You can say a lot of things about this incarnation of the Rangers, but one thing you cannot say is that they quit. This team may look ugly in doing it, but they are finding ways to win games and they are doing it by continuing to battle until the bitter end. There are only so many times you can play that way, but the great thing about wins like this is it reinforces the idea of continuing to battle and play the game the way you know how to. When you are rewarded for sticking with your system, you buy into the system more and more and then hopefully you will not need to win so many like this, but the confidence will be there if you do fall behind. Simply put, this is not last year’s Rangers.
The start of this one was ugly to say the least for the Rangers as Brian Boyle was called for interference at 1:06 and just 21 seconds into the power play Tom Pyatt would score a goal on a bad bounce after Biron attempted to play the puck as it came around the boards and it would bounce off the net and leave Pyatt with a gimme. Things would not get much better slightly later in the period as Adrian Aucoin would fire from the point and beat Biron on a shot that Biron simply has to stop,
The Rangers would start getting their game together midway through the first and Brandon Prust would draw a call on Lepisto. On the ensuing power play after an excellent shift the puck would get worked around and Staal would feed Fedotenko who found Girardi creeping in at the faceoff dot and Girari would beat LaBarbera at 12:07 to cut it to 2-1. The Rangers would get a couple more power plays in the period but could not cash them in and would end the first down 2-1.
The Rangers would not carry over the momentum of the first into the second and despite having an early power play they would still trail 2-1. The Rangers would have a golden chance to equalize at about the nine minute mark when they would fail to cash in a 3-on-1 chance and then Boyle would take a bad penalty in on Doan. The Coyotes would make the Rangers pay as a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play would lead to a wide open tap in for Martin Hanzal. While it was a pretty offensive play it was also a defensive blunder where Staal got himself off balance trying for the poke check and then Biron lost his bearings on the net sliding out wide of the post so he had no chance to get back and Girardi failed to cover the goal mouth.
Late in the period the Rangers would get another power play chance but 45 seconds into Brandon Dubinsky would take a penalty he had to take to prevent a breakaway. The call easily could have been for a penalty shot and it might have been a very different game, but the minor was called and on the penalty kill Girardi would clear the puck down into the Phoenix corner and the mania would ensue. Jason Labarbera would go out to the corner thinking he could play the puck before it crossed the line and when he realized he couldn’t he was caught in no man’s land but Prust would take his time and put it away with 5 seconds left in the period to make it 3-2 and give the Rangers huge momentum.
Again the Rangers would play their best period in the third and some new line combinations were paying off in the period. The combination of Dubinsky-Anisimov-Gaborik worked very well and created chances, but Labarbera made a few good saves. Also the Frolov-Drury-Stepan combination was working well late in the period. Just past 14 minutes Drury would win a huge draw, the puck would move back to the point and over Michal Rozsival who put the puck on net, Chris Drury would bang at the rebound and then finally Stepan would bang in the rebound at 14:17 to tie it at 3.
The game would be scoreless for the rest of regulation and all of OT then came the shootout. Christensen would score when Labarbera would go for the poke check so all Christensen had to do was lift it and he did. Biron would stop Stemniak, then Stepan would let it rip off Labarbera and then the post. The second shooter for the Coyotes was Radim Vrbata and he had the same scenario as Christensen but he tried to stuff it in low instead of lifting it and Biron would stop him. After Anisimov missed it was up to Eric Belanger who after multiple fakes just lost the puck and never got a shot off for the 1-0 shootout and 4-3 game final.
- Brandon Prust was Brandon Prust
- Chris Drury for all the criticisms and missing 29 games has played two excellent games in a row
- Thought Rozsival was the best defender on the ice for the Rangers; Del Zotto made some nice defensive plays including a huge odd man rush break-up.
- Martin Biron bouncing back the way he did from the awful start says a lot about him as he made some huge saves in the third