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Rookie Chris Kreider might make the Rangers' lineup on Thursday when they kick off the postseason. Would it be the right move by the Blueshirts?
The 2012 NHL regular season concluded on Saturday, and the results finalized the first-round pairings and schedule for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers earned the top seed and will face the No. 8-seeded Ottawa Senators beginning on Thursday.
Over the course of the regular season, the Rangers went 1-3 against the Senators. Ottawa will feature goaltender Craig Anderson (2.84 goals against average and .914-save percentage) and top scorer Jason Spezza (34 goals, 50 assists, 84 points).
If New York is able to down Ottawa, it will move on to play the lowest remaining seed in the next round, while if the Senators earn a series victory, they will play the highest remaining seed.
Here's all at the schedule and TV coverage for this anticipated series:
|Thursday, April 12||7 p.m.||Ottawa at Rangers||NHL Network, CBC|
|Saturday, April 14||7 p.m.||Ottawa at Rangers||NBC Sports Network, CBC|
|Monday, April 16||7:30 p.m.||Rangers at Ottawa||CBC, CNBC|
|Wednesday, April 18||7:30 p.m.||Rangers at Ottawa||CBC, CNBC|
|*Saturday, April 21||7 p.m.||Ottawa at Rangers||NBC Sports Network, CBC|
|*Monday, April 23||TBD||Rangers at Ottawa||TBD|
|*Thursday, April 26||TBD||Ottawa at Rangers||TBD|
Here's how the rest of the Eastern Conference shapes out.
No. 2 Boston Bruins vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals: The Caps won the season-series 3-1.
No. 3 Florida Panthers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils: The regular-season series was split 2-2.
No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers: This inter-state rivalry featured Flyers winning the season series 4-2
Here's what the Western Conference looks like:
The New York Rangers cruised through the regular season, racking up an Eastern Conference-best 109 points and the top seed in standings heading into the playoffs. Until Saturday night, however, it was unclear whom the team would playoff in the first round.
That question has been answered, as New York will take on Ottawa when each team begins its quest for Stanley Cup glory.
The good news for New York is that they appear amongst the favorites to survive the Eastern Conference, but it wont be easy to start out against a Senators squad that defeated them on three of four occasions this regular season.
Ottawa was recently in contention with the Bruins for the Northeast Division crown, but a late season fade left them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.
The series start date will be announced in the coming days.
The Rangers are happy to be entering the playoffs as the Eastern Conference's top seed and with amongst the most points in all of hockey, but Saturday's regular season finale wasn't quite what they likely had in mind when it comes to finishing on a strong note.
New York was routed by Washington 4-1, who was playing for its postseason seeding fate.
Brian Boyle's 11th goal of the season wasn't nearly enough to kick start New York's comeback, and the Rangers fell short at home for just the 14th time this season.
Interestingly enough, these two teams could soon engage in best-of-seven playoff series, as Washington currently stands in a tie with Florida atop the Southeast Division standings with 92 points. If the Panthers are able to accumulate a point in their contest against the Hurricanes, however, the Capitals and Rangers will square off in round one of the NHL's playoffs, slated to begin next week.
New York has already clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference regardless of the outcome and could very well meet the Capitals in the first round of the playoffs. Washington can secure the Southeast Division title with a win against the Rangers on Saturday and a Florida Panthers regulation loss in their finale against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Capitals' top two goalies both went down with injuries in the past week. Tomas Vokoun re-aggravated a lower-body injury on March 29 against the Bruins and his primary backup Michal Neuvirth is day-to-day after undergoing a lower-body injury of his own. That leaves Braden Holtby as the likely goalie against the Rangers.
Saturday's contest is mostly meaningless for the Rangers, but they could stake claim to the Presidents' Trophy with a win. New York enters Saturday tied with the Vancouver Canucks at 109 points.
Brandon Dubinsky’s wrist shot in the first period tied the score at 1-1, but the tie didn’t last for long. The Penguins marched back to score three straight from Kennedy, Park and Malkin. Fedotenko and Boyle were both credited with an assist on Dubinksy’s goal and the Rangers lost to the Penguins 5-2.
Marian Gaborik point streak of six consecutive games ended Thursday night. He had scored six goals and four assists in his previous six games. Gaborik has exceeded the 40-goal mark twice now in three seasons for New York.
The Rangers had already clinched first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference on Tuesday night, but were trying to win the Presidents’ Trophy. The Rangers have previously won the coveted trophy twice in 1992 and 1994. They would have joined the Red Wings as the only NHL team to win it more than twice. The Rangers were tied with the Vancouver Canucks with 109 points going into Thursday’s game.
This was the sixth and final meeting between the two clubs on Thursday, the Rangers were looking to tie the series at an even 3 games. The Penguins end up taking the series this year 4-2-0.
The New York Rangers find themselves in a good place these days, atop the Eastern Conference standings (and locked into the first seed for the playoffs), and with the ability to rest key contributors in each of their final two regular-season contests.
What remains to be seen: a shot at the President's Cup trophy (awarded to the NHL team will the most regular-season points) and their opponent in the first round of the playoffs.
New York is tied with Vancouver at 109 points, and each squad has two games left to play. Unlike the Rangers, the Canucks haven't yet clinched the top seed in their conference, leading to the possibility that they'll skate their regulars until they are able to do so.
Three teams - Florida, Washington and Buffalo - remain in the hunt for the eighth seed in the East, although the Panthers can clinch their division and the third seed with a win against the Capitals Thursday night.
That means the Rangers are likely to take on the Sabres or Capitals when the playoffs commence, two teams with impressive talent but disappointing regular season results. New York is a combined 5-2 against Washington and Buffalo thus far this season, with a regular-season finale scheduled against the Capitals.
With two games left in the regular season, the New York Rangers theoretically may have nothing to play for after accomplishing their preseason goal of earning home-ice advantage in the playoffs. But it's no time to fall into any bad habits, and that's the most important thing as they visit the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:00 p.m. (NBCSN/MSG).
Several weeks ago it appeared that the Penguins would never lose and many considered them the best team in the Eastern Conference, despite still trailing the Rangers. Ever since, they've been beatable and as a result are essentially playing for home ice in the first round of the playoffs over their next two games. The Pens' magic number to clinch the No. 4 seed is two -- and they are likely to play the Philadelphia Flyers, but there's still a slim chance the New Jersey Devils slip into the fifth seed.
The Rangers will likely be without Henrik Lundqvist, who took a shot in the hand (on the arong side of the blocker against the Flyers in the last game. But this is probably the best time to give him some extended rest and keep Martin Biron fresh for the postseason.
New York is 2-3 versus Pittsburgh, losing three straight to it. The Blueshirts know what to expect: extreme skill up front led by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, puck-moving defensemen and a talented goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury. The Pens have three wins in their last seven games, mostly because they've allowed so many goalies with some shoddy goaltending and back-end play.
This has the makings of potentially being an eventual preview of a playoff matchup, and if one thing is certain, John Tortorella's Rangers won't be letting their foot off the gas pedal. Now is the time teams want to be playing their best hockey, and New York has spoken about constantly improving and ironing out the kinks. They are 5-1 over their last six games and 7-2 over their last nine, led by veterans Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards, an awakening Brian Boyle and other-worldy play by Lundqvist.
On Tuesday night, the New York Rangers 5-3 defeat of the Philadelphia Flyers clinches home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The win allows the Rangers to rest some players over the next week if head coach John Tortarella doesn't care about the Presidents Trophy all that much. With games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals left, it will be interesting to see how it's handled.
The standings are as follows in the East:
1) New York - 109 points
2) Boston - 98 points
3) Florida - 92 points
4) Pittsburgh - 104 points
5) Philadelphia - 101 points
6) New Jersey - 98 points
7) Ottawa - 92 points
8) Washington - 88 points
Below New York, a few spots remain up for grabs. Florida believe it or not could actually miss the playoffs if it lost both remaining games and both Buffalo and Washington won theirs.
All of the other squads have sewn up playoff berths, with the Rangers and Boston the only two completely locked into their current seed.
The New York Rangers clinched the the Atlantic Division and the best record in the Eastern Conference with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. Ilya Bryzgalov gave up four goals in the first period, giving the Rangers a 4-0 lead going into the second period that the Flyers could not overcome.
The win also completed a 6-0 season sweep by the Rangers over the Flyers. Ryan McDonagh, Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik all scored on the night. Gaborik added an assist to earn top-star honors. Henrik Lundqvist faced 40 shots on the night, and turned back all but three.
Across the ice, Bryzgalov struggled after sitting the Flyers' last three games with a foot injury. He let in five goals off of just 24 shots faced. Though rust can be blamed in part, Philadelphia has to be at least somewhat concerned with the Playoffs coming up. Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Andreas Lilja all scored on the night. Claude Giroux recorded an assist on all three tallies.
For more on the Rangers, be sure to check out our blog Blueshirt Banter.
Just one point away from clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, the New York Rangers visit the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET on MSG). A victory would help the Rangers (50-22-7, 107 points) cement their first No. 1 seed since 1993-94 and would cap an impressive, six-game series sweep of their Atlantic Division rival.
On Sunday, the Rangers magic number got smaller despite losing to the defending champions, the Boston Bruins, 2-1. That's because the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins were beaten by the Flyers (46-24-9, 101 points) in a rough-and-tumble, inter-state contest in Philly.
The Rangers now need one point to secure the East crown. New York is also trailing the Vancouver Canucks by one points for the NHL's President Cup Trophy, which is giving to the team with the best overall record.
The Flyers enter Monday's contest a bit short-handed -- a scenario they're used to by now -- as forward Danny Briere will be out with an upper-back contusion and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann will miss the final week of the regular season. It is still uncertain of starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will return after missing the past three contests because of a bone chip in his foot.
For more on the Rangers, be sure to check out our blog Blueshirt Banter.
The New York Rangers will have to wait at least two more days to clinch the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed. After the Pittsburgh Penguins lost earlier Sunday, the Rangers' magic number dropped to one. All they needed was a point. Instead they suffered a rare loss when taking a lead, falling 2-1 to the Boston Bruins at Madison Square
Despite the loss -- one that halted the team's four-game winning streak -- New York played a solid game. It was a game reminiscent of one in the playoffs -- tight checking, goalies coming up with big saves and special teams providing an impact.
The Rangers went ahead 4:33 into the game when a Zdeno Chara shot deflected off of his own teammate, spurring a Marian Gaborik breakaway goal. It was the forward's 40th goal of the season, and he now has three of them in his career -- four with the Rangers. New York controlled the beginning half of the period, then couldn't muster a
shot in the final 9:25.
Boston tied the game four minutes into the second period on a blast from Dennis Seidenberg, which went past a screened Henrik Lundqvist. Patrice Bergeron would notch the would-be game-winning goal on the power play nearly eight minutes later. While the first goal went in because of traffic in front, this one was due to a lapse in the corner. Dan Girardi had the puck, but failed to release it out of the zone, Ryan McDonagh couldn't provide ample support once Tyler Seguin stole it from Girardi and Brian Boyle couldn't stick the puck away from Bergeron. All in all, a play you look at once and then throw the tape out because it was so ugly.
The Rangers entered the third period down in shots 18-15, but put on a full assault in the third period. Only, Boston's Tim Thomas was unbeatable and was ultimately the difference. New York had 19 shots to the Bruins three, and couldn't score on an early power play (they were 0-for-3 in the game).
It was one of those games that echoes coach John Tortorella's message -- the details of the game are the most important parts of the game, and it's an area the East-leading Rangers can always continue to perfect.
For more on the Rangers, be sure to check out our blog Blueshirt Banter.
The New York Rangers could move one step closer to locking up the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs Sunday, as they play host to the defending champs, the Boston Bruins, at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network). The Rangers (50-21-7, 107 points) will also be searching for their fifth straight victory and a four-game season series sweep of the Bruins (46-28-4).
On Saturday, New York downed the Montreal Canadiens, 4-1, to move the magic number for an regular-season title to three games. Currently, the Rangers lead the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins by five games.
Meanwhile, the Bruins are 6-1-1 in their last eight games and are coming off a impressive 6-3 road victory over the New York Islanders. Boston can clinch the Northeast Division title if they match the Ottawa Senator's Sunday point total. The Senators play the Islanders earlier in the day.
Perhaps the best quality about this season's New York Rangers is that they take nothing for granted, and they never take a game off. Playoffs locked up? Doesn't matter, they want to seal up the No. 1 seed and head into the playoffs on the upswing.
Four straight games against teams with losing records? New York checked that one off its list Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens as they dominated en route to a 4-1 win. The win was the Rangers' 50th, the third time in franchise history they've reached that mark. And 107 points, the Rangers' magic number to clinch is three.
And, oh yeah, a power play that has been embarrassingly bad over the duration of the season? That hasn't gotten this team down, as it scored two times with the man advantage Friday -- and has four in the past two games and nine over its last 11. The Blueshirts deserve credit for sticking with it and finding something that works. Still, they're 28th in the league and need to sustain the success heading into the postseason for it to really count.
It sounds cliche, but besides playing your best hockey when the playoffs start, you also want your best players earning their money. Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards both continued their torrid stretches, as Gaborik notched the game's first goal via a Richards assist and Richards potted the second, on the power play.
While the Rangers struggled against the Canadiens in their previous two meetings -- losing both by a combined score of 8-1, they dictated the pace in this one. Even during a brief lull in the second period, they were able to weather their dip in play.
Michael Del Zotto has had a tremendous season, and he's been night and day from where he was last year. Friday, he sniped the third (on the power play) and fourth goal to give him 10 and 40 points on the season. He's the Rangers most gifted offensive defenseman, and it would be a huge shot in the arm for him to continue his aggressiveness during the point of the year when the games really mean something.
Henrik Lundqvist only faced 20 shots -- a credit to another strong defensive effort -- but his shutout was snapped with 2:29 left in the game as Rene Bourque snuck in the slot to receive Tomas Plekanec's pass from behind the net.
The New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens on Friday, as they continue their quest to finish the regular season with the NHL's best record. Only five games remain, and with 105 points, the Rangers trail the St. Louis Blues by a single point for the best record in the league.
The Rangers have won three consecutive games, while the Canadiens have lost two straight and five of their last six. With 72 total points, Montreal has been officially been eliminated from Playoff contention. Only the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets have less points.
Surprisingly, the Canadiens are 2-1 against the Rangers this season, including recent wins of 4-0 and 4-1 after losing the first meeting 5-3. Both teams should be well-rested – neither will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday night, the New York Rangers visited the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre. The Rangers were looking to pad their lead as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and did just that with a 4-2 win.
Both teams scored two goals each in the second period. Winnipeg opened the scoring with shots by Spencer Machacek and Bryan Little that got past Henrik Lundqvist within a minute of each other. The Little goal at 4:54 of the second period would be the last for the Jets. The Rangers were able to even things up with a shorthanded goal by Michael Del Zotto at 7:44 and a power play goal by Ryan Callahan at 18:23 that was Callahan's 28th of the season.
With the win, the Rangers now have 105 goals, far outpacing the 93 points of the Boston Bruins, who are in second place in the Eastern Conference.
It won't be easy tonight, with the Jets playoff hopes on life support. Winnipeg currently sits in 10th place in the East, eight points back of eighth-seeded Buffalo with just six games to play.
For the Rangers, it's all about beating Pittsburgh out for the top-seed. The Penguins suffered a surprising defeat last night at the hands of the Islanders, giving New York a little cushion. Up three points with only six games remaining, the Rangers could really put the hammer down with two points in Winnipeg.
Down the stretch, New York has really picked its game up going 4-1 in its last five contests. However, that level of play needs to be sustained because after tonight, the only team left on the schedule with playoff aspirations is Montreal.
It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out with the postseason set to begin in less than two weeks.
