Sunday, March 25, 2012

Finally! Rangers win - Penguins Lose

This was supposed to be the easy part of the season.

For the first time in years the Rangers are not scrambling for the last playoff spot. They've clinched. And we're in first place in the East. So why are we scrambling down the stretch just like always?

Because as Spiderman would say - with great power comes great responsibility. Or, in NHL terms – now that we have the top seed – we want to hold on to it. So we're expending maximum energy every night – exhausting ourselves in pursuit of a theoretical extra home ice playoff game if any of our series goes seven games. And the result of this is obvious – we're wearing down Lundqvist and grinding down our skaters.

Anyway – it is what it is – and last night was a very good night for the Rangers stretch run for the top spot in the East. The every surging Penguins were a point behind with a game at hand on Saturday afternoon – but by Sunday morning the Rangers had boosted their lead to 3 points.

How did this happen? The Aquatic Birds somehow lost to Ottawa. And you New York Rangers exit Toronto with an ugly but serviceable shoot out win, 4-3.

It looked like Ranger Hockey – we outshot the hapless “Make Believes” 33 to 25 and outhit them a brutal 55-45. This put the game in Lundqvist's hands and – eventually – he didn't let us down.

Rangers fought back to tie the score twice and finally surged to their first lead at 4:19 of the third period – a lead that lasted all of 18 seconds before Tim Connolly knotted the game up at 3.

The overtime featured something I can't recall ever seeing before – a lead change in the first 3 round of the shootout:

After an opening pair of misses – including Gaborik's (who keeps dekeing when he should be wrist-shooting), Tim Connolly (again) beak Hank to give the Leaf's a 1-0 lead in the shootout. But the next three shots went exactly the Ranger way.

Brad Richards – clearly sick and tired of not scoring on the shootout – did what everyone should do – he skated in and launched a wrist shot that Gustavsson had no chance on. And then after Hank stoned Nazem Kadri (who?), Ryan Callahan won it for the Blueshirts.

Another huge night for the GRH like (Gabby, Richards, Hags).

Two goals for Gaborik. Two assists for Richards. A goal for Dubinsky. Assists for Erixon and Mitchell.

Hank's save percentage was outdone by his countryman – Gustavsson was .909 to Henrik's .880. But one goal against the king appears to be a kick-in. Still, we managed a road win – barely – against a non-playoff team. At this point we'll take anything we can get.

And - for the first time in a long time - the Penguins lost and the Rangers won - on the same day!  And so - when the Zamboni exhaust smoke has cleared - the Penguins are 3 points behind with a game at hand. And the Rangers struggle on – through the “easy” part of the season.

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