The New York Rangers won their fourth straight game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, but even more telling is the fact that they are proving to be a versatile team, earning wins in all sorts of different fashions. On the road against the 'Canes, the Rangers received an all-around performance from up and down the roster, with 14 of 18 forwards getting points and five of six defenseman. The result was a 5-3 win.
If there's one major lesson that was taught to the Blueshirts on Thursday, it was that faceoffs -- especially in the defensive zone -- are crucial. Even if you don't win the draw, it's important not to let the puck cleanly get back to the opposing team so that they can turn it over into a quick-strike chance. Thirty-five seconds into the game, Derek Stepan lost the draw to Brendon Sutter and Jiri Trusty scored as a result.
It wasn't a great way to start the game, but the Rangers were able to answer back one minute later on a Ryan Callahan power play goal. Callahan's 10th was a prime example of how good he is at cleaning up around the net, taking a shot by Brad Richards aimed at generating a rebound and depositing it in the net. The Rangers had a solid first period, but with 28 seconds left, Jeff Skinner would give the home team a 2-1 lead.
New York stuck with it in the second period and it turned into a three-goal, unanswered outburst. Ryan McDonagh, who is infinitely more confident on the offensive side in his second season, scored his fourth of the year. Then, Marian Gaborik took a feed from Artem Anisimov for his 12th of the year. Sean Avery played another solid game and despite playing 8:37, he's really been better lately on defense and great on the fourth line with Brandon Prust and Brandon Dubinsky. In the second, though, he was out there with Gaborik, who fed him with a nice pass that Avery converted on for a goal.
The Rangers allowed Derek Joslin to score his first of the year at 17:47 off of a lost faceoff by Brian Boyle to make the final 20 minutes all the more meaningful. Despite only getting four shots on net in the frame, the Blueshirts made it count as Michael Sauer ripped a shot past Cam Ward for his first of the year. Marin Biron wasn't that sharp in the game, but did make 28 saves in the victory to improve his record to 4-1-0 on the year.
The Blueshirts now have 31 points, three behind the league-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, who have four games in hand.