Two second period goals within a span of six minutes and 12 seconds by Marcel Hossa combined with strong goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist (19 saves in his third shutout) resulted in a resounding 4-0 victory for the Rangers against the Eastern Conference’s seventh place Montreal Canadiens last night at MSG. The win snapped the Blueshirts three-game skid and moved them to within six points of the last playoff spot. The loss dropped the Habs into tie with the Islanders for seventh and eighth place; both clubs have 72 points.
Jaromir Jagr notched the only goal of the opening period at 6:51 while the Rangers were on the power-play. He spun around deep in the offensive zone to the right of 21-year-old Jaroslav Halak and released an ordinary shot that should have been easily handled. But Halak misplayed the puck and it deflected off the knob of his stick and into the net. The Blueshirts were the beneficiaries of three power-plays in the period and managed to stay out of the penalty box, which is crucial against the NHL’s top rated power-play unit.
Hossa’s first of the night at 9:32 was the Rangers second power-play goal of the game. When he beat Halak again at 15:44 with a strong move right in front of the crease, the Rangers had a three goal cushion that they were determined to make stand up (in their last two games, they blew two-goal leads). Hossa’s two goals increased his output to eight tallies in the last 11 games.
In the final period, there were few chances for the Habs as the Rangers stood tall defensively. They didn’t take any foolish penalties and the Canadiens were helpless in five-on-five play. A shorthanded empty-netter by Matt Cullen at 19:05 concluded the scoring.
Throughout the game, the usually emotional and always loyal capacity crowd was somewhat subdued, even though their Rangers were in control of the game from the outset. Perhaps it’s because the Rangers have been so disappointing overall at home this season. Perhaps it’s because there is so much more work for them to do before they can be taken as a serious threat in the postseason.
Regardless, the two points were mandatory, and hope is still alive at the Garden. The shutout victory over the Canadiens on home ice was the first in 16 years. The fifth place Pittsburgh Penguins are in town on Thursday night.