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
The New York Rangers took the lead twice over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night, but both times the Wild responded, scoring on their only two power play opportunities of the game. But Minnesota had no answer for Ruslan Fedotenko's goal with under seven minutes to play, giving the Rangers a 3-2 win.
Brian Boyle scored off an assist by Brandon Dubinsky to put the Rangers up 1-0 midway through the first period. Kyle Brodziak tied the game again three minutes into the second, however. Marian Gaborik notched his 38th tally of the year eight minutes into the second, but four minutes later Mikko Koivu was there to tie the game again going into the final period.
Henrik Lundqvist faced 26 shots against and turned back 24. On the other end of the ice, Josh Harding made 29 saves on 32 shots faced. The Rangers remain on the road Wednesday, facing the Winnipeg Jets. New York then returns home Friday to close out the week against the Montreal Canadiens.
The New York Rangers may have clinched a playoff position and there may only be seven games left in the season, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to play for. New York has home-ice advantage for at least the Eastern Conference slate of playoff games at stake -- and right now its margin is only one point as the Pittsburgh Penguins have been streaking over the past several weeks. In a sense, the playoffs have already begun.
Tuesday, the Rangers, who control their own destiny, seek to at least keep their first-place pace up when they take on the Minnesota Wild on the road at 8:00 p.m. EST (MSG). The Penguins host the New York Islanders on Tuesday as well.
The Blueshirts over the past month have been up and down: One game they look like the class of the Eastern Conference, and the next, they struggle to play to their identity. That, coupled with the Pens winning 14 of their last 16 games, has made pretty much every game a must-win for the Rangers.
At the beginning of the season, the Wild were one of the NHL's best teams. But they hit a goal-scoring wall, recording the fewest goals in the NHL at 2.01, and the goaltending hasn't been able to mask the deficiency, and they've fallen to the basement of the NHL at 31-34-10. Dany Heatley leads the team with 47 points and 21 goals; Kyle Brodziak is second with 19 and 41. To put it into perspective, Rangers have scored 51 more goals than their opponent and have four players with at least 41 (47 to be exact) points. Minnesota is coming off of two straight losses in which it was outscored 6-1. It has three wins, two via the shootout, in March. Suffice to say, the Rangers need to take care of business.
Minnesota natives Ryan McDonagh, Stu Bickel and Derek Stepan will be playing in their home state, so they'll certainly be amped up. The Rangers could use a little extra scoring from their secondary scorers, with Stepan being one of those struggling (three points, one goal in the last eight games), so maybe this is a game that can get him going.
Even though the Wild are a struggling team, the Rangers can't take them lightly. Coach John Tortorella will most likely remind his troops that they are successful when they turn their defense into offense and executive the details of the game.
Ryan Callahan - the New York Rangers venerable captain - put home his shootout attempt in the third round to push the Blue Shirts past the Toronto Maples on Saturday night, earning his team a 4-3 win and maintaing its stronghold on first place in the Atlantic Divison and Eastern Conference standings.
Marian Gaborik notched a pair of goals in regulation for New York, who was desperate for a quality effort with the Pittsburgh Penguins breathing down their neck and a night after being waxed by the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1.
Although it wasn't his best outing, Henrik Lundqvist got it done once again between the pipes for New York, stopping 22 of 25 shots on net and making a key stop of Nazem Kadri in the shootout to set up Callahan's game-winner.
The Rangers, who currently sit three points ahead of Pittsburgh, will next hit the ice on Tuesday night in Minnesota against the Wild.
Since Dec. 30, the New York Rangers have occupied the top spot in the Eastern Conference. If the chips don't fall their way Saturday, March 24, that stay as the No. 1 team could officially come to an end.
The Rangers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG+), clinging to a one-point lead. If they lose outright (not in overtime or a shootout) and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Ottawa Senators, New York will fall to fourth in the East, the first spot reserved for a non-division leader. New York has one fewer game (eight) left in the season than the Penguins, which means if the Penguins continue their recent torrid stretch (13-0-1) and the Blueshirts continue to play a bit inconsistent (4-6-0), home-ice advantage in the playoffs will not become a reality in a few weeks.
The Leafs present a grand opportunity for the Rangers, coming off a game in which they gave up three odd-man-rush goals, to feel good about their game again. New York lost the first two meetings, at home, but the won the most recent one at Air Canada Centre. It is 4-0-1 in its last five games played there. Toronto also only has eight wins since Feb. 1, a stretch that has dropped them to among the worst teams in the East -- just three points out from the basement. The Leafs are coming off a 4-3 shootout win versus the New Jersey Devils, a game that they led 2-0 and 3-1. With a very porous defense and shoddy goaltending, the chances will be there for the Rangers to create offense.
Toronto is led by Phil Kessel, who has 36 goals and 76 points, as well as Joffrey Lopul, with 25 and 67. No goaltender has a goals-against average lower than 2.87 nor a save percentage higher than .904. It has a negative-22 goal differential on the year, primarily because it has given up the third-most goals in the league (3.08).
The loss of Mats Zuccarello will be costly for the Rangers, but it's not like they haven't had season-long success without him. Ruslan Fedotenko will rejoin the lineup. The key for the Rangers for the rest of the year will be trying to find their balance on offense and getting other guys (not Marian Gaborik, Brad RIchards or even Ryan Callahan to step up. Of course, a power play not ranked 29th in the league would help. Zuccarello's loss will be felt the most there. Expect Martin Biron to get the nod in net as the Rangers set out on a three-game road trip, coming off their homestand that they went 4-3-0 on.
Every one in a while, even the best teams need reminders about the right way to play the game. Friday night versus the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers were given a harsh lesson in sticking to their defense-first style, as the Madison Square Garden visitors capitalized on a number of odd-man rushes en route to a 4-1 Blueshirts' loss.
It was a game that featured a possible No. 1 versus No. 8 playoff matchup, and the Sabres exposed the Eastern Conference's top team, even knocking out Mats Zuccarello with a broken wrist after he blocked a shot.
This was a contest that also pitted two of the league's more talented netminders -- New York's Henrik Lundqvist and Buffalo's Ryan Miller -- against each other The Rangers typically play a lot of close games and win with their defensive foundation, and the Sabres had been surging up the standings into playoff contention.
The first period was indicative of just that -- neither team found the scoresheet, the netminders made big saves and both squads played pretty solid defense. New York sustained pressure for about half of the period, with Buffalo coming on a bit more in the final 10 minutes.
Travis Turnbull's first career goal was a fluke: From along the backboards, he flung the puck, and it deflected off of John Mitchell's skate and into the net. The Rangers answered right back, though, with a marker from Brian Boyle six minutes later.
But the leaks were exposed from that point forward. Mitchell, instead of getting it deep into the Sabres' zone, turned it over in the offensive zone, and that led to the first of three-straight odd-man rush goals. Mitchell wouldn't see the ice in the third period after that mistake, but it didn't matter, as Buffalo took advantage of turnovers and poor backchecking to score two more times in the third.
The Rangers often tried to do too much in the offensive zone, and it hurt them. Their winning brand has featured a more cautious pinching approach, but against the Sabres, a number of guys were caught too deep in the zone. There's something to be said for being aggressive, but it has to be done within the system.
Zuccarello's loss is a huge one. Since his recall, he had been a much more responsible defensive player. His offensive creativity is a dimension the Rangers will, again, sorely lack. There aren't many guys on the team who can pass like he can.
New York is one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the No. 1 seed in the East.
With nine games left in the regular season, the Rangers have a one-point lead over the surging Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh has won nine of its last 10 games and recently welcomed Sidney Crosby back to the lineup, making the Penguins all the more dangerous during the stretch run.
New York handled the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday night, securing the victory 2:42 into the extra session when Ryan Callahan banged home a shot off the goal post. It was the Rangers' second straight win after they lost five of their previous seven.
Buffalo has also won two straight, including a 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
The New York Rangers needed an extra five minutes to make it happen, but they skated away with their 46th win of the season on Wednesday night, beating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1. The win gives the Blueshirts some momentum as they head into the last lap of the regular season schedule, with just nine games left to play.
Detroit struck first and early when Henrik Zetterberg scored his 19th goal of the season less than four minutes into the game. With five minutes left in the first period, Brad Richards evened the score with his 24th goal of the season. Richards' goal came with the man advantage as the Wings served a penalty for too many men on the ice.
Henrik Lundqvist turned away 26 of 27 shots for his 33rd win of the season.
The Rangers host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, before starting a three-game road trip in Toronto on Saturday.
With 10 games left in the regular season, the New York Rangers have a lot to play for. Beyond finishing the year on a strong note -- so as to carry that momentum into the playoffs -- the Blueshirts are aiming to be the Eastern Conference's first seed. Finishing No. 1 in the conference would mean they'd have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs; at Madison Square Garden this year, they are 25-9-2. Now is the time to play your best hockey.
Tuesday, they'll face the perennial Western Conference powerhouse, Detroit Red Wings in New York (NBCSN, 7:30 p.m. EST) and have a serious chance to end a string of bad games against them. The Wings have been decimated with injuries lately and have struggled as a result, but still present a big challenge for a Rangers team that has been up-and-down lately. Detroit has lost five in a row and is 2-6-1 in March. New York is coming off a well-played home win against the New Jersey Devils, but is 5-5-1 in March.
The Red Wings are missing seven players -- now including starting goalie Jimmy Howard with a groin injury -- from their lineup. Other current injured players include: Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Joey MacDonald, Darren Helm and Niklas Lidstrom. They're still an experienced and dangerous bunch and have wiped out the Rangers five straight games (and 12 of 13), though every game but one in the winning streak has been decided by one. New York is also one point ahead of the hard-charging Pittsburgh Penguins. Every game should be played with the desperation of a playoff game now.
Lately, coach John Tortorella has infused a little more offense into the lineup with Mats Zuccarello, and he's found a formidable first line with two of his big-money stars (Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards). The key is to get the secondary guys clicking, and against New Jersey, they did; none of the goals were scored by the first line. Artem Anisimov practiced Wednesday, but it's unclear whether he'll be back. His return only gives the Rangers more depth and one of their better two-way players. The Rangers will likely face Ty Conklin, who was recalled on an emergency basis with backup MacDonald also on the shelf.
New York's defense will face a tall task handling four players with 50-plus points, led by Pavel Datsyuk's 60, despite only playing 61 games. Johan Franzen's status (bad back) is also up in the air; he leads the team with 26 goals.
Henrik Lundqvist should be between the pipes for the team's fifth game of the seven-game homestand.
The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils tensions for each other came to a boil Monday, as three seconds into the tri-state match-up at Madison Square Garden the gloves were dropped, fists flew and blood was spilled on the ice.
After the brawl finished, 50 minutes worth of penalties minutes were given out, however, issues didn't seem to be resolved between each teams as the Rangers' head coach John Tortorella and Devils' headman Pete DeBoer continued to exchange blows, but with their mouths, in the post-game.
"I guess in John's world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can't do the same here," DeBoer told reporters. "He's either got short-term memory loss or he's a hypocrite."
"It's none of my business, I don't coach that team," Tortorella said of the Devils. "I do what I have to do with my team. I don't coach his team so it's none of my business."
The fight stemmed for a Dec. 20 meeting between the two Atlantic Division rivals, when Tortorella, who was the away coach and is required to set the game's starting lineup, started his fourth line of fighters. On Monday, DeBoer did the same.
Livid that DeBoer elected to start his fourth line of fighters, Tortorella was seen screaming and cursing toward the Devils bench before the puck dropped. And although Tortorella denied saying anything to DeBoer, DeBoer fired right back in a postgame press conference with reporters.
Here's the video of the Rangers, Devils fight from Monday night:
It's not often that a game starts with three concurrent fights at the puck drop, but that's what happened Monday night at Madison Square Garden as the New York Rangers hosted the New Jersey Devils, and coach John Tortorella wasn't too pleased about it. What he was enthused about was how the Rangers responded to the fighting group Devils coach Peter DeBoer threw out there, and how his squad went about playing its game en route to a 4-2 victory. If the win didn't feel good enough, being the Eastern Conference's first team to clinch the playoffs did.
It goes without saying that the Devils and Rangers hate each other. According to Henrik Lundqvist in the postgame (via the NY Daily News' Pat Leonard), Tortorella wasn't thrilled about the lineup DeBoer was beginning with, and the war began right at the opening faceoff. The Devils' coach put out his fighting/checking line to begin the game, so Tortorella was forced to throw his out there as well (and even inserted Stu Bickel at center to combat it all). And with that came the fireworks: Ryan Carter fought Bickel, Eric Boulton fought Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust took on Cam Janssen.
The bouts gave the Rangers some good life early, but their start was really reminiscient to the style they've played for most of the year. The Devils seemed to play out of their comfort zone/game plan, and the Rangers took advantage, with Brandon Dubinsky cashing in 1:11 into the first period for a goal on a four-on-two (because a few Devils were caught in the Rangers' zone throwing checks). New York controlled the flow in the first period, outshooting their opponents 13-6.
The Rangers have struggled lately to extend leads, playing a lot of close games with little room for error. So, 33 seconds in Dan Girardi took a point shot that lifted past Martin Brodeur. Lundqvist (and Martin Brodeur) had his brilliant moments. But, he also had two of his uglier one, and they came on the goals he gave up. About five minutes later the Devils cut the deficit to one on a sharp-angle goal that beat Lundqvist above the right shoulder by Patrik Elias.
But the Rangers -- probably a credit to the building and learning from their last loss, 4-1, to the Devils. -- stayed composed, and they took advantage of a penalty to make it 3-1. Mats Zuccarello, who has made a huge impact on the power play, tucked in the rebound on Ryan Callahan's shot. Yet the Devils didn't relent, as Petr Sykora beat Lundqvist again on a sharp-angled shot that was worse than the first one.
The Rangers doubled up their advantage late in the third -- at 18:50 -- as Derek Stepan converted with a great deflection just after a power play ended. New York killed off three New Jersey power plays, and went 1-for-3 on their own. They finished the game with a 27-22 shot edge, and even more notable was the 41-23 hits advantage.
This was a game in which the Devils seemed a little out of sorts, and the Rangers really imposed their style on them. New Jersey is 41-27-5 on the year and will travel to Ottawa for a game tomorrow night. The Rangers, 45-20-7, will battle the Detroit Red Wings at home on Wednesday, which should be another playoff-like test for them.
The New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils were all set to faceoff Monday night. As the two teams lined up to take the opening puck drop, words were apparently exchanged. Whatever was said led to a brawl just after the puck hit the ice. Three fights broke out simultaneously, with the the Rangers' Stu Bickel, Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust taking on the Devils' Ryan Carter, Eric Boulton and Cam Janssen, respectively.
The fight led to 50 minutes worth of penalties from the referees. Bickel actually drew blood from Carter, and Prust and Janssen were the last two to be pulled apart. Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador earned a 10-minute misconduct for trying to pull Bickel away from Carter while the two were down on the ice with Bickel still throwing punches.
Following the hubbub, Rangers coach John Tortorella and Devils coach Peter DeBoer were seen screaming at each other from their respective benches. Then the two teams actually started playing a hockey game. Brandon Dubinsky scored at the 1:11 mark of the first period to put New York on top 1-0. Coming to the close of the second period, one goal remains the difference, with the Rangers leading 3-2.
When the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers face off tonight at Madison Square Garden, they'll both have plenty on the line.
The Devils enter tonight struggling to find offense. They've scored just one goal in their last three games, winning only once. Martin Brodeur has stopped 93 of 100 shots against over that span. The losses have kept New Jersey stuck in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and they sit seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for fourth in the conference. The chances of New Jersey clinching home ice for the first round of the playoffs are slowly disappearing.
"I don't think that's (home ice) out of reach by any means," Devils captain Zach Parise told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "But they're playing well, Philly's playing well, the Rangers have been playing well all season. So, it will be a challenge, but I don't think it's out of reach by any means."
