In what had the feel of a playoff game on home ice against their arch-nemisis, the Rangers blew a two goal lead in what could have been a springboard game. The game that had everything, emotion, excitement and terrible officiating (both ways) was a contest the Rangers needed to have.
The NYR got off to a great start when Brad Richards opened up the scoring sniping a wrist shot over Martin Brodeur’s glove. B-Rich took a pass from Mats Zuccarello on his strong side and skated in two-on-one with Zucc. Looking pass the whole time Richards smartly shot when the passing lane was taken away and the Blueshirts had an early lead. Richrads, currently riding a six game scoring streak, would have forced the pass, or fallen down last year. This year, he made the right play and took the shot. He is still getting bought out after the season though.
The Rangers, skating very well, doubled their lead just 57 seconds into the stanza when Zuccarello pounced on a juicy rebound. Ryan Callahan threw a soft low shot at Brodeur thats banked off the pillows directly to Zucc, who deposited it into the wide open cage and it looked like the NYR would run away. But they didn’t.
At 13:58, the Devils got a BS goal. Catching the Rangers on a bad change, Brodeur sent a headman pass to Tim Sestito. The Devils fourth liner slid a pass to a streaking Cam Janssens and Janssens, trying to catch the pass, nearly twisted himself into a broken leg. As he contorted, he clearly kicked the puck into the net. A video review upheld the awful on-ice call, and the momentum swung to the visitors side at that point.
The Devils tied the game when Jaromir Jagr won the puck along the wall, and in classic Jagr fashion and fought off McDonagh before skating behind the net and throwing a pass into the slot. A very generous, Brian Boyle left Travis Zajac all alone in front and when Zajac roofed a rebound of his own shot, the game was tied.
Down a goal, smack dab in the middle of the Foxwood’s Final Five, all hope seemed lost with the Rangers pop gun offense.
But when Zajac flipped a puck over the boards, the NYR had a power play. And a chance. And unlike, most other times this season, they found the net.
With time dwindling, and Hank pulled for an extra attacker, the 6 on 4 Rangers cashed in. Chris Kreider crashed the net and seized on the loose rebound of a Ryan McDonagh shot that hit Callahan, chipping the puck over the outstretched arm of Brodeur to tie the game with :22 seconds.
As Kreider leapt in the air, the Ranger bench exploded in a euphoric swarm of hugs and high fives akin to a playoff celebration. The huge goal by the future Calder trophy winner, could have been a turning point in the Rangers season.
But on the second shift of overtime, Ryan Callahan made a terrible play. After getting walked by Andy Greene, the captain whirled his stick around carelessly and caught the Devils defenseman squarely in the mouth. The lazy swipe made no sense at all, and the captain of the club should know better than to put his team in such a terrible position with such a brainless play.
Callahan, who has been just awful this season, cost his team the chance at what could have been a turning point win. The Rangers, who still can’t figure out how to get more than one game over .500 need more from their captain. And Callahan, who has one goal in his last 11 games, and is -6 the season needs to give them more.
Armed with a four minute power play, the Devils wasted little time. Jagr sent the puck to Eric Gelinas, and the rookie defenseman blasted a clapper through a Dominic Moore screen by Lundqvist to give the Devils the OT victory.
The 41 year old Jagr was tremendous. How different would things have been if he had never left the Rangers six years ago. The other fossil in net was also excellent. After going down two goals, Brodeur was outstanding, flashing his glove like a 20 year old. The Rangers should have put the game away, but they couldn’t due to Brodeur’s play and the fact that they just don’t score. Only, Philadelphia, Nashville and the woeful Buffalo Sabres have scored less goals than the Rangers this season.
As has been the running theme this season, the Blueshirts need to find some offense. If they do not, this position they currently sit in, outside the playoffs looking, will be the position they sit in after 82 games.
RIght back at it at home vs Alex Ovechkin and the Caps Sunday.
Let’s go Rangers!