This is what makes sports so much fun. Two goals apiece for the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames in the first period Thursday night ... then nothing until the clock wound down in overtime for a stunning finish.
With 1.8 seconds remaining in the extra frame, New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh charged into the offensive zone and sent home the game-winning goal via an innocent pass off the back boards by Dan Girardi to give the Rangers an unbelievable 3-2 win, their second in a row.
New York got on the board first, with its first power-play goal of the year, a Marian Gaborik snipe, his fourth of the year, off a feed from Derek Stepan. Gaborik had a dominating performance on offense, also firing a team-high seven shots on net. But just over a minute later, Jarome Iginla got free in front of the crease and Alex Tanguay sent a perfect centering pass to him, for an easy tying goal.
Being so penalty-prone early this season, the Blueshirts have had a lot of time to practice their penalty kill. Coach John Tortorella wanted the defenders to be more aggressive in their last game, and they were on Thursday as well. Against his former team, Brandon Prust, who had five short-handed markers last year, put the Rangers ahead at 13:42 in the first. Calgary's Mark Giordano took advantage of another Rangers' penalty -- and fired a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist, who couldn't pick up the puck until too late as McDonagh was screening him in front.
Yet again, New York could not stay out of the penalty box. The Rangers took eight penalties and were forced to kill off five man advantages. Despite allowing 35 shots on net, obviously buoyed by all the sin-bin time, the defense really hunkered down in the second period and was stiff, for the most part, throughout the rest of the game. Tim Erixon, booed every time he touched the puck after he refused to sign with Calgary and essentially forced a trade, played a solid 18:12. Michael Del Zotto was pretty steady as well. Ultimately, though, the defense was led by the play of the first pairing, Dan Girardi and McDonagh, who each played over 26 minutes, and were excellent all night.