NEW YORK – Two games in two days and the New York Rangers came away with four points, taking the first of 16 back-to-back sets of the season by defeating the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 at Madison Square Garden. In their last 83 back-to-back sets (dating back to the start of the 2010-11 season), the Rangers have posted a 54-23-6 record in the second game of the set. Dan Girardi returned to the line up after missing 6 games due to a groin injury scored the game-winning goal in the third period to help lift the Rangers.
It was pure joy, at least for those who have been behind Girardi despite his down year last season that caused many fans to turn on the work horse that has been part of the core for years. On top of the game winning goal, he was credited with three hits, recorded two shots on goal, registered two blocked shots, and posted a plus-two rating in 19:15 of ice time. Girardi is the 10th defenseman in Rangers history who has tallied at least one goal in 10 different seasons with the team.
With the win, the Blueshirts continued their winning ways against Pacific coast teams as the Rangers have earned at least one point in each of their nine home games against Pacific Division opponents (8-0-1 record over the span). You can make the case the Rangers starts have been so good, they “should” be 5 and 1 on the young season rather than 4 and 2, but I’m sure if you ask them they will take the results they have been getting.
It was another night of firsts tonight as Josh Jooris picked up his first goal as a New York Ranger. With Jooris’ and Girardi’s tallying goals in tonight’s game, 12 different Rangers have registered a goal and 20 different Blueshirts (including goaltender Antti Raanta) have tallied at least one point through the first six games of the season.
It looked as if it was deja vu all over again as the Coyotes opened up the scoring just 33 seconds into the game with Radim Vrbata opening up the scoring, similar to the early lead Washington had jumped out to the night before. Vrbata would go on to score both of Arizona’s goals tonight.
In this first game back for the Rangers, Girardi was paired with Brady Skjei. Head coach Alain Vigneault talked about pairing those two up along with talking about tonight’s performance, “I thought they played a good game. I think Dan (Girardi), coming back after missing the short amount of time he did but not having a lot of practice time with the whole team, I thought he responded real well. He got us the go-ahead goal in the third. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t about style, but we found a way to win. We played our best period in the third when the game was on the line. You have to find ways in this league. In an 82-game schedule, it’s not going to be pretty every night, but you have to find ways to win and that’s what we did.”
The Rangers were without Chris Kreider who was dealing with neck spasms and Pavel Buchnevich was played on injured reserve dealing with a lower body injury. Even with injuries, the Rangers found a way to win. “You have to play who is healthy”, Vigneault went on to say. “Tonight we had a couple of bumps and bruises where players couldn’t play. Some nights you mix and match and it works out, some other nights it doesn’t. It worked out as far as the scoring. I do know that it’s about finding ways to win and that’s what we did.”
Tonight was the first time in the six games played the Rangers were not totally satisfied with their game. Henrik Lundqvist who got the nod for the second straight day went on to say, “It wasn’t perfect but we found a way. I thought they played a pretty good game. Coming from a really strong performance last night, it’s a quick turnaround, so the biggest challenge is to reach that level again. I think the big thing is we had a stretch in the second period where we had a tough time to get pucks out and get pucks deep, but we didn’t get hurt that badly so we were in the game”.
J.T. Miller was another contributor in tonight’s game as he picked up his second goal of the season. When asked about the teams play on back-to-back nights Miller responded, “Even though it’s early, these points still count at the end of the day. We kind of felt like we would be wasting one there after that great effort yesterday to go into that building and win a game, to let this one get away from us. We did a good job of hanging on and just finding a way to get two.”
The Rangers will get a much needed day off tomorrow before they get back to work Wednesday night back at the Garden as the Boston Bruins come into town. It will definitely be interesting what happens when the Rangers continue to get healthy and they continue playing the way they have been playing. We will see what Vigneault does when faced with the challenge.
The Rangers have won each of their last eight home games against the Coyotes, dating back to Nov. 24, 2008. In addition, the Blueshirts have won 17 of their last 19 home games against the Jets/Coyotes franchise, dating back to Jan. 6, 1992 (17-2-0-0 record). Overall, New York has won each of its last six games against the Coyotes, dating back to Mar. 24, 2014.
The Rangers were credited with 28 blocked shots in tonight’s contest, as 14 different skaters registered at least one blocked shot in the contest.
Tonight’s game was the Rangers’ 230th consecutive sellout (189 regular season games, 41 playoff games over the span). The Blueshirts’ sellout streak dates back to Nov. 3, 2011.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves to earn his third win of the season. Lundqvist has now started both games of a back-to-back set 75 times during the regular season in his NHL career. In the second game of those back-to-back sets, Lundqvist has posted a 47-21-7 record, along with a 2.05 GAA, a .929 SV%, and 8 SO. He has allowed two goals in each of his last three appearances.