The Rangers have watched their almost insurmountable conference lead slip away. They led by 10 points just over two weeks ago, but now remain ahead of the Penguins by just one point. They've lost five of their last seven games. Captain Brandon Dubinsky said he's not worried about the sudden rough patch.
"Look, sometimes you don't play your best and you find ways to win games," he told Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record. "That's just the way it is. At the end of the season, it evens itself out."
This is the final meeting between the two rivals this season. New Jersey has won three of the five meetings, including a 4-1 victory over New York March 6. Tied 1-1 after two periods, the Devils exploded for three goals in the final period. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias led New Jersey with two points. Derek Stepan scored the Rangers' lone goal.
After an uninspiring 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he thinks tonight will give his team a jolt.
"It's a rivalry and there's an intensity to that series because of the history of the two teams and what they've been through," he told Gulitti. "I think there's genuine dislike and that all adds to the environment.
"You want to jump right right back in. They don't give you any choice but to compete and the environment, I think, will be a welcome emotional boost for us to be ready to play."
The game will be on NBC Sports Network. Faceoff is 7:30 p.m.
The New York Rangers played a winning brand of hockey Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche, they just came up on the short side of a 3-1 decision because of some other-wordly goaltending play by Semyon Varlamov. Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat when an opponent puts on a display like the 23-year-old did, making 41 saves.
The problem with this loss is that it comes in crunch time, with the Pittsburgh Penguins charging up the standings (two points behind for first place in the Eastern Conference and one fewer game played. The analysts will chalk this up as another loss for a Rangers team that has stumbled in March and has now dropped two straight. But it really wasn't.
There is no doubt that if New York puts on the offensive display, coupled with pretty stingy defense it showed against Colorado, it will be very successful as the playoffs begin. Of course, only Mats Zuccarello solved Varlamov, and it came as the game's first goal midway through the first period. But the Ranges put on a shot barrage -- 16 in the first, 10 in the second, 16 in the third -- and created chances throughout the game. Varlamov was simply the difference.
The Blueshirts allowed 20 shots in the game. Matt Hunwick took a pass from Peter Mueller at the top of the offensive zone and undressed Stu Bickel, but Gabriel Landeskog's goal 9:51 into the second period was a slick deflection that beat Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers could have been a little tighter defensively on these plays, but both were very opportunistic. The final goal was scored on an empty net.
Varlamov's performance might have been the best the Rangers have seen all season. He was positionally sound, but his athleticism allows him to be so acrobatic with some saves that he can mask some slight mistakes. The Rangers went 0-for-5 on the power play, but generated numerous chances. It was just one of those games, and it comes at the wrong time for a team looking for home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
New York hosts the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
The New York Rangers have 12 games left in their season and are coming off a game that had major Eastern Conference implications, one they lost 5-2 to the hard-charging Pittsburgh Penguins. Now just four points up in the standings (with one more game played) and with how important the No. 1 seed is, the playoff-type games have already begun for the Blueshirts.
Saturday night, the banged-up Rangers host the Colorado Avalanche at 7:00 p.m. EST (MSG). The good news is that captain Ryan Callahan will return to the lineup tonight after missing the past three with a bruised foot. Henrik Lundqvist also will be back after getting over the flu. Michael Del Zotto also appears ready to come back after missing the last few games with a hip pointer. New York has recalled hot-shot prospect Tim Erixon from the AHL, and he will be inserted in the lineup tonight, with Jeff Woywitka and Anton Stralman being scratched. Of course, the Rangers are also without Artem Anisimov, whom coach Tortorella described as being "injured" at practice yesterday and appears to have hurt his shoulder.
The Rangers have found a lethal first line with Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik filling up the scoresheet the past few games. What they do need is other lines to step up. The No. 1 line has been a force, but you're just not going to survive with one line doing everything.
Colorado (81 points), meanwhile, is hanging on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Avalanche are a young bunch that doesn't score a tremendous amount and gives up the 12th most goals in the league. They recently fell to the New Jersey Devils but had won three straight (two in overtime, one in shootout) prior to that. Colorado is led by the trio of Ryan O'Reilly (52 points), Paul Stastny (46 points) and Gabriel Landeskog, a rookie of the year contender, (with 20 goals and 46 points).
Sidney Crosby made the stat sheet in his first night back after missing 40 games due to concussion symptoms. He assisted on Chris Kunitz' goal to open up the third period, and led all players with a plus-3 rating during the Pittsburgh Penguins' 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
He spent 16 minutes on the ice, looking more or less like his former self. Defenseman Kris Letang also returned for the Pens' after a five-game absence with his own concussion issues. Pittsburgh has now won 10 straight, and looking healthier as they close the gap on the Rangers, who still sit atop Eastern Conference Standings.
Martin Biron struggled in net, starting in place of the flu-ridden Henrik Lundqvist. He stopped just 27 of 32 shots against, and the Rangers gave up five goals for the first time this season. Meanwhile, Marc Andre-Fleury had an excellent outing on the opposite end of the ice, recording 29 saves.
The Pens got on the board first, but Carl Hagelin responded 13 minutes into the first period for his 14th goal of the season. Pittsburgh pushed their lead to 3-1 before Marian Gaborik forced a one-goal game going into the third period with a 14-foot snap shot. The Rangers wouldn't get any closer the rest of the night, however, as Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis added tallies for the Penguins to close out the scoring.
Two of the Eastern Conference's heavyweights take center stage Thursday night (7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN) at Madison Square Garden -- and quite frankly, it really doesn't get any better than this.
The New York Rangers are first place in the East and second-best in the NHL. Yet in the clash against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's as if the Blueshirts are the underdogs, with something to prove to the entire league.
Maybe that perception is justified. The Penguins, six points shy of New York with one fewer game played, are riding a nine-game winning streak and are the hottest team in the NHL. They also will see their superstar captain Sidney Crosby return from concussion/neck issues. If that isn't enough, they'll get one of the best offensive blueliners in the game back as well in Kris Letang.
Pittsburgh has been successful with Crosby playing in only eight games this season (and Letang 40). The Rangers will have to show that they, too, can win with some valuable pieces out of the lineup. OK, so they don't come with the fanfare of Crosby's return, but they are vital players to how this team has been constructed. Captain Ryan Callahan will miss his third straight game with a bruised food. He may not have the offensive ability of Crosby, but he has the brand of the Rangers written all over him and is the model for what this team is all about. He plays a black-and-blue style, hits, blocks shots and plays in every situation. And he's enjoying a career year with 26 goals and 48 points, to boot. Michael Del Zotto, bruised right hip, may also miss the game, but his status is still up in the air. He's also missed three in a row. His breakout on the offensive end (35 points) has been a major shot in the arm, but his defensive play has been immeasurable. Against the Penguins, it never hurts to be fully loaded, either.
The series between what has now become a two-headed race for the Atlantic Divison and Eastern Conference began with two Rangers victories, split between home and away. New York dropped the last two (again home and away). It has also run into a brief dip (lost three in a row in regulation for the first time al year), but recently came back to win two straight, with the newly-constructed first line doing major damage. If the Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik trio can play as they have over the past two games (five points, then nine points), the Rangers will become that more dangerous (of course so long as the second line continues to put up points as well).
This game will also pit two fronterunners for the Hart Trophy in Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Lundqvist. The Pens have been led all season by Malkin, who's tied for the lead in points with 84 and also has 38 goals. And Lundqvist, assuming he's recovered from the flu, will be back in net -- with a 32-14-5 record, 1.88 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
The King will have his work cut out for him, and so will the defense, which has played very well lately. James Neal also has 31 goals, but Pittsburgh has good depth throughout the lineup, only fortified with the stars' return. Marc-Andre Fleury has also had superb year -- 37-14-3 record with a 2.26 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
When Brad Richards was signed, everyone expected him to be paired with Marian Gaborik on the New York Rangers' first line. After all, it made the most sense: Gaborik was coming off a down year and the Blueshirts lacked a true playmaking man in the middle.
But that everyone didn't include coach John Tortorella, who tried to duo out at the beginning of the year, breaking it apart until the past two games. Tuesday versus the Carolina Hurricanes, the top line with the Rangers' most talented forwards -- including Carl Hagelin -- was lethal, combining for all the goals in New York's 4-2 victory.
The Rangers entered the game with any number of built-in excuses for why they could struggle: captain Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto continued to be sidelined, and Henrik Lundqvist caught the flu, giving the nod to Martin Biron (and even causing them to call up Chad Johnson from the AHL).
But the began the game very strongly, with Gaborik cleaning up Dan Girardi's shot that banked off the backboards. That's all the scoring in a high-flying period, with the Rangers leading in shots 10-9.
Biron was called on to keep New York in the game a number of times, with a few coming midway through the third, just before Richards converted for his 22nd ... minutes before he collected his 23rd. The primary assists went toHageln. Richards' second goal was especially impressive: Hagelin took the puck in the corner, fed it to the center at a bad angle. Instead of shooting it there, though, Richards waited patiently, catching Carolina goalie Cam Ward down, with essentially an open net.
The Rangers scored two goals in three minutes, but the Hurricanes responded with two goals in 32 seconds, the first of which coming 1:33 after Richards' second. Tim Brent scored on the power play, and Drayson Bowman put in the team's second.
Over its recent lull, New York has been struggling in third periods. The Rangers, though, had a solid third period where they were aggressive instead of sitting back. Hagelin scored the insurance marker at 13:00
The top line played just as any team's top line should play. Hagelin had a goal and two assists; Gaborik a goal and two assists (each a plus-four) and Richards had two goals an an assist (plus-three). The three combined for 15 of the Rangers' 28 shots.
The Rangers' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now four points.
"I feel good and the plan is to play Thursday," Crosby told the media following practice at the team's Southpointe facility in Western Pa. "I had a good practice and I'm looking forward to getting out there Thursday."
The Rangers host Crosby and the Penguins on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The Penguins are on a nine-game winning streak and have closed the gap to just four points behind the Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Crosby has missed the last 40 games of the season while dealing with a soft-tissue neck injury. Crosby was initially thought to be suffering from concussion symptoms. Crosby has only been practicing on a full contact basis for a week. In eight games this season, Crosby has 12 points.
The Rangers-Pens series is tied at 2-2 this season but New York has lost the past two meetings.
Avery told Bravo TV host Andy Cohen during a live television show that he threw his skates into the Hudson River and has "officially retired."
The 31-year old split time this season between the Rangers and their AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale. In 15 games with the Rangers, Avery had three goals and 21 penalty minutes. He also played seven games with the Whale, totaling two goals and one assist.
He hasn't played for the Whale since Jan. 27, and has been told he no longer has to report to the team. Because he was not listed on the team's clear-day roster, he is not eligible to play in the playoffs.
The New York Rangers ended their three-game skid in dramatic fashion against the New York Islanders, needing to come back three times en route to the overtime victory. Tuesday, they'll continue their seven-game homestand with a game against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. EST (NBCSN).
For the second straight game, they'll have to deal with some roadblocks thrown their way. it appears very likely that captain Ryan Callahan and breakout defenseman Michael Del Zotto will be sidelined. New York also faces a crucial battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, thus it will need to not look past Tuesday's game or risk losing two valuable points.
The Hurricanes, 26-18-15, are 2-2-2 in March. Though they may be out of the postseason race, they certainly have the spoiler card to play throughout their remaining games. The Rangers are 3-0 versus the 'Canes this season. Eric Staal leads the team with 59 points and is tied with Jeff Skinner in goals with 19. These are the two guys the Rangers need to focus on shutting down. Carolina is among the worst in goals allowed (2.9 25th) and has one of the worst penalty kills in the league (27th). After a game in which the Rangers scored three power play goals, this is another one to build momentum on the man advantage from.
New York, 43-18-7, has a four-point lead on the Penguins. Over the past few games (even in the losses), it has returned to playing defense-first hockey and been hurt by some fluky goals. If there's one thing that the Rangers really need to improve upon, it's their power play, which ranks 28th. For a team that doesn't score a ton (2.7, 11th in the league), the power play is a great way to at least shift momentum, and at most, make teams pay for being undisciplined. Mats Zuccarello's inclusion in the lineup seemed to pay immediate dividends on the power play, so it's very likely he's back in there Tuesday.
The New York Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak, defeating the New York Islanders 4-3 on Sunday. Marian Gaborik scored the Rangers' third powerplay goal of the game in overtime to extend the Isles' losing streak to three games.
The Rangers never led in regulation. John Tavares put the Islanders up 1-0 midway through the period with his 28th goal of the season. Brad Richards responded seven minutes later with the equalizer on the Rangers' first powerplay. Matt Moulson again took the lead back in the second period, but again Richards was there to tie the game nine minutes later.
Andrew MacDonald put the Islanders up 3-2 in the closing minute of the second period, but Brian Boyle tied the game again just 3:29 into the third period for the Rangers' only even-strength goal of the game. In overtime, Gaborik put the puck over the right shoulder of Evgeni Nabokov from 17 feet away with just six seconds on the clock to give the Rangers a much-needed win. Nabokov turned back 32 of 36 shot faced. Henrik Lundqvist had just 16 saves on the night.
The New York Rangers enter their longest homestand of the year, with potentially their playoff seeding on the line. Yes, there are still 15 games remaining. But a seven games at home is significant and the Rangers are vulnerable, as they've lost three straight and have two key guys with injuries.
They'll begin to shape their playoff fortunes with a game against the New York Islanders on Saturday night (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG), and they'll have to do it without their captain, Ryan Callahan (foot), and best puck-moving defenseman, Michael Del Zotto (hip), who are both out again with nagging injuries.
The reason this homestand is so important is simple: every team has trimmed the Rangers' division and conference lead down lately. New York may technically lead the division by eight points, but the Pittsburgh Penguins' chase is more noteworthy as they're just four points back and 9-1-0 (compared to the Rangers' 4-4-2) in their last 10 games. Earning the first seed also means the Rangers likely avoid one of the teams in their division, which is one of the better ones in the NHL, in the first round of the playoffs.
The Rangers have recalled Mats Zuccarrello, who had 12 goals and 24 assists in the AHL, presumably because they need to add some offensive creativity up front. But Callahan's loss is huge -- he plays in every situation and embodies the Rangers' style -- and a bit worrisome, considering he missed several games then returned for the last two. He really needs to sit until it's significantly improved. The Blueshirts will also miss Del Zotto, who has emerged with 35 points this year and has been in and out of the lineup lately as well.
The Islanders like nothing more than to spoil their rivals' chances. They just played the Devils three times in a row, won the first and lost the last two, with the latter coming in the final minute as they had a 1-0 lead. They are 2-3-0 (with a shootout win) against the Rangers this season, and are led by a trio up front of John Tavares (64 points), P.A. Parenteau (60 points) and Matt Moulson (28 goals, 57 points).
Friday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Rangers did something they haven't been a part of all season -- 67 games -- and that's lose three in a row in regulation. For much of the game, some of the Rangers' bite and defensive play returned, but again, the third time in a row, they collapsed in the third period, allowing three unanswered en route to a 4-3 loss.
Fans will flip on the "alarm" button with this loss. The Rangers' lead in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division continues to shrink, the Pittsburgh Penguins' victory helping that cause as they won their eighth in a row and pulled within four points. New York has also won only four of 10.
By no means is this sugarcoating anything, but New York's play this season has brought along some very high expectations, and rightfully so. Even the best teams, though, have dips in their game: the Hawks lost nine in a row at one point and the Pens six in a row. The good teams come out of it stronger, making improvements to their game and improving from their mistakes.
Chicago, 37-25-7, has a tremendous home record, 23-7-4, and was going to be a tough test for the Rangers. New York actually played a decent defense for much of the game, limiting Chicago to 22 shots, though Henrik Lundqvist was called upon to make a number of key saves.
Artem Anisimov got the Rangers on the board first in the winding seconds of the first 20 minutes. It was something to build from, but the Rangers couldn't get the all-important second goal, instead ceding it to Andrew Shaw at 14:28 of the period.
