The New York Rangers entered tonight’s game looking for their first win of 2011. Coming off two straight losses over the weekend to Southeast Division opponents, where the Rangers offense was non-existent, the goal was simple :SCORE !
Coach John Tortorella in the pre-game brief accessed the teams first half play as well as their play of late.
“We have lost ourselves a bit,where we have struggled of late is our turnovers,not getting the puck in, and going to the strength of our team,” he said. “I think the important point of tonight’s game is how we play. I’m not looking at the result, I’m looking at how we are playing, how we approach this game.”
Tortorella must have liked the way they approached the first two periods as the Rangers got the puck deep and created opportunities. The ability to finish however continued as the Rangers scoreless string reached five periods and one goal over the last eight.
Henrik Lundqvist matched Cam Ward through the first two periods shot for shot. Both would be tested early in the third as the Hurricanes started the period off shorthanded due to a charging penalty to Eric Staal with seven seconds left in the second period. Ward made several key saves as the Rangers had their best scoring chances of the night.
Lundqvist had the chance to duplicate Ward’s performance when Steve Emigner took a penalty shortly after the Rangers power play expired. The penalty kill was strong with King Henrik making two key saves during the kill.
The play of the night that will not show up in the boxscore was the play of defensemen Steve Eminger on a Hurricanes three-on-one odd man rush. Eminger played the angles perfectly, drove the puck carrier wide and then broke up the pass. The reason why this was critical was a few minutes later the Rangers ended their scoring draught at 8:41 of the third period on Matt Gilroy’s third goal of the season.
As these two teams seem to have mirrored themselves all night long it was no surprise that a little over five minutes later Eric Staal would knot the game at 101. At that point in the game both teams shots stood at 29, both teams had one goal, both teams were creating opportunities and both goalies made several key saves. Who was going to blink first over the final six minutes and change?
With a little more then four minutes left Marian Gaborik clanged a perfect pass from Artem Anisimov off the left post. With 3:44 left Ward made a point blank stop off of Brandon Dubinsky’s one timer from an pass from behind the net from Sean Avery. With 2:01 left, Lundqvist stopped a 50-foot Zac Dalpe slapshot. As the seconds ticked away the Rangers cycled in the Hurricanes end but could not get a clear shot towards Ward. The game headed to overtime.
The first few minutes of the extra session were wide open until Brandon Dubinsky took matters in his own hands and lead a full ice rush capped off by Mats Zuccarello’s first NHL goal when he pounced on a loose puck and roofed it from a sharp angle.
“I am glad he took the shot from that angle because I don’t think I could have scored from there,” Dubinsky said of the goal.
So the Rangers got exactly what the coach wanted. They started the second half of the season with one of their prototypical hard working grind out close games. They get great goaltending from Lundqvist and a key goal from Zuccarello and a big two points in the standings.