New York Rangers right wing Michael Grabner (40) scores a goal past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling (33) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New York – The New York Rangers continued their dominance of the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden as they pulled the victory, 5-1. It was a lot closer than the score portrayed but nonetheless it was a win. Michael Grabner, the king of empty net goals, scored two of them in the final 90 seconds of play to give him his team leading 13th goal of the season. Rangers fans rejoice and thank the Vegas Golden Knights for not taking him in the expansion draft. He registered a hat trick for the fifth time in his NHL career and for the third time with the Rangers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Grabner is the first Rangers player in the expansion era (since 1967-68) who has recorded two empty-net goals in one game.
It was a good bounce back win for the Blueshirts after a bad loss Tuesday night at the hands of the Florida Panthers. It started poorly as the Rangers gave up a goal in the opening minute of the game to Canes’ forward Justin Willams. It looked as if you were watching the Rangers of October with the way the opening twenty minutes were played. The Rangers would open the middle period with a David Deshardines goal right off the bat. It would stay 2-1 Rangers after forty minutes of play.
The Rangers have won five of their last six games (5-1-0 record) and have outscored their opponents, 24-11, over the last six contests. The Blueshirts have won 11 of their last 14 games (11-3-0 record) and 13 of their last 18 contests (13-5-0 record). They have also won nine of its last 10 home games (9-1-0 record over the span), dating back to Oct. 26 vs. Arizona. The Blueshirts have outscored their opponents, 39-29, in game situations when they have trailed this season. The Blueshirts have recorded more goals when trailing than any other NHL team this season.
Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves, stopped all of the final 31 shots he faced, and made a save on a penalty shot in the third period to earn his 13th win of the 2017-18 season. Lundqvist has now earned 418 wins in his NHL career (all with the Rangers), and he tied Tony Esposito for the second-most wins a goaltender has earned with one franchise in NHL history (Esposito earned 418 career wins with Chicago). Paul Carey registered a power play goal, was credited with two takeaways, and recorded two shots on goal.
When asked about the teams bounce back from Tuesday head coach Alain Vigneault went on to say, “At the end of the day, we played a good game (Tuesday), we probably deserved a better result. For us tonight, it was just a matter of continuing to play the right way, and that’s what I thought we did. Hank showed some real mental strength there, to start off the game that way, giving up that type of goal after being pulled the last game. Obviously, that must have been very challenging for him. He responded real well, he was real focused the rest of the game. In my opinion that was not a penalty shot, but it was a great save, he made two. He was dialed in and he did a great job for us tonight.”
He was also asked about Grabner and how he has fit in so well since coming to the Rangers last year and said, “I think prior to him coming here, he had some years where he had quite a few goals. With us, he was given an opportunity, and he’s made the best of it. He’s got great speed and he finds the holes. He’s got quite a few goals into the empty net, and he was a key player for us today.”
The empty net king himself when asked about what his thought process is when there is an empty net, Grabner went on to say, “Well, first of all, I try to kill off a little bit of time but when I get the chance, especially if it’s a one goal game, I try to go and get that goal. It’s a big relief I think when you go up two goals. It’s always nerve-wracking when you’re out there and there’s one bad bounce like we saw least year in the playoffs. A lot of times, it can cost you a game or teams coming back. I’m just trying to, not cheat but when I get the chance, turn a goal and try to beat some guys.”
The Rangers needed the bounce back and for Lundqvist, it was a good one for him as well as he explained in the post-game by saying, “If you want to be in the race now when everyone is winning, you can’t afford to lose too many games. You have to bounce back right away. You can’t let it slide. Sometimes you can get stuck and create a bigger problem than it is if you start losing too many games. That’s why you want to turn around right away and start feeling good about yourself. It’s easy to be on your toes when you feel good.”
The Rangers will look to continue their wave as they host the road with two tough opponents in the coming days. They will get some more time off before they head to Pittsburgh on Tuesday and then off to Washington next Friday.
David Desharnais recorded a power play goal, won seven of nine faceoffs (77.8%), and registered two shots on goal. He has registered four points (one goal, three assists) in the last two games, as well as seven points (one goal, six assists) in his last 12 games.
Jimmy Vesey tallied an assist and registered three shots on goal in 18:18 of ice time. Vesey has recorded a point in four of the last six games (one goal, three assists).
Tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 2): Practice, 12:00 p.m. at Lasker Rink in Central Park as the Rangers will gear up for their Winter Classic game against Buffalo New Year Day.