But the Rangers showed their resiliency, even in the midst of their struggles, by getting the go-ahead goal at 7:11 of the third period. Brandon Prust scored his seventh. That lead lasted six minutes, however, as Patrick Sharp potted one ... prompting the floodgates to open for three straight (the last one coming with an empty net). Brad Richards scored the third goal with 41 seconds left, but the Rangers weren't able to break through again with the extra attacker.
Over the last three games, the Rangers have given up eight goals (granted two empty-netters) in the third period. They've also only scored five goals, though they definitely showed improvement in that regard versus the Blackhawks.
The Rangers will play the New York Islanders next at home, which is the first in a seven-game homestand.
The New York Rangers travel to the Windy City on Friday night (8:30 p.m., MSG) to play the Chicago Blackhawks and hope to find their winning formula along the way. Their second straight 4-1 loss, the latest against the Ottawa Senators, was also the first time in about three months they lost two straight in regulation time. Coach John Tortorella put it best in his postgame interview when he said he thought the Rangers were "beating ourselves in a game and finding ways to lose right now."
Thursday's effort was improved over the loss to the Devils, at least for the first two periods: New York outshot the Senators 17-7 entering the third period, but were down 2-1. It then all fell apart in the third. The Rangers were a victim to a quick-strike Senators offense that jumped on the Rangers' turnovers. The Blackhawks, even without captain Jonathan Toews, are another offense that can score goals at will. They've scored the eighth-most goals in the league, with their Achilles heel being some shoddy goaltending and back-end play. In their only meeting this year, Chicago defeated New York, 4-2, with four goals coming in a forgetful first period.
The Rangers shouldn't focus on what is going on elsewhere in the standings. Thursday, nearly every close competitor won and their Atlantic Divison lead shrunk to seven points, the Eastern Conference lead to eight points. If they just go about their business, return to their gritty, hard-working style, the wins should return. One aspect that would really help the club is if the power play found some sort of way to generate momentum -- not even offense. It ranks 29th right now and went 0-for-4 against the Senators. At this point, it's becoming more of a frustration for the team because it can't getting anything positive done on it.
Henrik Lundqvist will be between the pipes. The team will have to focus on playing on both ends of the ice, as the Hawks have three 50-plus-point scorers and two 25-plus scorers in the lineup, led by Marian Hossa's 64 points. And after scoring just two goals over their last two games, the Rangers would like to break out against Chicago, especially with such a busy month ahead.
The New York Rangers lost their third game in their last four tries on Thursday night, falling 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators. Martin Biron started in net in place of Henrik Lundqvist and struggled, recording 18 saves on 21 shots faced.
Ryan Callahan put the Rangers up 1-0 momentarily, scoring on a wristshot in close off an assist by Brad Richards. Zack Smith put the Senators on the board just over minute later on a long slapshot assisted by Condra. Nick Foligno scored at the end of the first period to put Ottawa up for good.
After a scoreless second period, Kyle Turris put the Senators up 3-1 with his ninth goal of the season. Jason Spezza padded the score even further with an empty-netter for 29th tally of the year. The Rangers finish up their three-game road stand at Chicago on Friday, before heading home for seven straight games.
With 17 games left in the season, the New York Rangers may technically be the best team in the NHL. Their lead in the Eastern Conference may be 10 points and their postseason chances may be locked up. But the rest of the year offers great opportunity, and the Rangers have a lot to play for. And that's first place in the Eastern Conference and the chance to avoid some of the Atlantic Division's feisty teams.
Thus, Thursday night's game (7:30 p.m. EST, MSG) at the Ottawa Senators carries significant meaning, more so because the Pittsburgh Penguins are just six points behind the Blueshirts. Inconsistent play could mean the Rangers fall to second in the division -- but worst of all, drop to fourth in the conference and practically guarantee themselves a series with the Philadelphia Flyers or New Jersey Devils.
New York has been a very consistent team this season, and its success has stemmed from some steady defense and solid goaltending. It has alternated wins over the past week, however, because that defense has not made the simple and smart play. The forecheck has also been lacking.
The Senators, seventh place in the conference, present a great test because the Rangers have had trouble with them all season as the 1-1-1 record suggests. Ottawa had begun the month with two consecutive losses, but recently demolished the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-3. They Senators are comfortably in the playoffs, but have some postseason positioning on the line, so there's a lot to play for.
Ottawa, led by Milan Michalek's 32 goals, Jason Spezza's 72 points and Daniel Alfredsson's 68 points, ranks sixth in the league in scoring -- and sixth in goals given up. The Rangers will get their scoring chances, but it must all start with sound play in the defensive end.
The New York Rangers played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, and the New Jersey Devils took full advantage Tuesday night at Prudential Center by routing the NHL's top team 4-1 thanks in large part to a 3-goal third period.
At the Rangers' morning skate prior to the game Tuesday, coach John Tortorella told the press that despite New York's record, he saw a lot of room for improvement in his club, saying they needed to work on "everything." Those words seem prophetic now, as a lack of defensive structure and puck discipline resulted in a very discouraging loss for the Rangers.
The first goal was a warning to the Blueshirts that this one could be a long one, as Ilya Kovalchuk pounced on a puck Marian Gaborik lost in the neutral zone, then proceeded to make a number of Rangers players look foolish. The last of which was Ryan McDonagh, who fell down on the play. Kovalchuk, 26 goals, was all over the ice, finishing with a game-high eight shots on goal while breaking his 10-game goalless streak.
About two minutes after the goal, Brandon Dubinsky fought Ryan Carter and left the game after injuring his hand. It was another sign of the Rangers being undisciplined; there was no need for Dubinsky to fight there, and now it may cost him down the line. (The team will update his status Wednesday.)
New York may have only trailed by two in shots (11-9), but it was lucky to go to the break only down one goal as the Devils thoroughly dominated the pace of the period.
The Rangers looked like a different team in the second period, as a run of slow starts followed up by kicking the effort up a notch in later periods continued. Carl Hagelin stole a puck from a Devils defender behind the night and passed it to Derek Stepan in point-blank range for a hight wrist shot on Martin Brodeur to tie the game. The Rangers finished the period outshooting New Jersey 14-7, and that was pretty indicative of the play. Brodeur had 25 saves.
However, the third period was an ugly one if you were a New York fan. David Clarkson scored his 26th goal when Petr Sykora's shot deflected off his leg. Ryan Carter then scored on the Devils' next shot via a Dan Girardi turnover to pretty much put the game out of reach just 4:21 into the period. Henrik Lundqvist finished the game with 23 saves.
The Rangers held the score at 3-1, and they had a chance to gain some momentum on a power play four minutes after the Devils' third goal. But the man advantage came up empty as New Jersey tightened up its defense (allowing only three shots all period) and Patrik Elias potted the empty-netter to put the nail in the Rangers' coffin.
The season series now sits 3-2 in favor of New Jersey, with the final game to be played at Madison Square Garden in mid-March. The win gave the Devils a 37-24-5 record and 79 points, 12 behind the Rangers, who have a 41-16-7 record on the year.
For more on the Devils, check out the SB Nation blog In Lou We Trust.
The New York Rangers are officially the NHL's best team but getting there wasn't easy. They jumped out to a quick two-goal lead in the first period against the Eastern Conference's No. 2 team, the Boston Bruins, but ended up needing two third-period markers -- and pivotal one by Derek Stepan -- to come away with the 4-3 win at Madison Square Garden.
In a first period with three fights, New York quickly got on the board 5:05 in when Ruslan Fedotenko deflected Anton Stralman's point shot past Tim Thomas. It got another one as Carl Hagelin wrapped in a shot off of defender Greg Zanon via a very smart cross-ice dump in from Brad Richards. For a team that prides itself on hard work and winning puck battles, the Rangers did that for the first half of the first period. The Bruins called a timeout following the second goal, and Benoit Pouliot potted an easy one when Anton Stralman decided to clear the puck up the middle instead of down the boards, beating Henrik Lundqvist through the five-hole. New York went into the first intermission up 2-1 as Boston really got things together after it regrouped.
The Rangers allowed a quick goal from Jordan Caron 1:40 into the second period on another bone-headed play. Dan Girardi got fooled on a Bruins' line change, decided to clear the puck cross-ice out of the zone and it was intercepted by Caron, who slapped it by Lundqvist. New York was thoroughly outplayed in the second period, down 10-3 in shots and 24-11 in the game. It was lucky to get out of the second period with the lead.
Credit the Blueshirts, as they have all season, for sticking with the gameplan and staying composed. They'd frittered away a two-goal lead, but just had to win one more period to come out with the win, and that's what they did. Marian Gaborik deposited his 32nd on a hard-working, winning-battles-type shift at 3:14 of the third period, and it looked like New York was well on its way to pushing their lead to 12 points on the Bruins. But David Krejci answered back about eight minutes later as a diving Girardi half deflected an odd-man rush pass right to the center for the easy goal.
Not even a minute later, the resilient Rangers answered right back. Stepan took a pass from Michael Del Zotto and roofed a wicked wrist shot to the top right corner of the net, beating Thomas glove-side.
New York held on, improving its record to 42-15-7, 91 points. And as much as Lundqvist seemed to have problems controlling rebounds, he made 30 saves and was the reason the Rangers had a chance to prevail. Even more impressive is that they've beaten the Bruins three times this season, and this time they did it without their heart-and-soul player.
The New York Rangers are facing the toughest part of their schedule -- one of the busiest months, plus trying to preserve their lead in the Eastern Conference. But now they'll have to do so facing another test, one they've been lucky to escape for much of the season -- and that's injuries. Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. EST) at home versus the Boston Bruins (NBC) New York could go to battle with a few starters missing from the lineup.
Ryan Callahan missed this second game of the year against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a bruised foot and Micheal Del Zotto missed his first with a sore right hip. But a few others were added to the "injury report" and that was Dan Girardi (bruised arm) and Ruslan Fedotenko (foot injury). Those two are pretty much locks to play, but the point remains the same: The Blueshirts play a very physical, wear-you-down style and they sacrifice their bodies a lot. They've been fortunate on the injury front this season. And they need to get guys like Callahan and Del Zotto right before the postseason.
The Bruins, 38-22-3, are 10 points behind the Rangers for first place in the Eastern Conference. They technically have the third-most points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, but because they're conference leaders, they get the No. 2 spot. Boston had a very up-and-down February. They only won three games in regulation -- and went 5-7-1 during the month. They've started March with an overtime win against the New Jersey Devils and a 3-2 loss versus the New York Islanders. There's no doubt they will really come with a chip on their shoulders at the Rangers.
The Blueshirts, 41-15-7, are 3-0-1 in their last four games. Marian Gaborik leads the team with 57 points and 31 goals. Boston, a very well-rounded, high-scoring bunch, is led by Patrice Bergeron with 53 points and Brad Marchand's 22 goals.
New York won the first two meetings on the road, 3-2 in overtime and most recently, 3-0. The players should really get a taste of Madison Square Garden playoff atmosphere in this one.
The New York Rangers blew a two-goal lead Friday night and fell 4-3 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Ryan Malone scored a goal less than two minutes into the overtime period to lift the Lightning past the Rangers. The loss was the first of the season for New York after scoring the first goal of the game. Marion Gaborik scored his 31st goal of the season and notched an assist, while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves in what was a losing cause.
The New York Rangers will travel to Tampa Bay to face the Lightning on Friday night, as they look to build on their sparkling 41-15-6 record. With 88 points on the season, the Rangers trail only the Vancouver Canucks with 90, but have one less loss and two less overtime losses than the Canucks.
The Rangers have won three consecutive games, including a three to two win over the Hurricanes on Thursday night. On Friday, the Rangers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, both on the road. The Rangers are 8-2 in back-to-backs this season.
The Lightning are also coming off consecutive wins, most recently against the Canadians on Tuesday. At 29-26-6 with 64 points, they trail the eight-seed Winnipeg Jets by six points with less then 20 games remaining in the season.
These two teams have already met three times times this season, games in which the Rangers are 2-1. One game went to overtime and one went to a shootout.
Raleigh, NC (Sports Network) - Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist as the New York Rangers edged the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, in NHL action Thursday night at RBC Center.
"[Biron] made some key saves at real important times of the game when we had some real struggles," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said. "It was one of his better games."
The Hurricanes started the second period on the power play after Brandon Dubinsky's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty within the final minute of the first carried over and they took advantage 58 seconds into the middle stanza on Skinner's slap shot from the high slot that snuck in between the pads of Biron.
But New York answered with a goal at the 8:21 mark of the second period when Gaborik raced down the left side of the ice before feeding a pass to the top of the left circle, where Anisimov snapped a shot into the top-right corner.
Then, with 5:07 left in the second, Derek Stepan took a shot from the right of the net that deflected into the air off the glove of Ward and was batted into the net by Gaborik after it landed behind the goaltender to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Prust gave New York a two-goal cushion at the 1:57 mark of the third period when he finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Brian Boyle.
Carolina was given a four-minute power play with 5:53 remaining in the third period after a high sticking double minor to the Rangers' John Mitchell, but it failed to take advantage, even pulling Ward for the majority of the final two minutes for a 6-on-4 advantage.
Thursday night's game for the New York Rangers at the Carolina Hurricanes (7:00 p.m. EST) is a game of firsts -- both good and bad. They'll play their first game of the season without captain Ryan Callahan, who is day-to-day with a bruised foot. Newly acquired forward/defenseman John Scott will make his Rangers debut. Marc Staal will also play his brother, Eric, for the first time since he suffered a concussion from his hit. New York is 2-0 versus Carolina this season.
Most importantly for the Rangers: they can ill-afford a letdown this month when they play 17 games in 30 days with a bunch of back-to-backs and three games in four nights. For the Eastern Conference's best team, it's a great test and the string of games should flow nicely into the playoffs -- hopefully with momentum n New York's side.
The Hurricanes, 24-26-13, were sellers at the deadline and are eight points back of a playoff spot. They've got about the same goals scored per game as the Rangers, but the difference lies in the fact they've given up the eighth-most goals in the NHL. February has been their best month and is another reason why New York cannot take them lightly. The Cans have lost just once in regulation -- 6-1-4. After starting the season very slowly, Staal has really picked it up with 54 points and a team-leading 19 goals. Jeff Skinner comes in at a far second with 34 points and 16 goals, though he's only played in 47 games because of a concussion.
Based on the way coach John Tortorella utilizes his lines, you can expect that the fourth line, with Scott and Mike Rupp, gets very little time. Ruslan Fedotenko will occupy Callahan's normal spot on the Mike Richards-Carl Hagelin line, though I would expect John Mitchell to get bounced up there from time to time.
Martin Biron receives the start on the first of a back-to-back really looking to get back on track. He has one win in his last four starts -- none particularly taxing -- and hasn't allowed fewer than three in any of them.
If you're a hockey fan down to the core, then you enjoyed Monday night's game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, one with 28 combined shots. If you're a Rangers fan disappointed with the squad not bringing in Columbus star Rick Nash, then this should be a reminder that they can win games because they're so fundamentally sound on defense and have a Vezina Trophy-worthy goaltender. The Devils got a taste of that in their 2-0 loss at Madison Square Garden, as Henrik Lundqvist made 15 saves for his eighth shutout of the year and the defense was smothering all night long.
Let's just set this straight: Neither team was particularly impressive on offense, and that was 100 percent due to the defensive-zone play of both sides, which limited both teams' ability to generate quality scoring chances.
What the Rangers did do, however, was take advantage of some soft coverage early on in the first, and they rode the lead throughout the game. Carl Hagelin's 11th of the year came on solid board play from Dan Girardi, who sent the puck down low to Ryan Callahan, who then freed himself for the tap pass to Hagelin at the side of the crease. The rookie quickly shot a bad-angle shot on Martin Brodeur, who was slow to cover the left post.
