Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Marty Nash-mass! Rangers Cool Hot Caps – Reclaim Third Place

What more could New York want for Christmas?  We've got a good local team on a hot streak with realistic playoff aspirations.  And it's not the (surging too late) Giants, the (soon to be Rex-less) Jets, the (one bat away) Mets, the (triangle?  How about "Wrecked-angle") Knicks, the (regressing) Nets, or the (where's Jeter?) Yankees. 
No - It's your New York ("Potvan Sucks") Rangers Hockey Club – surging back into third place with a 4-2 win over the red hot Washington Capitals – who used to be 7-0-2 coming into the match – and in sole possession of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
But - 60 minutes of hockey later – Washington heads home with a big steaming lump of coal in the back of their hockey pants.  The Rangers beat them 4-2 at home, recapturing third place in their division and heading into the Christmas holiday with seven straight wins - the best current streak in the NHL.
In the first two periods the Rangers clamped down on Ovechkin with coach Alain Vigneault sending his top offense and defense lines over the boards whenever number 8 hit the ice.  Hockey is the only major sport where there is an actual rules-based home team advantage – line matching – and Vigneault took full advantage.
The result – through two periods Caps mustered only 11 shots on Hank – and no goals.  But the Rangers scored early in both periods:
At 3:32 of the first period – moments after the oversized Ovechkin knocked the hobbit-sized Mats Zuccarello to the ice – the small Norwegian led an odd man rush at Caps goalie.  Zuc headed for the left post but launched the puck towards the right.  He missed the net – but the puck hit the leg of a streaking Rick Nash and bounced into the net for a 1-0 lead.  It's just one of those years for Nash and about time!
And then, at 27 seconds into 2nd, after Ovechkin illegally boarded Mats Zuccarello (Editor - that sounds more graphic than it actually was) the Rangers had the man advantage.  The Ranger power play has, at least at times, looked much more organized this year than in recent memory.  And this time - the Rangers scored again.  Dan Boyle – who was brought in here to help on extra-man situations – helped get the puck to Marty St. Louis in his favorite sniper position – to the right of the net.  St Louis just flat-out ripped the puck from a nearly impossible angle right by Holtby and it was 2-0.
But the Capitals would not go quietly.  They put on a flurry early in the third but Henrik was able to keep them off the score sheet.  And then – off a pass by Mats – Rick Nash scored - a real goal this time – a sniper's shot that beat Holtby high and to his right.
So 3-0 Rangers with less than 15 minutes to play.  And the Caps had played the previous night and had every reason to just give up.
But instead, they surged.  Less than a minute later Evgeny Kuznetsov somehow trickled the puck through Lundqvist – who probably would like to get another try at that one – and it was 3-1.  And then –the Caps became coming in waves.  There were 21 Capitals shots on goal in the third period alone and the puck never seemed to get out of the Ranger's defensive zone.
At 10:58 – the hated one – Alex Ovechkin - scored on the powerplay and suddenly 3-0 was 3-2 and all momentum had left the Ranger's side.
The Caps kept coming and the Rangers seemed unable to clear the puck – hanging on a hank and a prayer as best they could.  But then at 14:35 of the third – Washington's own stupidity brought them down.
First Nicklas Backstrom caught Derick Brassard right in the nose with a Hi Stick.  The refs awarded a double-minor – meaning that the Caps would have to spend 4:00 of the remaining 5:25shorthanded.  And then – on the ensuing faceoff (Editor – did you say Brassard is suing because Backstom almost knocked his face off?) (Dave Pucks – no) Jason Chimera attempted a hand-pass which is an automatic penalty.  So now it was 5 on 3.
And at 16:12 either Marty St. Louis got his 2nd of the night – or Nash got a hat trick.  We're not sure:
Here's what happened:  Nash shot the puck and Holtby made the initial save.  The puck popped up in the air and as Holtby grabbed for it – Marty St. Louis swung his stick at the puck.  Marty's stick hit Holtby's glove – the glove hit the puck – the puck went in the net – and the Rangers lead 4-2.  
The refs gave the goal to Marty – but on replays it looks like he never touched it.  So we'll see if the NHL make a ruling today - or maybe are they all drinking egg nog now and the goal will stand at St Louis',
In any event – the 4-2 lead with the remaining penalty was too much for the Caps to overcome – and so the Rangers hold on and climb past Washington as they head to Santa Day as the hottest team in the NHL.
Did Special Teams Decide This Game?  Well, the Rangers killed 4 of 5 and scored on 2 of 7.  So our advantage on Specials was a factor in the win and as mentioned – the Capitals defeated themselves with that late triple penalty.
Where We Stand:  By beating the Caps we move past them into 3rd Place in the Metro with 40 point – just 6 behind the Islanders' with 2 games at hand.  The Capitals hold on to the 8th and final playoff spot – the Wild Card – 1 point in front of the Bruins.
Now What?  We celebrate that other guy in red pants: Santa Claus.  The Rangers get a few days off until Saturday night when they take on the Devils at home (Editor – Aren't you going to that game?)  (Dave Pucks – Oh snap.  You're right Ed, I almost forgot with all the holiday spirit and stuff).  See you at the game!


No comments:

Post a Comment