Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hank Who? Rangers win Vigneault’s 500th!

4-1-1.  That’s the Rangers’ record now since Henrik went down.  And tonight against the Arizona Coyotes the Rangers did several things really well:

Cam Talbot had his first truly dominant game since Hank went down with the vascular injury.  In the last three Cam’s save percentage was under 0.900 each time and the Rangers won by outscoring their opponents.  But tonight against Arizona, Cam was a stellar 0.971, stopping all but one of the 35 shots that came his way – including a penalty shot.

With the game 0-0 in the 2nd, the Stepan Line finally broke through for a goal in that period’s first minute.  Kevin Klein lifted the puck out of the Ranger zone perfectly to center Derek Stepan who got it on the stick of Chris Kreider wheo was breaking to the net.  Chris was able to beat the defense, cross in front of Mike Smith, and backhand the puck into the net 
for a 1-0 lead. 

Of course the Rangers gave one back for the 1-1- tie and that’s how we headed into the third.   And it was the NHL’s top scorer Rick Nash who put the Rangers ahead to stay.  Rick, alone on the right side, rifled the perfect shot upstairs for his 35th past Smith off the inside post for the 2-1 lead.

And then – rising rookie Kevin Hayes for the 2nd time in two games – took the puck the length of the ice to score.  Kevin on the penalty kill intercepted a shot between the circles and started up ice.  Hayes built up a head of steam, waited out a diving stickless defenseman, drove in on Smith and put the puck at a nearly impossible angle up and over the goalie’s shoulder for the 3-1 lead.  It was the first shorthanded goal of Hayes’ career.

The next goal started as a 3-on-2 break that the Rangers couldn’t quite finish.  The puck got behind Smith but not in the net and sat still on the ice for several long seconds.  Derek Stepan found it first and whacked at it to get the puck to Marc Staal who was trailing on the play.  Staal got the full wind up and buried the puck for a 4-1 lead.  On the replay it looks like Mart St. Louis has his stick up in celebration before the puck is shot in by Staal.  Can Marty see the future?  We may never know.

And there was yet another Ranger goal.  At 17:48 Lee Stempniak cashed in on a scramble in the crease and the Rangers had their 5-1 win.  You got to hand it to coach Vigneault – he has these Rangers flying and he collected a well-deserved 500th win as a head coach.  This is shaping up to be on of the best Ranger seasons in years.  And we have 16 goals in the last three games.  

Uh, A Little Help?  Another big assist night:  Two each for Stepan and Klein.  Single assists for St. Louis (finally), Hayes, Girardi, Brassard, and D. Moore. 

Did Special Teams Determine The Outcome Of This Game?  No penalties called on the Coyotes and the Rangers killed off all three penalties – so special teams was a big part of the win.

Where Do We Stand?  32-16-5. Looking down – the perennial 9th place Florida Panthers are now 12 points behind us and fading.  And we hold a 3 point lead and game at hand against the Capitals.  Looking up, the Penguins are just one point ahead at us and have played one more game.  And the Islanders won again so they stay 4 points up on us although they have played two more games. 

Oh My - What Will Happen Next?  The road trip rolls out to Long Island for a Monday night showdown with the hated Islanders.  The Nassau Nuisances have bested ous\r Rangers all three times they’ve met this year.  And that is the entire reason they occupy first place in the metro instead of us.   

Non Sequitur of the day.  This game concluded the “Dad’s Road Trip” the Rangers have been enjoying with their fathers.  It’s a great tradition that the nasty John Tortorella suspended but Vigneault has wisely reinstated.

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