Callahan would pot the empty netter in the closing minute.
There obviously wasn't much offense in this one: the Rangers only finished with a 15 to 13 edge, but there was enough physicality (37 hits to 24), especially in the second period when their were two fights and 42 total penalty minutes.
Each team had their chances to find the back of the net, but there were none better than Ilya Kovalchuk's in the third period. Flying down the left flank he wristed a high-rising shot that Lundqvist snared with his glove.
New Jersey has hit a slight lull in its game, losing the past three games. The Rangers haven't played very well over the past two weeks, but this was a return to their defensive minded hockey. New York blanketed the Devils forwards all night, keeping their top dogs quiet throughout, and controlled the neutral zone for the most part. There were very few plus scoring chances, and probably no second-chance ones. New York has won two straight.
The Rangers will be looking for their 100th all-time win in the series with the Devils. The series has been tight as of late with 11 of the past 15 meetings having been decided by two goals or less. The series stands at 99-83-27-6 in favor of New York. However, the Devils lead the series this season 2-1.
The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference entering the game. New York won their last game while the Devils are looking to avoid losing three in a row in regulation for the first time in nearly three months.
Martin Brodeur might be in net for the Devils although he hasn't appeared on consecutive days all season. Brodeur remains the best option between the pipes for New Jersey on the road. In his last 11 road games this season, Brodeur has gone 9-0-1 with a 1.84 GAA. Rangers winger Ryan Callahan is fresh off his 100th goal of his career and will be looking to get his 25th goal this season on Monday.
Trailing 2-1 after an early third period goal, Marion Gaborik tied the game for the Blueshirts with his 29th goal, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist would do his part from there. Lundqvist needed to make only 18 saves on 20 shots, but was sharp when it mattered most and stifled the Sabres late.
The win widens the Rangers' gap at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, and they are now seven points clear of second place Boston, whom New York has beaten in both of its meetings thus far this season.
New York takes the ice again on Monday night when they play host to the New Jersey Devils.
The New York Rangers have one more game to play to give the organization an idea of what it needs as the playoff run heats up. Saturday, the Rangers host the Buffalo Sabres (7:00 p.m. EST) in the the midst of one of their worst funks of the season.
The Rangers (38-15-6) have gone 1-2-1 over their last four games -- the first time all year they haven't won a game in regulation over a four-game spurt. Their only win was against the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime. Other than that, New York has scored seven goals and allowed 13. New York likely will be open to adding a scorer, but that player should really be someone whom the Rangers don't have to part with the core and the farm for. Columbus' Rick Nash has been the name thrown around, but general manager Glen Sather is said to not be a fan of what he has to give up. We'll see in two days if Sather's stance changes or not.
The Sabres (27-27-7) have been one of the league's most disappointing teams, but they've played better lately and are now just five points out of a playoff spot. Buffalo has won three straight, and like New York will be playing the second of a back-to-back set. The main key for the Sabres has been the play of goaltender Ryan Miller (2.7- goals-against average, .910 save percentage), as the All-Star break seems to have refreshed him and gotten him back on track.
The Rangers' objective needs to be to play a simpler game, focusing on making the simple passes and executing their forechecking/cycling game plan. They were sloppy in their shootout loss to the Islanders and were taken advantage of because of it.
With three days left until the NHL trade deadline, even the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers are providing their last rehearsals for the main event, which is the stretch run and playoffs. Over the last four games (1-2-1) though, the Rangers have looked anything but the dominating team they've been over the entire season, the latest a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, who are also looking to make a run at the postseason.
The Isles tend to bring out the worst in the Rangers and Friday night was no different. The Blueshirts were sloppy -- passes weren't connecting and defensive coverage was shaky. They dug themselves a deep hole early, giving up two goals in a 2-minute, 35-second span early in the first. Matt Moulson sniped his 26th and P.A. Parenteau followed up with his 13th. Martin Biron seemed headed for an early night but actually settled in to make 24 saves. Marc Staal's power play marker gave the Rangers some life, but it was far from one of their most crisp contests.
Parenteau would score at 8:11 of the second period on the power play after Michael Del Zotto received a penalty for throwing the stick to Brian Boyle, who had lost it during a previous play. But even on this night, when the Rangers looked more like a team battling for a playoff spot instead of comfortably in one, the Blueshirts were resilient. Marian Gaborik scored his 28th on a breakaway with a back-handed move. Derek Stepan Scored five minutes later to tie it up at 3. New York's power play was 2-for-2 at that point, though it finished 2-for-5.
The Rangers outshot the Islanders 12-6 in the third period, but couldn't find the back of the net for the decisive marker. Evgeni Nabokov was sturdy in net, making 33 saves.
The Islanders finished with 16 giveaways to the Rangers' 11, but the Islanders had 12 takeaways to the Blueshirts six. In a sense, clawing back in a game that you never led is a silver lining. But the Rangers are showing they're far from a sure thing in the Eastern Conference lately. This is the first four-game stretch without a regulation win. Their struggles may have come at a good time, as general manager Glen Sather can add a piece or two at the deadling to jumpstart his group. The risk lies in the fact it may also encourage him to overspend and potentially damage the core of this team.
Don't consider Friday night's game (7:00 p.m., MSG) between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders a meaningless one because the Rangers are 13 points ahead. In a way, it could be a season-defining one for both teams, but in very different ways.
The Blueshirts have taken the NHL by storm this year, with 81 points, leading the Eastern Conference. They've come together quicker than anyone could have imagined and their play has them thinking of a deep run in the playoffs. But, they've been shut out three times over their last 10 games and do not have a regulation win over a three-game spurt for the first time since the first three games of the season. General manager Glen Sather is likely to be active come the Feb. 27 trade deadline, but how active and how much of an impact player he signs will be heavily influenced by New York's play Friday against the Islanders and Satuarday versus the Buffalo Sabres. If the Rangers slump, does he go hard after Rick Nash? If they play well, does he go for more of a rental-type addition?
The Islanders, on the other hand, are eight points out of a playoff spot. That may seem like a significant hurdle, but with 22 games to play and a bottom-half of an Eastern Conference that has struggled to separate themselves, they do have a chance to make a run. If they want to look like a serious threat, they'll need a good showing versus their rivals.
Typically, when these teams play, it rarely matters where you're located in the standings. It brings out the best (and worst) of each. They're emotional and often the Rangers get away what makes them so successful. It will be interesting to see whether their season-long maturity will be shown against the Isles, or whether the Islanders will get under their skin a bit. The Blueshirts need to continue to pound the puck underneath the hashmarks and cycle to expose some very shoddy Islanders defense.
The Rangers are 3-1-0 versus the Islanders this season and 19-8-3 on the road. The Islanders are 13-14-5 at home and led by John Tavares, who has 58 points, Matt Moulson (25 goals, 50 points) and P.A. Parenteau, who has 54 points. The Rangers certainly have a more well rounded offense and can roll four lines out and not see them as liabilities. Marian Gaborik leads the way with 27 goals and 50 points.
The New York Rangers had no answer for Marc-Andre Fleury Tuesday night. The Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender tied a franchise record with his 22nd career shutout win, stopping 27 shots on goal. Evgeni Malkin added a goal and an assist, leading the the Pens to a 2-0 victory at CONSOL Energy Center.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots, but couldn't quite match Fleury's brilliance. He had little chance when Malkin broke loose early in the second period. Malkin's backhand was his NHL-leading 33rd goal of the season. Steve Sullivan notched the Pens' second tally during a power play on a long slapshot with just over nine minutes left in the second.
New York lost for the second time in three games after having fallen 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks two days before beating the Columbus Blue Jackets last Sunday. They will look to rebound during Friday's showdown against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
The New York Rangers lead the Eastern Conference by nine points, but each game they do something even more impressive than the next. Against the Blue Jackets, the Rangers bounced back after a loss to the Blackhawks, with one of their stingiest defensive efforts. They'll need to carry that along when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins and all their firepower Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. EST at CONSOL Energy Center (MSG). The Rangers are 5-0-0 since the arena opened.
The Pens have the sixth best offense in the league, led by the NHL's leading point-getter, Evgeni Malkin. The center has 32 goals, second in the league, and 71 points, three above second place. He's lethal and without a concerted group effort, is hard to keep in check. The task for every team facing the Penguins is containing him. New York needs to be physical and take away his space on the ice -- goals easier said than done.
The Pens are 4-4-1 in February and are coming off a dispiriting 6-2 defeat by the lowly Buffalo Sabres. Not only are they chomping at the bit to get back to winning hockey, they're looking to do so against their Atlantic Division rivals. Pittsburgh has 71 points, 10 fewer than New York.
The key to the Rangers' success of late has been the play of their young contributors and their team defense/goaltending. Artem Anisimov has awoken in Februrary, with four of his 11 goals and seven of his 29 points coming this month. Derek Stepan has been steady as well with 12 goals and 38 points. Probably their most improved player this year, Michael Del Zotto has 32 points and a plus-28 rating. His offensive aptitude is off the charts, and his defensive game has grown drastically. The Rangers still need more from rumored trade bait, Brandon Dubinsky, who has only 25 points.
New York is 2-1 versus the Penguins this season, with the loss coming on home ice. The Rangers are 19-7-3 on the road, while Pittsburgh is 17-8-2 on the road. Expect this one to be an enjoyable, emotionally charged contest.
After falling at home Thursday, the New York Rangers desperately wanted to avoid its first losing streak since December.
A blown 2-1 lead late in regulation was the last thing the Rangers wanted to see, though Derek Stepan reversed their fortunes with the game-winning goal in New York's (38-14-5, 81 pts) 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets (17-35-7, 41 pts) Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
After Michael Del Zotto faked a shot and fired a backdoor pass to Stepan, the 21-year-old center fired the puck past Columbus goaltender Steve Mason for the game-winner 22 seconds into overtime. Mason stopped 32 shots on the night, while New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist saved 21.
Rick Nash, Columbus' captain and a potential trade target for New York, tied the game up at 2-2 with 1:33 remaining in regulation. Nash's goal prompted chants of "We don't want you" from the Garden crowd.
The New York Rangers are coming off a game that should serve as a teaching lesson, and there's no better team in the NHL to start up another winning streak than the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets. The two clash Sunday night at 8 p.m. at Madison Square Garden (MSG).
New York was blitzed for four goals in the first period -- less than ten minutes in -- against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. There were more odd-man rushes and defensive breakdowns during that span than the Rangers seemingly have had all season. It leads you to believe it was just an anomaly, especially because they're still the Eastern Conference's best team with a 37-14-5 record and have prided themselves on defensive play. They also locked it down after the first period and resembled the team they've been all year.
Columbus has only 40 points this season, 10 worse than the second worst team in the NHL. It is also coming off a loss to Chicago, a 6-1 drubbing. It has a very low-scoring offense -- with its best offensive players, Rick Nash and Jeff Carter being dangled in trade talks. The Rangers are said to be interested in the Nash, a power forward, but are reluctant to part with the young talent to get him, and rightfully so. Nash leads the team with 39 points and ex-Ranger Vinny Prospal is second with 35.
Henrik Lundqvist will get the nod in net for the Rangers. Marian Gaborik, with 27 goals and 49 points, leads the way, but it's the play of the non-stars (such as Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin) that will define the offense. It's also an opportunity for the Rangers to generate scoring on their 27th-ranked power play, as the Blue Jackets have the worst penalty-killing unit.
The Chicago Blackhawks tallied four first-period goals and never looked back in downing the New York Rangers 4-2 in the inter-conference contest Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers (37-14-5, 79 points) had their four-game winning streak end, while the Blackhawks (30-21-7, 69 points) snapped a nine-game skid.
Jonathan Toews scored the game's first goal on a penalty shot against New York backup goaltender Martin Biron, who allowed three more in the period. The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers' early hole was just too much to overcome, as Marc Staal tallied a goal in the second period, while Carl Hagelin added another in the third, but it was a little too late for the Blueshirts.
Overall, the Rangers outshot the Blackhawks, 26-23, but finished 0-for-7 on power-play.
On Sunday, the Rangers host the Columbus Blue Jackets (8 p.m. ET).
The Chicago Blackhawks have dropped four of their last five against the New York Rangers, and they haven't won at Madison Square Garden since 2002. TO make matters worse, they're in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, their worst since one in January. The Rangers, meanwhile, have won four straight and look for their fifth five-or-more-game win streak this season when they host the Hawks at 7:00 p.m. EST (MSG).
Prior to this season, the Blackhawks were considered one of the top-tier teams in the Western Conference. They were for a good portion of the season, but in the ultra-competetive West, they've now fallen just two points above the playoff cutoff. Suffice to say, that even in this funk, New York should expect some urgency and desperation from its opponent.
The Hawks boast an abundance of offense, which makes it hard to hone in one one player or one line. Veteran Marian Hossa leads the way with 54 points, while captain Jonathan Toews paces the squad with 27 goals (though he also has 52 points). Four players have 45 or more points. They are fifth in the league in scoring, compared to 10th for the Rangers. The difference, however, lies in their poor defensive play and goaltending, as they also lot in at fourth in the league in giving up the most goals. New York is second best in preventing goals, allowing 1.93 per game.
If the Rangers want to continue to silence the experts who say they need to add Rick Nash to really buoy their scoring, they'll keep doing what they're doing -- and that is getting contributions from the secondary players. Marian Gaborik has 27 goals and 49 points and Ryan Callahan has 23 and 42. Brad Richards has also played better lately, though the play of Artem Anisimov (10, 28) and Brandon Dubinsky, who has three assists in his last two games but one goal in his last 13 games) will really shape how New York fares.
Henrik Lundqvist was the difference Tuesday night in the New York Rangers' 3-0 win over the Boston Bruins. Lundqvist played possibly his best game of the year in earning his seventh shutout, making 42 saves, as the Blueshirts extended their Eastern Conference lead to nine points. The shot discrepancy was more than double -- New York only had 20 shots -- but the Rangers played their physical style, blocked shots and were opportunistic, capitalizing on a few Bruins mistakes.
Callahan continued his red-hot stretch with his 23rd goal of the year midway through the first on the power play. It was an exact replica of the goal that was scored in Philadelphia on Saturday: tic-tac-toe passing -- this time, by Marian Gaborik and Michael Del Zotto, who had the beautiful pass to the captain for the easy tap in. Callahan now has six goals in his last four games.
New York needs consistent efforts from its secondary scorers and needs a power play that strikes fear into opponents if they're going to go deep this season. A 37-13-5 record certainly means the Rangers have been doing things the right way, but lately they've gotten scoring from their power play and goals from outside of Gabrik, Brad Richards and Callahan. Tuesday, Artem Anisimov notched his 100th career points with his 10th goal of the year off a nice play in the defensive zone by Brandon Dubinsky that set Anisimov up with the 2-on-1 in which he faked the shot and then beat Tim Thomas far side.
But the story of this game was Lundqvist. Pick a period: He was a difference maker. The Rangers were outshot 14 to 5 in the second period and 18 to 3 in the third period. It didn't matter because the All-Star and Vezina Trophy frontrunner made saves in every fashion imaginable. It's this type of play that sets the Rangers apart from other playoff teams -- there's no other way to put it: he can flat-out steal a game.
The New York Rangers have only lost two times in nine games since they played the Boston Bruins at the end of January, extending their Eastern Conference lead to seven points (77 to 70)over their rivals. Even though Boston has played .500 hockey (4-4-1) -- including their 3-2 overtime loss to New York -- the Bruins pose a very tough test at home for the Rangers on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG)
The last times these two teams met, four goals were scored in the second period. The Rangers grabbed the lead twice, but ultimately needed Marian Gaborik's heroics with 3.6 seconds left to give them the victory. Tuesday, they'll be looking for their fourth win in a row and continued focus on the details of the game that has allowed them to be so successful.
