richards or Derick Brassard. Brassard and Richards criss-crossed, and the puck wound up on Richards’ stick on a 2-on-1 break. Richards tried to feed Brassard, but the puck went off a diving Slava Voynov’s stick and into the net.
Kings 1, Rangers 2
This was a very easy goal to break down. After a Dan Girardi turnover at the blue line, the Rangers found themselves scrambling a bit, even though they still outnumbered the Kings 3-2 in the defensive zone (in the picture above, the Rangers are numbered in red, the Kings in black). The problem was that with Girardi, Ryan McDoangh, and Taylor Pyatt all focused on those three Rangers, Mike Richards was able to find the cutting Jake Muzzin in the high slot. Muzzin had all day to tee it up.
Rangers 3, Kings 1
Yea. That happened.
This game was the exact opposite of the game we saw last Thursday night. The Rangers were more physical, more engaged, more everything this game. Sure, there were miscues. Sure, the Kings hit a pair of posts and Quick let a GOALOL. That’s hockey. The puck bounces their way, but the Rangers created their own luck by creating turnovers, forcing the play, and forcing the opposition to rush. And sure, a key DZ face off win and a clear helped too.