Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan had this to say about destiny: “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
The good news is the New York Rangers entered tonight’s contest against the Panthers in control of their own destiny. The bad news is the New York Rangers entered the preceding 42 games in control of their own destiny as well. The math is simple: win out and the Rangers make the playoffs with no outside help needed. Slip and fall and lose one game, and the playoffs are no longer in the Rangers’ direct control.
The Rangers have seemed to wait around a lot during this lockout-shortened season. The lack of urgency at times has been alarming, no more so then the first period of Tuesday’s contest against the Flyers. That loss – coupled with the Winnipeg Jets’ shootout win against Tampa Bay – really leaves the Rangers with no margin for error.
When asked prior to the game how does he go about keeping the team at an even keel with each game being critically important, John Tortorella responded “We’re fine, we go about our business and believe in our team, and I do.”
Prior to start of the game the Rangers announced The Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award .The award recognizes the player who performs “above and beyond the call of duty.” The award, which is voted on by the fans, is named after New York City police officer Steven McDonald, who was shot and injured in the call of duty in November of 1988. The award has been given annually since 1988 to the player who fans believe plays with extra effort on the ice. The Rangers’ captain Ryan Callahan was named the winner of the 2012-13 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, having previously captured the honor in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2011-12 (second-most in franchise history behind Adam Graves’ five awards in 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1998-99, and 1999-00).
A little over three minutes later the Captain exhibited the extra effort he was awarded for when he created the power play scoring opportunity that Derick Brassard cashed in for his ninth goal of the season. The Rangers played the first period as a team looking to achieve its destiny rather then wait for it. Mats Zuccarello’s speed forced Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to take a hooking penalty at 8:32 of the first period, which Rick Nash converted into his 18th goal of the season 38 seconds later. While the Rangers seemed in control of the first period, 19-year-old Calder candidate Jonathan Huberdeau showed just how tenuous a position the Rangers are in, as a split-second wrong read by Mats Zuccerello allowed Huberdeau to make a move and put one behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to cut the lead in half at 15:17 of the first. The period would end with the Rangers leading 2-1.
The Rangers did not seem to have the same urgency or energy that they started the game with. The Panthers gave them plenty of opportunities Greg Rallo and Dmitry Kulikov both took interference penalties which the Rangers Power play failed to convert and at times looked inept. Mats Zuccerello who had been victimized on the Panthers first goal took at tripping penalty on Brian Campbell at 9:56 of the second, the Panthers threatened but as he has most of the season, Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game with crucial saves. Mats Zuccerello made up for his earlier miscue when he lifted a backhander past Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen for his second in goal in the last two games, to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
If the Rangers needed any more incentive not to let down in the third period , they need look no further then the out-of-town scoreboard which showed every team ahead or behind the Rangers in the playoff hunt leading their respective games. The Rangers started the third with jump. John Moore and Jack Skille went off at 4:39 for fighting. Moore has displayed a willingness to fight, which has been lacking on the blue line since Stu Bickel cleared waivers and was sent to Connecticut.
With 4:49 left in the third period, Brad Richards banked a pass off of Mats Zuccerello’s skate for Mats second goal of the night and then just 1:24 seconds later Michael Del Zotto feed Derick Brassard for a one timer that Brassard buried for his second of the game giving the Rangers a 5-1 lead. Brad Richards closed out the scoring with a wrap-around at 18:36 of the third,which capped the 6-1 win.While it wasn’t an artistic masterpiece, the Rangers did what they needed to do, took another game off the schedule got two much-needed points and remain in control of their own destiny.
The importance of controlling their own destiny was not lost on Brad Richards. “It’s very important. it’s all you can really ask for when you put yourself in that situation. Obviously starting the season that’s not what you want,but we’re here. The main thing you can ask for is that it’s in your hands. We can do what we need to do, and it will be on us if something doesn’t happen, but we plan on being there and moving up.”
Coach Tortorella agree: “It’s important that we don’t need help, I think its an opportunity for some guys to step up you shouldn’t feel the pressure and shy away from it, it’s a great opportunity to be involved with it , and that’s the way you to take as an individual and then as a group, to find your way and take it one day at a time, and this is our game and we go right back and i’m glad we play right away, and enjoy it and test yourself.”
They get that chance in less then 24 hours tomorrow in Buffalo.