The Rangers came into tonight’s game gunning for the 2,500th victory in club history against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were also out for their sixth win in their last seven games,their 13th victory in their last 16 games as well as maintaing there dominance at MSG against every team not wearing a Maple Leaf on there Jersey.
The 2500th win would not be an easy task as the Rangers were without the services of another one of their top four defenseman. Already without arguably their best Defenseman Marc Staal since opening night due to a concussion, the Rangers took another hit, figuratively and literally as Michael Sauer sat out Thursday’s contest due to a concussion sustained as a result of hard shoulder hit from Maple Leafs Defenseman Dion Phaneuf early in the third period of Monday night’s loss to Toronto.
As the the late-19th century American novelist and perhaps a big Original 6 fan James Lane Allen said, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” This was one of those games that tested both teams characters at various points of the contest.
While Staal and Sauer are the injuries everyone focuses on, the Rangers have also been without the services of Mike Rupp for 17 games and Wojtek Wolski for 13 games. A case could be made that these four injuries may in fact reveal the character of this organization.
In Staal’s absence, Ryan McDonagh has matured into the Rangers best two-way defensemen. Michael Del Zotto has returned from last years demotion to Hartford more focused and more responsible on the defensive side of the puck as his plus-8 on the season will attest.
In place of Rupp and Wolski, the Rangers have promoted two forwards from Hartford, speedster Carl Hagelin and gritty John Mitchell who blocks shots with his face for fun.Both have had a positive impact in there initial few games as Rangers.
The Lightning are no strangers to adversity either they come into the Garden with a 11-14-2 record and have lost their last five games. In addition they were without the services of there diminutive sniper (remember that word for later) Martin St Louis who had played 499 straight games before getting injured in practice which forced him out of tonight’s game. Which team would reveal it’s character?
The Rangers dictated the early pace of the game and drew two early power plays. While the first one generated some shots, it was on the whole pretty sloppy. The second one with Steve Downie off for tripping, looked picture perfect on the strength of one shot ,a laser of a wrister by Captain Character himself Ryan Callahan with assists by Derek Stepan for his 16th point in his last 16 games (5 goals and 11 assists) and Brad Richards extending his point scoring streak to seven games.
The Rangers had numerous opportunities to pad their lead, but Mathieu Garon made some key saves to keep the game a one goal game.
The Lightning seemed to find their legs in the second and began to force the Rangers into some lazy penalties. Henrik Lundqvist made several point blank saves, and it looked as though the Rangers would withstand the Bolts pressure until an awful backhanded, no-look clearing pass by Ryan McDonagh found its way onto Ryan Malone’s stick. Malone walked in all alone to put it behind Lundqvist to tie the game at one.
The game took a wild turn of events as Artem Anisimov scored a short handed goal off a gorgeous bang-bang pass play from Del Zotto and Dubinsky. Anisimov, perhaps not knowing where he was on the ice, spun and made a sniper action using his stick as a gun. However there with one major problem with it: the stick was pointed directly at Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon. Tampa’s captain Vincent Lacavalier took exception immediately touching off a series of penalties that would leave the Rangers two men short for 49 seconds.
Coach Tortorella kept Anisimov away from the media in the post game to protect him. He went on to say, “You know Artie, he is a good kid. He made a mistake. He is not an idiot. We have idiots in this league and he is not one of them. He made an unfortunate mistake and feels awful about it. I don’t blame the Lightning at all for there reaction, I would hope our team would do the same.”
Former Ranger Matt Gilroy in the victorious Tampa Bay locker room said, “Artie does some strange goal celebrations. I know him and I know he didn’t mean anything by it, but I’m not really sure what he was thinking, I’ll have to text him later to find out.”
The Rangers would take the one-goal lead into 3rd period. A strong start to the third resulted in an early power play for he Rangers as Tom Pyatt went off for hooking. The Rangers had chances and missed scoring early on in the period by inches. Then with 8:06 left in the period after drawing a Ryan Malone penalty the Rangers had a chance to put the Bolts away on the delayed penalty but Ryan Callahan fired high over Garon. It would give the struggling Lightning a chance to reveal their character, with time winding down and a man down. Ex-Ranger Dominic Moore would knot the game with a short handed goal. The Game would move to overtime where Mathieu Garon coming off a poor outing against the Islanders withstood everything the Rangers threw at him.
So on a night that the Lightning were without their sniper Martin St.Louis, and a night where Artem Anisimov set off a wild scene on the ice with his shooting like motion goal celebration, it was ironic that the game would go to a shoot-out.
Mathieu Garon came up big, and one of the NHL character guys Dominic Moore got the only goal of the shoot out keeping the Rangers total franchise win total at 2,499. But hey they have another shot at it Saturday night.