Boston is coming off a 4-3 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators, but has run into inconsistent play lately: Of their three games prior to that, they scored five goals (four coming in one game). That being said, they still have the most potent offense in the league, led by Patrice Bergeron's 47 points. Six players have 37 points or more. Expect the Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Brandon Dubinsky line to be out there as much as possible against the Brad Marchand-Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line. Beyond the scoring, Boston has an elite netminder who can easily cover up mistakes in Tim Thomas. Thomas has a 2.18 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
New York will continue to hope Brad Richards finds his game. He's looked excellent over his past five or so. Artem Anisimov has also been stellar over his past five -- the Rangers need contributions from players who started slowly (like him and Dubinsky, who has six goals) to really kick them into another gear. The power play is another key element. It didn't score Sunday, but had three against Philadelphia on Saturday. It's looked much more fluid and dangerous over the past few games. Boston has the No. 7 penalty kill.
The New York Rangers continued to show that their among the NHL's best -- currently they are by one points -- Sunday afternoon against the Washington Capitals. Not only did they win their third straight, 3-2, the Blueshirts improved to an impressive 7-1-1 on the second half of back-to-back sets. For the most part, nobody would've realized that in this game.
Ryan Callahans' blazing stretch carried on, as he began the scoring midway through the first period with an off-balance skate to back-handed goal for his 22nd of the year. The Blueshirts' captain has 22 goals, one of his career high, and five goals in his last three games. New York dodged a few bullets in the first period, despite outshooting the Capitals 8-7, but got lucky as the puck rung off a few posts and Henrik Lundqvist was his All-Star self. The King made 24 saves for his 26th win of the year.
Alexander Semin made things interesting in the second period, knotting it up at 1 on a blazing slap shot from the right circle that Lundqvist had next to no chance in stopping. Ryan McDonagh played another phenomenal game, blocking five shots, while logging a team-high 25:23 in ice time. He also put home a beauty of a goale, with a slick toe-drag move that squeaked by Michal Neuvirth. He also avoided a huge injury scare, tweaking his knee and needing help to get off the ice, but luckily was back on the ice minutes later for a penalty kill.
Brandon Prust scored his first goal since October -- third of the season -- when he converted a 2-on-1 penalty-kill opportunity with Brandon Dubinsky to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Dubinsky had two helpers in the game. The Caps would click it up a notch in the final 10 minutes of the final frame: John Carlson scored his seventh with two and half minutes left, but they weren't able to solve Lundqvist in the final minutes.
With a 36-13-5 record, 77 points, the Rangers hold a one-point edge over the Detroit Red Wings for the best record in the NHL. The Wings play the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, however, so that lead could be short-lived. The Rangers hope they remain second-best; beating an intra-division and conference rival is certainly more beneficial.
Ask any expert prior to the start of the season who their frontrunner to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup would be and many of them would've said the Washington Capitals. Those same people would've also said the New York Rangers were a playoff-caliber team, but one that would occupy a middle seed.
Fast forward to nearly two-thirds of the way through the season and the script has been flipped: the Rangers (35-13-5) lead the East with 75 points, but the Capitals (28-21-5) are fighting for a playoff spot, one point out in ninth. Sunday afternoon, 12:30 p.m., these two squads clash at Madison Square Garden (NBC).
The Caps have had an up-and-down season. Just when you think they're ready to put together a strong stretch of games, they put up a few stinkers that remind us all that ever season writes a new storyline, and that they may not be as dangerous as they've been in the past. That's especially true with world-class center Nicklas Backstrom sidelined with a concussion and one of the better offensive blueliners in the game, Mike Green, out while recovering from sports hernia surgery. Alex Ovechkin leads the team -- finally -- with 43 points and 23 goals, yet Backstrom is still second with 42 ... in only 38 games played. The Caps rank 11th in the league in goals scored, and they are 14th in goals allowed. Washington is also at the bottom of the pack in shots for (27.5), slightly worse than the Rangers (28.5).
The Rangers are coming off a spirited game against the Philadelphia Flyers, but a win is always a good stepping stone for a back-to-back. The power play also showed a lot of life -- puck movement and precise passing generating a number of scoring chances. Because the Rangers are among the league's best in preventing goals -- a testament to their great goaltending and strong defensive play -- getting the power play going consistently would make them a deadly team. Brad Richards has had two straight strong games; his re-emergence would help settle the second line and power play. Marian Gaborik has been his All-Star self, Ryan Callahan has been a force and the young players have really contributed. Artem Anisimov has awoken from a slumber to put up five points in his last four games.
Washington will pose a tough test -- a rested team, looking to knock off the top team, but also vault themselves into playoff position. The Rangers are 1-1-0 against them this year, the latest a 4-1 uncharacteristic loss in which they did not execute the details.
At some point, you just have to admit that a team has your number. The New York Rangers handily dispatched the Philadelphia Flyers in Saturday's matinee at Wells Fargo Center, 5-2, for their fifth straight victory against Philadelphia this season -- and their seventh in a row overall. Captain Ryan Callahan played a brilliant game on both sides of the ice -- when doesn't he? -- notching a hat trick to give him 21 goals for the year. Marian Gaborik also had a stellar day with a goal and three assists.
The Blueshirts also entered the game mired in a deep power-play funk: 3 for their last 53. Except on Saturday, they connected on three of their seven power plays -- three in a row -- with the last few "careful" man advantages with a lead and not many risky chances taken.
Callahan began the scoring at 8:25 of a hard-working first with a bank-shot off of Sergei Bobrovsky on the power play, but Wayne Simmonds answered right back with his 18th on a slick deflection at the front of the net. The Flyers made a concerted effort to stick bodies in front of Henrik Lundqvist all game, but he was brilliant throughout, making 31 saves in the win. Credit also has to go to the blueline play, as the defensemen really were physical in trying to prevent good second chances and move bodies out of Lundqvist's way. New York went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead on a world-class deflection by Gaborik via a brilliant Brad Richards pass. Richards had three assists.
Claude Giroux beat Lundqvist on a breakaway after Marc Staal got caught pinching and nobody was back on that side to help. Yet New York was resilient yet again and it never really appeared like this game would get out of hand. Callahan tapped in the easy goal with an open net on Michael Del Zotto's crisp pass. Even with these two goals and the slight advantage, the story was Lundqvist in this period, as Philadelphia controlled most of the even-strength play -- it had 18 shots to the Rangers' seven.
Artem Anismov potted his ninth as Derek Stepan threaded the needle in the crease at 6:28, and Callahan roofed a shot five minutes later for his 21st.
The Rangers showed in this game that they can be physical, but be smart and mature about it all. They also proved how important a power play can be for their fortunes. They'll take on the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Rangers do battle against the rough-and-tumble Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m., as part of a day with NHL games with starts at that time. With a 31-16-7 record, 69 points (two more games played), the Flyers are only four points behind the Rangers (34-13-5, 73 points), but they haven't been able to solve them in four meetings this year.
The Blueshirts will look to continue their success against their division and Eastern Conference foe. At Madison Square Garden the last time out, the Blueshirts put on an impressive defensive showing (allowing 23 shots) and scored three goals in the third period to put the Flyers away, 5-2. It was a game that featured four fights, two from physical rookie defenseman Stu Bickel, who will dress Saturday as Ruslan Fedotenko deals with what appears to be a concussion from Domonic Moore's hit in Thursday's game. New York will go with seven blueliners for the first time this year, but Bickel is ready-made for a game like this. Henrik Lundqvist will also get the nod in net, with Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes at the other end.
Interestingly, even though the Flyers have one home game (Winter Classic) against New York, this will be the first one played in their home arena. Philadelphia is 18-8-2 at home; New York is 17-7-3 on the road.
Philadelphia recently snapped a three-game skid when they topped the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, on Thursday. It's a very high-scoring group, second in the league, yet their goaltending and defensive woes keep dragging them down (ninth-most goals allowed per game in the league). As always, coach John Tortorella will do his best to match the Dan Girardi-Ryan McDonagh pairing against Flyers' leading scorer, Claude Giroux, who has 61 points and 21 goals. Alongside him is Scott Hartnell, who is enjoying a career year with 26 goals and 48 points. Jaromir Jagr has 13 goals and 39 points.
The Rangers hope that Brad Richards' overtime game-winner gets him going and in effect, gets another line flowing again. Marian Gaborik has enjoyed a fine season with 26 goals and 44 points, but New York needs its other high-priced player to step up. It's lucky that the offense has been so well-rounded -- despite not being overwhelmingly potent just yet. Artem Anisimov has shown signs of life, as well, over the last few games: he has four points in his last three games ... three of which came against the Flyers last Sunday. The Blueshirts need more progression from the Russian pivot. They also need more from Brandon Dubinsky, who had a goal against the Flyers in their last game, but has just six and 22 points this season. The defense and goaltending has been so stout this year -- which is the main reason for their success. Getting more on offense (13th-ranked) and the power play (No. 27) makes them all the more dangerous.
Brad Richards is a Stanley Cup winner, a Conn Smythe recipient and one of the premiere centers in the NHL. Yet the New York Rangers' big-money pivot was mired in one of the deepest ruts of his career and demoted to the fourth line for Thursday's tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Maybe the overtime game-winning goal that gave the Rangers their 34th win -- 4-3 -- of the season will give him some confidence and jumpstart his game. All the reasons the Rangers signed Richards for nine years was on display on the goal. The center was in the right position at the right time to put home a crucial marker, and, as one of the more skilled players, finally come up in a clutch moment. Artem Anisimov passed to an open Richards at the right circle and snapped the puck past Mathieu Garon, who was shaky in his 27 saves, just like his counterpart, Martin Biron, on his 14 saves.
The Rangers began the game with energy and a bevy of shots, 10, yet went into the first intermission trailing 1-0 as Steven Stamkos potted his league-leading 36th with 1:04 remaining in the period.
Yet for the first time in 18 chances, the Rangers' power play would find the back of the net. Ryan Callahan deflected a Michael Del Zotto shot for his 18th of the year. Fifty-four seconds later Derek Stepan's hard work translated into a goal on a spinning shoot-and-score. It looked like New York would be able to grab the hold on this one, but Vincent Lecavalier answered right back 21 seconds later with a goal of his own on some shoddy defense and poor positioning from Biron. Bruno Gervais capitalized on a Rangers power play to give the Bolts a 3-2 lead, one they would hold going into the third period. Per Andrew Gross of The Record, New York was 3-9-1when trailing after 40 minutes.
Before the Rangers could tie it up in the third, Ruslan Fedotenko was the recipient of a high shoulder hit from Domonic Moore that likely left him with a concussion and Moore with a possible suspension. Brian Boyle scored at 10:13 of the period on a rocket to tie it up at 3. New York carried the play in the third, outshooting Tampa Bay 9-3, but couldn't put away any of their second chances. The Blueshirts would score on their only shot in the extra frame at 2:37.
With a 34-13-5 record and 73 points, the Rangers extend their Eastern Conference lead to five points and trail the Red Wings by one point (but three less games played) for the NHL lead.
This week for the New York Rangers is a clear reminder that the dog days of the NHL season are here. With four games against four Eastern Conference foes -- all with top-flight forwards -- New York can ill afford to take any night off, even with an East-leading 71 points. Thursday, the Blueshirts clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG).
New York is coming off a heart-breaking loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday after a goal with 3.5 seconds left was waved off. The Lightning, with 51 points, are 10 out of a playoff spot. They are the weakest opponent the Rangers will face with their frenzied week. The Lightning have underperformed this season primarily due to their struggles between the pipes and at the blueline. Tampa Bay has a negative-28 goal differential because it ranks first in the league in goals allowed per game. It ranks eighth in the league in scoring, while the Rangers are 13th; obviously, the big difference lies in the fact that the Rangers have given up the second-fewest goals per game in the league.
New York's defense has its hands full dealing with the Bolts' top line of Steven Stamkos (NHL's leading goal scorer with 38, 58 points), Martin St. Louis (16 goals, 49 points) and Vincent Lecavalier (20 goals, 44 points). Even with those guys, they struggle on the power play, just like the Rangers (26th to 28th-ranked man advantages). The power play has been a major flaw for the Rangers and will be their Achilles' heel down the road if the struggles persist. A 23rd-ranked Lightning penalty kill may provide a good opportunity for New York to get some goals on the board in that situation.
Marian Gaborik continues to perform at a high clip, with 26 goals and 43 points, but to be a more dangerous team, the 13th-ranked offense needs to be better. The onus has fallen on Brad Richards, who has only 34 points, only six of which have come since the start of the new year. He practiced on the fourth line Wednesday, but will coach John Tortorella really keep the proven guy there come game time? Even with his struggles, the Rangers need scoring, so it's hard to believe he receives checking-line minutes when the puck drops.
The New Jersey Devils won their fifth straight Tuesday night, taking down the New York Rangers 1-0 thanks to a David Clarkson power play goal in the first quarter. Martin Brodeur earned first star honors on the night, however, turning back all 30 Rangers shot attempts for his first shutout of the season.
The Rangers thought they scored the game-tying goal with just 3.5 seconds left in regulation. Yet, the goal was disallowed when Marian Gaborik was whistled for goaltender interference after crashing into Brodeur in the crease. The play was the last of a third-quarter offensive onslaught by the Rangers. New York out-shot New Jersey 15-1 in the period. Rookie Carl Hagelin had a great opportunity to score on a wrister early in the third, but Brodeur was on top of his game all night.
The Devils had just 22 shots on goal for the night, compared to 30 for the Rangers. New York also held a 26-17 advantage on faceoffs. However, the Devils got the win, their second over the Rangers in the past week.
Another day, another shootout for the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts headed upstate Wednesday night to Buffalo to take on the Sabres a day removed from their 4-3 shootout loss to the Devils. Ryan Callahan scored in overtime to give the Rangers a 1-0 win.
Henrick Lundqvist was brilliant in net. He turned away 34 shot through three periods and an extra frame, before stopping four of five in the shootout. Lundqvist is now 22-10 on the season.
Ryan Miller wasn't too shabby for Buffalo, turning away shots himself, stopping all 29 shots that came his way before surrendering the deciding goal in the shootout.
Both goalies were credited with a shutout.
Callahan hit an open left side of the net, catching Miller as he bit on a fake to the right.
The game paused when referee Kelly Sutherland caught a deflection to his face off a shot from Jordan Leopold. Bloodless, Sutherland was struggling as he made his way off the ice.
The win gives the Rangers 69 points and a 32-12-5 record. They lead the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. They host the Flyers on Sunday.
There is no better way for a team to avenge a heartbreaking loss than to get right back at it the next night. That's what the New York Rangers will do Wednesday (7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN) at the Buffalo Sabres.
Even after seeing three of their leads disappear against the Devils, the Blueshirts were less than a minute away from putting together their third straight win. Only a lucky bounce on a dump-in that went straight to David Clarkson in the slot -- let's emphasize this: there was nothing any Ranger could do on the play -- essentially ended New York's hopes for a win. With nine wins in shootouts, the Devils have proven they're the best in that (coin-flip) situation; the Rangers couldn't score in overtime, and the skills competition was how this one was decided. Unfortunate, but the Blueshirts have to like that for the most part they put together a solid effort.
Wednesday, the Rangers will face a a 47-point team that is two points from being the Eastern Conference's worst. The Sabres began the post-All-Star break with a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on the road. Mathematically, they're a long shot, but certainly not out of the playoff race ... and if they want any chance as the weeks roll along, they'll need goalie Ryan Miller to be the world-class talent that he is. Tuesday, he was, making 27 saves. But for the majority of the season, he has mirrored (or vice versa) the Sabres' play with a 2.99 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. Buffalo ranks 25th in goals scored, but good goaltending always gives teams chances.
Jason Pominville leads the team with 47 points and Tomas Vanek has the lead in goals with 19 (and 40 points). Those two are the only players with more than 25 points.
