The Battle of New York 2013 lived up to the hype!
In a late-season game before a packed and raucous Nassau Coliseum that had all the flavor of a playoff contest, the Rangers came away with two points and an all important W.
Against a hungry Islanders team that clearly outplayed them for most of the night, the Blueshirts showed some moxie and won the game in OT.
Workhorse defenseman Dan Girardi scored the game winner at 3:11 of the extra session. In his own zone, Michael Del Zotto hit Derick Brassard with a break out pass. Brassard and the Rangers skated into the Isles zone three on three and as Thomas Hickey and Josh Bailey both converged on Brassard, the center sent a nifty back hand sauce to Girardi on the right wing. The defenseman took the pass at the faceoff dot and skated in on Nabokov flipping a perfect shot over the Isles goalie’s shoulder for the game winner.
The Isles were the faster club and had the clear advantage in scoring chances throughout the match. The goaltenders on both sides were excellent. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 19 of the 20 shots the Rangers fired at him and Henrik Lundqvist was a perfect 29 of 29, thwarting many more good scoring chances than his counterpart, including a huge save on a Matt Moulson change-up and a sick glove save on a Jon Tavares snipe.
This game was similar to the type of road playoff games the Rangers may find themselves in if they play well enough to make the tournament. The checking was tight and chances were limited. Hank did his part and if the Rangers had any kind of power play, they would have won this game in regulation. The Blueshirts power play (0-4) on the PP and now a measly 16% on the season will make or break the Rangers down the stretch drive and in the playoffs. This is squarely on the coach and his staff. The Rangers must find a power play.
There were some huge positives in the contest. One moment that stood out came during the waning seconds of the first period. As the horn sounded, Carl Hagelin chased the puck into the corner he was met by a Lubomir Visnovsky hit after the period ended. Typically, the punchless 2013 NYR would have let the bump go unanswered and head to locker room. But Ryan Callahan saw fit to give Visnovsky a shot and chirp that those type of hits are unacceptable against the Rangers. That is exactly what a captain should do in those situations. That type of snarl has been missing all year from all the NYR, but it was clearly back against the Isles.
The Blueshirts will also need Rick Nash to be better. Nash looked slow and tired last night an understandable condition given the fact that he has been carrying the Rangers offense on his back all year. They will also need Brad Richards to emerge from the Witness Protection program or wherever he has been hiding. Last night was the perfect opportunity for B-Rich to regain his clutch form, but he came up small yet again as he has for pretty much all of the 2013 campaign.
Henrik Lundqvist held his clutch form and is getting better as the season heads down the final stretch. His stellar performance, shutting out the Isles in such a big spot, could be the catalyst that spurs the Rangers (whose remaining schedule is very favorable) into the playoffs and makes them believe they can do some damage in the tourney. The Islanders were the better team, and the Rangers won the game. That is huge for the NYR psyche and hopefully has a huge carryover effect as they move forward.