Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Best Win Of The Season - Rangers Storm Back To Beat Islanders 6-5

Boys and Girls – that was the best Ranger victory of the season – one of the best hockey games I’ve seen in years – and proof-positive that this team is a 100% legit contender to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.  

Fighting a first place Islander team that has had their number this year – without their best player Henrik Lundqvist in goal – trailing all night – your New York Rangers rose from the dead not once, but twice to overcome three two goal deficits to tie the Nassau Nemeses and then exploding for the game winner late in the third to defeat the stunned Islanders 6-5 on their own Long Island Ice.

Make no mistake – this team can score.  We are now talking 22 goals in 4 games.  That’s two 6’s and two 5’s.  Vigneault has built this group – a unit that was supposed to not have the talent to compete for the cup – into a team that can fire the puck through the neutral zone – flood into the opponent’s zone with speed – move the puck – generate chances – and score, score and score again.

You pal Dave Pucks has been watching the Blue Shirts since that meant squinting at a ten once black & white TV at Jean Ratelle – and I have NEVER seen a Ranger team that could score like this.  You have three dangerous lines now – all of which can light the lamp.  To put this another way – you get six goals – and folks – you can take your chances.

This was a hockey game that not only seemed like a playoff game – it almost felt like an entire playoff series.  11 goals.  Sam Rosen at 14:20 of the 2nd actually called it, saying “this could be a 6-5 game”.

It only took the Islanders 11 seconds to take the lead as Tavares, the Islanders best player, intercepted Talbot’s attempted pass from behind the net and John shot the puck cleanly into the net before Cam could get back to the crease.   Nielson added the Islanders 2nd goal at 11:46 and it was a two goal lead.

It was the captain, Ryan McDonagh, who got the Rangers started in the right direction.   The Ranger defenseman took a long Halak rebound and rifled it in from the right circle to cut the lead to 2-1.

On to the second period, where at 1:20 Johnny Boychuk beat Cam with slap shot from the blue line and it was 3-1.  But in the period’s 4th minute the Rangers rose up and changed this hockey game:

First - Dan Boyle passes the puck to Derek Stepan and the Ranger center delivers the puck 
to Chris Kreider who crossed the blue line and just flat-out beak Halak with a long wrister that clanged off the post and in.  The goal shook the islanders and ignited the Rangers – who scored again just 23 seconds later.

This time it was the captain’s 2nd of the night.  J. T. Miller slide the puck near the blue line to Ryan – who shot it through traffic and past the rocked Islander goalie to, incredibly, tie the contest at 3-3.

But – to the Islander’s credit – they regrouped and then regained the momentum after a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty by the Rangers.  We fought off the extra man attack for the full 2 minutes – but in thr seconds afterwards – Ryan Strome beat an exhausted Rangers defense and Cam Talbot – and the Islanders had regained the lead escaping the third period up 4-3.

So –on to a third period that would feature 4 more goals and the game’s only lead change.
For the third time – the Islanders scored the first goal of a period.  The Rangers had put on sustained pressure for three minutes but the Islander defense held.  Then a costly turnover by Dan Boyle gave our opponents a 3 on 1 break – which they cashed in to rebuild a two goal lead, 5-3 with 3:43 gone in the third.

But if this game was over – someone forget to tell the New York Rangers.  It was the Stepan line that got things started.  Chris Kreider came flying up the right side of the ice and brilliantly shoveled a no-look backwards pass to the trailing Derek Stepan – surprising everyone on the ice – possibly including Derek himself.  Stepan took the puck and fired a quick from the right circle that beat Halak and at 6:25 of the third the deficit was cut to one once again at 5-4. 

The Rangers had regained the momentum and were coming at the Islanders in waves now. 

And less than two minutes later – magic happened: 

Chris Kreider stole the puck in the neutral zone and Derek Stepan collected in and somehow the Rangers stayed onside (or did they) as the three forwards entered the Islanders zone together.  Stepan broke in on Halak and cleverly backhanded a pass across the ice tot the waiting Martin St. Louis.  The diminutive aging superstar was locked and loaded and ripped the puck at Halak who was trying to get his body into position.  But Marty – who had not scored in a month – could not have picked a better moment to bury this chance and tie the game, incredibly, at 5-5 at 8:02 of the third. 

And just like that – we had a tie hockey game.  With the lines jumbled on a long shift in the Islander’s zone, Brassard cut across the middle inside the blue line and headed left before rifling a cross ice pass to his right.  It came first to St. Louis who looked like a baseball hotter taking his m=homerun cut at a fast ball.  But the puck was by him before he could connect.  Halak had to react to Marty’s big swing and so was not fully prepared at the puck continued right to the stick of onrushing defenseman Kevin Klein.  Klein – who is having a career year – launched one of his patented fast and heavy shots and Halak could not handle it.

And when the ice chips had cleared it was – for the first time – the Rangers had taken a lead.  It was 6-5 and 15:28 and the Rangers and Talbot had their first lead to protect.   
They did some great work keeping the puck in the Islander end – but in the game’s final half minute they did attack the Rangers and Cam’s left post was called on to make a key save.  Shortly after that the final horn sounded and your New York Rangers had somehow scrambled back against a first place club to get their first win of the season against the Islanders and overcome a series of deficits to beat their rivals 6-5.

What a game.  And what a comeback by a gritty Ranger team.  Make no mistake – these guys can fly around the ice and score goals.  And when you can do that – you’re never out of a hockey game.  11 goals, 85 shots (42 by the Rangers). 

Uh, A Little Help?  Assists?  Oh yeah we got that:   2 for Stepan and one each for Girardi, Kreider, Boyle, Miller, Stempniak, Klein, Boyle and St. Louis.

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No.  Officially we were 0-2 and and ne Islanders 0-3 with the man advantage. 

Where Do We Stand?  Oh baby – it’s 34-16-5. Looking down – the perennial 9th place Florida Panthers are now 13 points behind us.  And looking up, the news is, well, looking up.  We just passed Pittsburgh for 2nd place – we both have 73 points but the Rangers hold the game-at-hand.  And against the first place Islanders we are only 2 points back with two games at hand. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  Home finally on Thursday to Vancouver.

So trap in folks – the Rangers are gunning for first place.  Thanks for reading – Dave Pucks out. 


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