New York has a good chance to get back on the winning track before a weekend tilt with the Philadelphia Flyers. They need other forwards to continue to step up to give Marian Gaborik (25 goals, 39 points) some support. The Blueshirts are an excellent team at this point of the year because of their goaltending and defense. They merely score just enough to get by -- more offensive contributions puts them into a truly no-questions-asked elite status. A power play that has one goal in 10 games and ranks 25th in the league has not done them any favors. Henrik Lundqvist will be back in net, as he looks to continue his Vezina Trophy-worthy campaign.
The Blueshirts won the only meeting so far this year, in Buffalo on Dec. 10, 4-1.
The New Jersey Devils were on the brink of dropping their fourth straight game when an innocent dump-in went their way. With 47.6 seconds left against the visiting New York Rangers, Andy Greene's dump-in off the back boards took a fortuitous carom straight to David Clarkson at the front of the net, who tied the game at 3-3, and the Devils ultimately prevailed in a shootout, 4-3. New Jersey has a remarkable (and league-leading) nine shootout victories on the season.
It's a bitter way for the Rangers to end a game -- the first for both teams since the All-Star break -- as they played extremely well with all the circumstances of not having played in six days, despite blowing three leads in the game. It was one game, but New Jersey showed it has the resiliency to continue to bounce back against what is still the Eastern Conference's top team -- with 67 points -- by one point. The Devils' win moves them to seventh place, one point ahead of Toronto.
The first period was actually unexpectedly quiet. Typically, one thinks of the divisional rival games as uptempo and full of energy. But the first was the total opposite. Both teams were strong defensively, limiting the opposition to very few second-chance opportunities. Anton Stralman, who played a very strong game defensively and offensively, was rewarded at 19:27 with his second goal of the year off a rebound from a Marian Gaborik shot.
New Jersey answered back about midway through the second period, however, when Zach Parise picked up his own rebound a roofed a shot over Martin Biron on his short side for a truly brilliant goal. For the second game in a row between these two teams, they'd go into the third period tied, 1-1.
Brian Boyle notched his fourth of the year after a Stu Bickel rebound rolled to him. He collected it and waited patiently as Martin Brodeur laid sprawled out on the ice trying to block any sort of angle for a shot. Ilya Kovalchuk, who was all over the ice in this one, notched an easy goal on a power-play rush point-blank blast after Ryan Callahan's offensive-zone giveaway.Thirty-six seconds later Michael Del Zotto answered right back, as Marian Gaborik fluttered a cross-ice back-hand pass to Del Zotto in the offensive zone. The jubilation would be short-lived with the lead lasting 3 minutes, 11 seconds after the crazy ricochet to Clarkson.
Kovalchuk was the only one to score in the shootout. Brodeur made 23 saves for his 15th win of the year, while Biron lost only his third game, making 26 saves.
New Jersey will get a day break before hosting the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, while New York travels to Buffalo for a clash on Wednesday.
For the first time since Dec. 17, 2006, the Rangers will not be starting a game against the Devils with Lundqvist in net. For Lundqvist, this will snap a streak of 32 straight starts against New Jersey. Lundqvist has an all-time record of 23-9-5 against the Devils.
The All-Star goaltender is getting a break tonight and Martin Biron will be in-between the pipes. Rangers head coach John Tortorella did not describe this as a shocking move.
"We talked about this prior to the All-Star game, that we were going to go this way," Tortorella said. (via Yahoo! Sports)
Lundqvist started the 2012 NHL All-Star Game for Team Alfredsson and allowed three goals and made nine saves. He is expected to return to action on Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres.
For more on Rangers hockey, check out the SB Nation blog Blueshirt Banter.
The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils kickstart the second "half" of their seasons with a clash at the Prudential Center at 7 p.m. EST (MSG+).
With a 31-12-4 record that has the Rangers sitting as the Eastern Conference's best team and the NHL's No. 2, they've shown that they have what it takes to be a top-tier team in the league. Now, however, the next 35 games transpire with a target on their backs, as teams will play with a chip on their shoulder with the hopes of knocking them off.
The Devils, 26-19-3, have 55 points, which ties them with three teams for the seventh and eighth playoff spots. Scoring hasn't really been a huge problem, but New Jersey has a negative-seven goal differential, primarily because of weak blueline play and goaltending that's been very inconsistent. Martin Brodeur has been very up-and-down this year, but had allowed only one goal in three of his five starts prior to the All-Star break. He gets the start in net against what appears to be Henrik Lundqvist.
Whether these teams reside in the NHL's basement or atop the league, games between the two are rarely uneventful. Nothing is better than a divisional battle between these intra-division rivals. The Rangers won the first meeting at New Jersey, 4-1 on Dec. 20, after scoring four straight unanswered goals following a very sluggish first period. The Devils have gone 8-5-2 since that game, with the Rangers going 12-4-0. Besides the difference in records, the biggest change since then is the play of Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk -- who has nine of his 19 goals, with seven coming in a six-game pan just prior to the All-Star break.
The Rangers' defense will have its hands full with Kovalchuk, along with leading point-getter Patrik Elias (46), Zach Parise (40) and rookie Adam Henrique. Of course, the Devils will have no easy task against 25-goal scorer Marian Gaborik and New York's wear-you-out, physical style. New York also has to hope the break did wonders for someone like Brad Richards (33 points) who has struggled in January with only five points.
Especially as the season heats up, special-teams play will be vital, and both of these squads rank near each other in each situation. Neither the Rangers (25th) nor the Devils (21st) have power plays that strike fear into the opponent, so it will be important to get that going down the stretch or it could become a major Achilles' heel. It's likely that neither power play finds its stride in this one, though, as New Jersey (second) and New York (third) are pretty much the best as they come. The Devils also lead the league with 11 shorthanded goals, half the amount it has on the power play.
The six-day real-games NHL hiatus is officially on its last day, but most of the teams will get back to work Monday, with the New York Rangers holding their post-All-Star break practice at 2 p.m. EST.
With such a great first half of the season, 31-12-4 best in the Eastern Conference and second in the NHL, one mode of thinking says that the break could've come at a bad time for the Rangers. But the other says it comes at a perfect one, as New York plays that sacrifice-your-body-at-all-costs style and the rest could really be valuable.
For three Rangers, though, hockey was still part of the respite. Dan Girardi made his All-Star debut and recorded an assist on a goal that looked like it was his at first, though "only" had to play about 15 minutes in a very non-physical game. Henrik Lundqvist made nine saves on 12 shots and two of the goals he gave up were to regular-season teammate Marian Gaborik. The Slovakian superstar notched a hat trick and had an assist to earn MVP honors.
But now the fun and games are all over, and the Rangers are ready to get back to business with a three-game week in store and Eastern Conference supremacy to work toward. New York has steep shoes to fill after a first half that saw it finish with the third-best goal differential, negative-36, and finish with the second-fewest goals allowed per game with 1.98 (compared to the Blues' 1.96). The areas that could use some improvement are goal scoring (rank 11th with 2.77 per game) and the power play, which is 25th in the league at 14.1 percent. The Blueshirts have been successful, but they need more secondary contributors to step up and support Gaborik, who has nearly 19 percent of the team's goals.
At New Jersey Devils, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m., MSG+
The Devils, 26-19-3, have been up and down this year -- stringing a bunch of wins together, but then getting into a bit of a losing funk. Case in point: they began the month with two straight losses, won two, lost won, won three and lost three straight entering Tuesday's game. Though the Rangers won 4-1 at New Jersey in their only meeting at the end of the December, they only had 21 shots -- a leaky Martin Brodeur could not compensate for a suspect defense. The Rangers have had a bad habit of beginning games slowly, and they did in this one, getting down 1-0 after being outshot 12-4 in the first period. Patrik Elias leads the team with 46 points and Ilya Kovalchuk paces the team with 19 goals (he had a stretch with seven in six games). The Devils have scored roughly the same amount of goals as New York, though they've given up 40 more -- because of shoddy goaltending and poor blueline play. The Devils will generate offensive chances, but the Rangers could wear down their rearguards and really cause trouble for whomever is in net -- Brodeur or Johan Hedberg.
At Buffalo Sabres, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
Buffalo has been a colossal disappointment this year, tied for the fewest points in the Eastern Conference (45) and a 20-24-5 record. The problems on this team are widespread -- it ranks 25th in the league in goals per game and it allows the fifth-most goals per game. The defense has been horrendous, but 2010 Olympic starter Ryan Miller has magnified those problems (or maybe its vice versa). Miller has a putrid 12-15-2 record, and he's allowing over three goals a game (3.07) with a .899 save percentage. Buffalo is 10 points out, but it has the keeper to steal games and really all it to get on a run. The All-Star break could be just what Miller needed to get away from it all. The Sabres are essentially a two-man offensive team right now, with All-Star Jason Pominville leading with 47 points, and Tomas Vanek tops with 19 goals. New York beat Buffalo in the only meeting of the year, 4-1, in early December on the road.
Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday, Feb. 5, 1 p.m., MSG
The Rangers have played the Flyers three times this year -- and they've won all three, with the latest the Jan. 2 Winter Classic, 3-2. Just because the Rangers won the first half of the set, doesn't mean this one will be any more predictable. The Flyers are an excellent team, with loads of scoring (second most in the league, with 3.35 a game) and a very feisty, in-your-face style. With a 29-14-5 record and 63 points, they are knocking on the heels of the Rangers. Philadelphia has been a better road team this season, with an 18-7-2 record, and even though it has a plus-20 goal differential, it would be much better (along with the overall record) if not for the struggles of newly-signed Ilya Bryzgalov (2.99 goals-against average, .895 save percentage). It's a tossup as to whether Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky (2.42 GAA, .919) will get the start in net. All-Star Claude Giroux, an emerging superstar at center, leads the team with 55 points in 44 games played. All-Star Scott Hartnell, enjoying a career year, has the most goals with 25. Philadelphia has six players with 30 or more points (New York has four) and nine players with 10 or more goals (New York has four). This is a dangerous offense. The Rangers need to continue to be sound defensively (Marc Staal getting back into a groove will help) efforts and their exceptional goaltending to make it 4-for-4 on the year.
|@ New Jersey||Tue 01/31||7:00 PM EST|
|@ Buffalo||Wed 02/01||7:30 PM EST|
|Philadelphia||Sun 02/05||1:00 PM EST|
|New Jersey||Tue 02/07||7:00 PM EST|
|Tampa Bay||Thu 02/09||7:00 PM EST|
|Winnipeg||Tue 01/24||W 3 - 0|
|@ Boston||Sat 01/21||SO - W 3 - 2|
|Pittsburgh||Thu 01/19||L 1 - 4|
|Nashville||Tue 01/17||W 3 - 0|
|@ Montreal||Sun 01/15||L 1 - 4|
And just like that, the New York Rangers will end the first half of the season as the NHL's second-best team. Their 3-0 shutout Tuesday night of the Winnipeg Jets put a cap on an outstanding 47 games -- and was a microcosm of why they've been so successful thus far.
Superb goaltending? They got that from Henrik Lundqvist, who notched his 40th career shutout (tying him for second most as a member of the Rangers) and fifth of the season. The King was supposed to receive a day off today, but received the start after Martin Biron went down with the flu. All he did was make 22 saves, 10 in the third period -- and a number of them jaw-dropping (though at this point, nothing he does amazes because he does it with regularity). None were better than the third-period one he made after the Jets sent a pass toward the crease that deflected off of Anton Stralman's skate and Lundqvist quickly reacted and fell on it before the puck crept through his five-hole.
Sound defense? Beyond some on-and-off spurts from the offensively-challenged Jets and a few big chances in the third period, the Rangers defense allowed next to nothing. They were strong on forecheck so that wore down the Jets on the ice. They limited space well, took the body and made the simple plays. Finally, they blocked 17 shots. It was one of those performances that has made them so difficult to play against all season -- New York is just so relentless. The 31-12-4 record's foundation is based up the all-around defensive efforts. If you're not going to give an effort to play defense on coach John Tortorella's team, you will not play. It's as simple as that.
Opportunistic goal-scoring? OK, so maybe these goals weren't necessarily the Rangers scoring goals at the best possible times (or when they were behind the eight ball), but it certainly wasn't without hard work. The Blueshirts' offensive-zone pressure led to Ryan Callahan's 17th of the year off of a rebound of an Anton Stralman slapshot in the first period. John MItchell netted his third in five games (fifth overall) at 13:22 of the second period off of the board play the Rangers have been so good at this year. Derek Stepan chipped the puck ahead in the defensive zone to John Mitchell, who sent a pass cross-ice to Michael Del Zotto in the neutral zone. Del Zotto then sent another pass to Mitchell who fired a wrist shot past Ondrej Pavelec. And finally, Brad Richards got on the board for the first time in nine games with less than four minutes remaining in the game; a play that was set up in the corner by Callahan.
The season is still a long way from completion, but 66 points is something to be proud of at this point. There's also something to be said for setting yourself up with a strong base for the playoff push -- which begins after the All-Star break with a game next Tuesday at the New Jersey Devils.
The first "half" of the New York Rangers' season officially ends Tuesday when they host the Winnipeg Jets at 7:00 p.m. (MSG). The next time they play will be exactly a week from Tuesday (which means five days of rest), but in the meantime, there is a lot riding on this game for a team that has been among the league's best. One of those goals is going into the NHL All-Star break on a high note. The other is not dipping after such a solid all-around performance (and win) against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. And finally, New York seeks to get rolling again and begin another extended win streak.
Whether the Rangers win or lose, their current 30-12-4 record and Eastern Conference-leading 64 points (also second in the league) can be considered a great success. For at least the first 46 games of the year, New York has raised some eyebrows with its play and performed beyond the collective expectations. This has been a close-knit team, however, that does has not let distractions (trip to Europe, Madison Square Garden renovations, HBO 24/7, Winter Classic) both them, so it shouldn't matter that now that the hockey world has begun focusing on them. But what will matter, especially in the second half, is how this young Blueshirts squad deals with being a team others now target, knowing they could take down one of the "best."
The Rangers have played the Jets twice this year, winning both (2-1 on the road, 3-0 at home). The Jets are a fringy team -- showing possible eighth-seed make-up on some nights, while showing the inconsistencies that will keep them on the outside looking in on many others. They're currently 22-21-6, three points out of the final playoff spot, but January has been a very unkind month: They've gone 3-7-1. Winnipeg has a negative-16 goal differential, compared to New York's plus-33. They rank in the bottom-third of the league in goals for per game and directly in the middle in goals against. Meanwhile, the Rangers allow the second-fewest goals and are 11th in goals for.
The Jets' leading point getter is Blake Wheeler with 33, and their top scorer is Evander Kane with 18. They only have two players with 30 or more points; the Rangers have four. What they need more consistency is in their goaltending, as Ondrej Pavelec (2.83 goals-against average, .910 save percentage) has shown flashes of brilliance but has also been very leaky as well.
Marian Gaborik leads the Rangers with 39 points and 25 goals. The Rangers need to get more consistent scoring from their other lines in the second half and improve their 23rd-ranked power play. Henrik Lundqvist will most likely get the start to finish off a wonderful first half: 21-10-4 record, with a 1.93 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.
While their coach his the players would admit it prior to the game, the New York Rangers did acknowledge that their tilt against the Boston Bruins would be a good measuring stick. The game pitted the Eastern Conference's best team, New York, and the conference's second-best, Boston, and the Rangers passed with flying colors, winning 3-2 with 3.6 seconds remaining in overtime via a Marian Gaborik goal.
While its power play looked pathetic for much of the game, New York took advantage of an unfortunate one in the extra frame that forced Ryan McDonagh from the game. McDonagh went to retrieve a puck at the backboards behind Henrik Lundqvist and was blasted at 1:50 from behind by Andrew Ference. McDonagh was practically motionless for several minutes on the ice, before leaving and not returning to the bench. New York was awarded a five-minute power play and Ference was also given a misconduct.
