The trade deadline is always hectic and full of surprises and this year, for the New York Rangers, it was no different. The team quietly dealt power forward Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets for center Derick Brassard, forward Derek Dorsett, and defenseman John Moore, and it was all Ranger fans could talk about before the game. But the newly acquired Blueshirts, including Ryane Clowe who came from San Jose in exchange for three draft picks, made sure that they were the topic of conversation postgame as the New York Rangers destroyed the Eastern Conference leading Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden by a score of 6-1. Each player, aside from Dorsett who did not play, notched a goal in the team’s win, and both Brassard and Clowe recorded multiple points, four and three respectively.
“It is a great chance for us to show what we got. For us, we just want to help for the push for the playoffs,” said Brassard.
It seemed the trade gave the Rangers new life as they had a jump in their step from the moment the puck dropped. Not knocking Gaborik, who is an extremely talented player who happened to be going through a rut this shortened season, but the new players gave the Rangers something they were struggling with of late, offense. In a constant battle to stay within the top eight teams in the conference, the Rangers need depth in their lines that can create opportunities and put points on the board. If last night was any indication of what these players can do, then the Rangers could be in a better situation than they were with Gaborik. Only time will tell.
Simply put, the Rangers outplayed the Penguins in every aspect of the game. The Blueshirts were hard on the boards, had a strong forecheck and their defense was tight. They also applied constant pressure that visibly rattled the Pens. Yes, the Penguins were without their superstar and Captain Sidney Crosby, along with two of their best defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin, but that isn’t enough to excuse their lackluster style of play. Marc-Andre Fleury was not at his best and became flustered by the intense pressure the Rangers consistently applied.
The scoring started early for the Rangers, as the team notched three goals in the first period—each coming almost exactly two minutes apart. Brian Boyle who has also struggled in finding his game this season, had a stellar night scoring the game’s first goal on the power play and recording three assists. Along with the newbies and Brad Richards, Boyle really stepped up. He used his body well and sparked the Rangers offensively, as well as worked to prevent a very dangerous Pittsburgh power play from converting. Ryan McDonagh scored the second goal, and Clowe really opened the lead minutes later with his first of two. With the goals, Clowe erased a 28-game goalless streak as he did not score for San Jose this season.
Another reason the Rangers came out on top was due to the fact that they didn’t sit back. Sometimes after they gain the lead, the Rangers have the tendency to back off a bit in order to prevent mistakes or breakaways that could quickly turn out to be the final nail in their coffin. But tonight, the Rangers played a complete 60 minutes. And that was the difference between them and the Penguins. The Rangers came to play and the Penguins just couldn’t match them. The Rangers also had a new look to their power play, which went 3-for-4. Brassard and Clowe each showed great patience with the puck, according to Richards, and both converged to the net which led to goals.
Over the last season or so it has become apparent that the Rangers perform better when they are under pressure. They thrive when the stakes are high, and they were sure high last night. Not only were they facing the Penguins who were perfect in the month of March, but the New York Islanders who are close to the Rangers in the standings beat the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night and jumped up to the eighth seed, The Rangers needed to win not only for the points and seed in the standings, but for their own peace of mind and to realize that the Penguins are not indestructible.
If the Penguins have taught teams anything, it is that no lead is safe. The constant offensive threat of the Penguins is something that can silent a crowd in a moment once the momentum of the game swings in their direction. The Rangers didn’t allow for any shift in momentum. They stayed out of the box and assaulted Fleury all three periods, which led to two more goals in the second, Brassard and Clowe’s PPGs, and Moore’s first goal as a Ranger came in the third period, which was the cherry on top to a perfect night for the Blueshirts. Pascal Dupuis had the lone goal for the Pens.
The win and strong play by Henrik Lundqvist, who made 26 saves, and the new faces of the Rangers made quite an impression around the locker room.
“Today, with the changes, it was a wakeup call that maybe we are better than what we have been doing and we have to push on here,” Richards said postgame.
“To have a couple of new faces in the room, it changes the dynamic in here” said Lundqvist. “Hopefully this could really help us.”
The Rangers look to continue their playoff push when they head to Pittsburgh Friday night for a rematch.