The man advantage was lost in all three chances, but managed to put forth its best effort as the time ticked down in overtime. Brad Richards brought the puck into the zone and saw Ryan Callahan at the crease with nobody on him. Tuuka Rask then made two brilliant saves. Callahan flicked a shot that Rask kicked aside. Richards sent a back-hander at the sprawling netminder who made another beauty. And Gaborik cleaned up with a rising back hander to give the Rangers a much-deserved victory and two-point lead in the conference.
Make no mistake about it: this clash between the East's two teams lived up to its billing. There was physicality (27-12 hits advantage for New York, though), chippiness (Mike Rupp-Shawn Thornton fought in the second period), offensive excitement (34-33 shot advantage for Boston) and some stellar defense.
The first period was a scoreless one -- and the Rangers kicked it off by being a bit sluggish, perhaps aided by Boston playing in front of its home crowd. But they weathered the storm and found their legs -- and from about midway through the period showed they were ready to play their game.
All the goal scoring prior to the OT winner occurred in the second period. Coming off the bench after a penalty, Ryan Callahan scooped up a loose puck, went down the left flank and wristed a shot past Rask. But the Bruins answered right back as Ference beat Lundqvist. Gaborik scored the first of his goals on a slapper at 14:30. It looked like the Rangers would enter the third having to protect a lead, yet again Boston showed its resliency, as Adam McQuaid fired a shot that deflected off Brfian Boyle's stick and over LUndqvist.
The Rangers were forced to kill off their fourth penalty early in the third and did so magnificently. They also had their first two power plays, which could have really put the Bruins behind the eight-ball, but, again, it struggled.
Regardless, the Rangers proved to everyone that they can play with the best in the league. They'll get Sunday off before practicing Monday for a game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. In the meantime, everyone will be crossing their fingers that McDonagh is OK.
The New York Rangers continued their spotty, up-and-down play Thursday night at Madison Square Garden against the Pittsburgh Penguins, losing 4-1. With 62 points on the year, there's certainly been more highs than lows this season, but if one thing is clear from this 2-3-0 funk, it's that the Rangers need to generate more offense.
The Blueshirts went down at 3:16 on a Chris Kunitz rebound marker after Ruslan Fedotenko fanned on an easy tap-in pass from Ryan Callahan. New York started very slowly and was really lucky it wasn't down more earlier on, but Henrik Lundqvist and the defense was the reason the first period ended just 1-0. About midway through the first period, New York did not have a shot; it was an 8-0 Pittsburgh advantage, and it finished at 14-8 the away team.
Coach John Tortorella is certainly right: An instant spark is added to whichever line Carl Hagelin is a part of. For about two games now he's been with Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik, and at 10:06 he knotted the game at 1, purely on his speed, as Gaborik flicked a back-handed pass from the neutral zone that Hagelin skated through in the offensive zone to beat Marc-Andre Fleury five-hole.
But that was all the scoring for the Rangers, as the Penguins scored three times in the third period (one an empty netter). Marc Staal's pinch caused a 3-on-1 and the Pens' Richard Park ultimately capitalized for the game-winner, and he later couldn't stop the puck (or clear it) along the boards and Evgeni Malkin converted for the third. Malkin's empty-netter gave him his 24th of the season. The Blueshirts had 13 shots in the third period, but could not get one to break through, which could have been all they needed to spark a scoring run.
The Rangers head into Saturday's afternoon tilt with the Boston Bruins as a team that is scratching and clawing for every point over the last week-plus. Over their last six games (3-3-0), they've scored nine goals. The defense, along with Lundqvist, has to be absolutely perfect at this point with goal scoring so hard to come by. Also not helping their cause is a power play that hasn't recorded a goal in eight games.
Up until about a week ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins were ripe for the taking. Losers of six straight games, it appeared that the number of crucial losses (Sidney Crosboy and Kris Letang as two of the biggest ones) had taken its toll. But now they've won three straight, and they come into Madison Square Garden with a little extra added motivation, trying to seek their first win against the New York Rangers, who are 2-0 against them this season.
New York, meanwhile, is trying to get on a roll again, after a bumpy past few games. It hopes the 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday is the start of another fruitful stretch of games. Thursday night (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG/NHLN) will be another test, against a seventh-place conference rival. The Rangers are 14-4-2 at home, while the Penguins are 12-10-2 on the road. The Blueshirts are tied for the league lead with 62 points; the Pens have 52.
Letang may be back for Pittsburgh, which will certainly provide an offensive jolt as he's one of the premiere offensive defensemen in the league. But the Rangers know who their focus has to be on, and that's Evgeni Malkin, who is tied for the league lead with 52 points (in only 38 games) and 11 goals. Being the home team, coach John Tortorella will have the slight advantage in playing the match-up game, as he'll be able to pair Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh against one of the game's best as much as possible. Malkin has been on fire over the past few games (and in January, really). He has points in all but two games this month and has seven points and five goals in the Pens' last three games. He's elite and the Rangers will have their hands full trying to defend him.
Despite two wins -- 4-3 at the end of November and an almost undeserving 3-1 decision Jan . 6 -- the Rangers need to find a way to generate more offense. Sure, they're 10th in the league with 2.80 per game, but the offense has been hot and cold over the past few games (with eight in their past five). They've been opportunistic at times, so it would be nice to have an offensive explosion for once. Either way, New York's identity this season has been one of a defense-first team with excellent goaltending -- they rank tied for first in the league at limiting goals with 1.98 per game. The offense comes from the Blueshirts' smart defensive play, and that will be crucial against an uptempo Penguins team.
Good teams bounce back and make adjustments after poor outings. The New York Rangers have proven that they aren't the league's best team for no reason, coming out after a disastrous effort Sunday in Montreal to defeat the Nashville Predators 3-0 at Madison Square Garden. The win snapped the Preds' five-game win streak and gave Henrik Lundqvist his 20th victory and fourth shutout of the season. He made 27 saves.
New York's bread and butter stems from their defensive play. Simple plays in their own zone, smart exit passes, blocking shots and excellent man-on-man coverage/support is the main reason they've been so successful -- a league-leading 62 points successful -- this season. They're not really a high-scoring bunch, with only 2.79 goals put on the board per game, so their defensive structure is crucial. Their offense is predicated on sound zone play, and in their 4-1 loss to the Canadiens on Sunday, it was all over the place.
It returned with a vengeance Tuesday against Nashville as their were very few defensive-zone breakdowns. Even though they struggled connecting on first passes out of the zone early on, their support was good and they were able to limit the Predators' high-scoring opportunities.
The yeoman's work done in the D-zone translated into the offensive zone numerous times and was the reason Dan Girardi was able to get the fluky goal that hit off the defenseman's leg and into the net. Even after a few Nashville rushes, New York controlled the pace of a two-minute spurt that Girardi scored off of, cycling down low and creating chances. It wore Nashville's blueliners out as they had to stay on the ice for just over two minutes.
John Mitchell connected midway through the second period -- another reward for great zone time and pressure. Mitchell threw a quick wrist shot on net that a screened Anders Lindback could not get a good view of and beat him short-side. Ryan Callahan had the goal on the empty-net late in the third period.
Lundqvist was exceptional in net, but the solid defensive fundamentals from his teammates helped him out immensely (and of course, he made a number of amazing saves, as well).
Overall, the win was extremely encouraging: the Rangers' hard-working style was evident, they grinded it out and played a very smart hockey game. They'll need to carry this momentum over to their next game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
The New York Rangers will face a second straight team playing on the back end of a back-to-back in the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. night (7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN). The Blueshirts are looking to regain some of their consistency and lost momentum from over the past week, while the Preds are coming off a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders. New York (28-11-4) has lost two of three, while Nashville (26-15-4) has won five straight and eight of nine.
Being tied for the league lead in points with 60, the Rangers have definitely enjoyed the first 43 games of their season. They've hit a slight rut in their performance this past week, however, as they scored only five goals over their last four games. More disconcerting was their defensive play at the the Belle Center, the home of the Montreal Canadiens and a place the Rangers have not won at in six tries (0-5-1), on Sunday. It was the sloppiest the Rangers looked in their own end the entire season, with lazy clearing attempts, not enough puck support and not enough man-on-man coverage. Giving up the second-fewest goals in the NHL -- obviously on the heels of exceptional, fundamental work on defense and stellar goaltending -- this one bad performance appears like just a minor blip in the radar. Lose focus for several more games, however, and the facts will change.
The Blueshirts have struggled to score lately, and the problem begins with their top two lines. Marian Gaborik has one goal and two points over his last nine games. Brad Richards has gone four straight games (as has Ryan Callahan) without a point and has five points in his last 15. As coach John Tortorella seeks to find some offensive punch, some line reshuffling should be expected Tuesday night.
New York's quest to find more scoring faces a very difficult test in the Predators -- and more specifically netminder Pekka Rinne, who has one loss in his last nine games (same mark as Nashville). He's also allowed two or fewer goals in five consecutive as the Preds have played some lights-out hockey lately. It's not a particularly high-scoring bunch, as stud blueliner Shea Weber leads the team with 32 points and David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist pace the team in goals with 12, but they're solid defensively and rely on one of the best between the pipes. The Rangers do catch a break in that blue-chip defenseman Ryan Suter is out with an upper-body injury.
A day after their most impressive defensive performance of the 2011-2012 season, the New York Rangers had probably their worst one. The Blueshirts had trouble dealing with the Toronto Maple Leafs' speed in their first two games of the year, but Saturday adjusted and put on a clinic at defending and limiting their space in the offensive zone. Sunday, against another team built on speed, the Montreal Canadiens, defensive lapses were evident throughout and the end result was a 4-1 loss with nothing to speak highly about.
New York is 0-5-1 at Belle Center in its last six games.
The Canadiens have a bunch of small forwards with the ability to skate circles around other teams if you're not going to take the body enough. New York had 48 hits against a similarly-constructed Leafs team. On Sunday, it had just 26. But on Sunday, the Rangers looked like one of the worst defensive teams in the league, rather than a top-ranked one.
The Habs' first goal less than three minutes into the first period was a mixture of a bad line change, lackadaisical backchecking efforts from the fourth line and a Marc Staal turnover. Staal had the puck in his own end and instead of throw the puck up the same side of the ice, he sent it softly cross-rink barely out of the zone and it was picked off by the Montreal player. Staal then gets a piece of Henrik Lundqvist causing him to lose his stick and fall out of position, Stu Bickel gets in the way and Max Pacioretty sends in his first goal of the night. New York answered at 12:49 on a John Mitchell goal, but that would be all the good news in this one.
Montreal scored three goals in the second period as the Rangers continued to break down in the defensive zone. There's just no sugar coating it: New York played its sloppiest defensive game and rarely picked up the right forwards on the Habs' goals. Pacioretty deflected in his his second of the game as Bickel, who had a terrible night and played only 5:17 as a result, contributed to blocking Lundqvist's view. Michael Blunden sent a one-timer via a Scott Gomez behhind-the-net pass in another scrambled sequence for the Rangers and in a matter of less than four minutes, the Rangers were down two. They'd be down by another as David Desharnais converted at 12:18.
Luckily for the Rangers, the game didn't become even more ugly in the third period.
On the not-so-good side was Michael Del Zotto's poor defensive showing with a negative-two night and 16:11 where his ice time was limited for stretches. The fourth line of Wojtek Wolski (negative-three), Mike Rupp (negative-two) and Kris Newbury (negative-three) was just eaten alive. Wolski and Newbury played just over six minutes, which is a horrible rate of goals allowed in that short of time. Rupp played 10:26, but didn't have a good game, either.
It was one of those nights that the Rangers looked so bad, they'd be better off throwing out the tapes. They hadn't been this bad defensively all season.
Less than 24 hours after blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs the New York Rangers will end their weekend Canadian road trip Sunday night when they visit the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center (7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network). The first-place Rangers (28-10-4, 60 points) are looking to earn their sixth victory in seven tries, and 11 of 13, while the Canadiens (16-20-8, 40 points) trying to maintain a five-game home winning streak against New York.
On Saturday, backup goaltender Martin Biron made 20 saves to help New York shutout the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-0. The victory helped the Rangers bounce back from a 3-0 loss Thursday to visiting Ottawa Senators. Before that, New York had rallied off five straight to help earn the best record in the NHL.
New York's No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be in net Sunday.
Meanwhile, Montreal has lost three of the last 10 games, including four straight. Possibily making his debut Sunday will be Rene Bourque, who was acquired Thursday in a trade that sent Michael Cammalleri back to Calgary.
For more on Rangers hockey, check out the SB Nation blog Blueshirt Banter.
The New York Rangers brushed aside their 3-0 loss Thursday night with their own dominating performance by the same score -- blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night to give them a league-leading 60 points. Martin Biron also notched his ninth win and second shutout of the year.
if one thing is clear 42 games into the year, this Rangers team is resilient, it makes adjustments and doesn't take a shift off. The win against Toronto on its home turf was especially impressive, as the Rangers dropped both games at home to them earlier in the year, 4-2. New York had a tough time combatting the Leafs' team speed and were often running around in their own zone and not pressuring enough up the ice.
But the story was different Saturday. The Blueshirts put on a defensive clinic throughout the game, allowing only 20 shots -- five in a first period in which the Rangers needed to come out strongly after Thursday's setback. There wasn't a score after 20 minutes, but it didn't matter: The Rangers dictated the pace with 27 of their 48 hits and held an 8-5 shot advantage. They rarely made any mistake in their own zone.
Their hard work paid off in the second frame, as Mike Rupp ripped his fourth goal of the season via a pass from Derek Stepan when New York took advantage of a three-on-one. Credit Stepan for staying on the ice mid-line change and jumping into the play. After a 22-game scoreless streak, Brian Boyle wristed a shot that finally found the back of the net. Boyle was the Rangers' most impressive forward -- physical, shutting down the Leafs' top line and getting a lot of offensive-zone time.
Stepan converted for his own tally at 6:01 of the third period when Biron flicked a pass to Carl Hagelin at mid-ice, who sent one to Stepan for the partial breakaway.
Overall, the Rangers outshot the Leafs 30-20, but the power play again was ineffective, going 0-for-2. It was an impressive win originating from their excellent defensive work and physical play. If the goaltenders continue their stellar work and the defense shows its tough, in-your-face style from Saturday night on a consistent basis (which they have, for the most part) the Rangers will be a very difficult team to beat.
Saturday night, the New York Rangers will have the "rare" chance to answer back after Thursday's 3-0 home loss, and they'll get to do it against the Toronto Maple Leafs (22-16-5) on the road (7 p.m. EST, MSG/NHLNET). With a 27-10-4 record and an NHL-second-best 58 points, there hasn't been too much to complain about from the Blueshirts this season. Only you wouldn't know that from listening to coach John Tortorella and his players speak as he's cultivated a bunch that is never satisfied -- and they're always seeking to improve on the little things.
New York has grown into a top-tier team because it has constantly stuck to a game plan and foremost, has been the hardest-working team on the ice. Against the Senators on Thursday, Tortorella questioned some of his players effort level and called out his top lines for producing "squat."
The test will be ratcheted up a notch against the Maple Leafs, as the Rangers have looked out of sync against them both times -- all losses -- this season. Both losses were at home and both were by the score of 4-2. In each loss, New York's bench boss has spoken of how the Rangers have struggled to contain Toronto's team speed, leaving the defensemen vulnerable in their own end zone. In order for them to finally counter that, the Blueshirts simply have to get their forechecking, down-low game -- which was missing against Ottawa -- going again. If you can wear out the Maple Leafs' forwards and defense, it will weaken their attack and transition game. New York also has to limit the space of their forwards, as they have a number of very skilled ones.
The Leafs sport two of the league's best point-getters in Phil Kessel (48) and Joffrey Lupul (47). Kessel also ranks second in scoring with 24 goals, one above Marian Gaborik.The chances of the Rangers coming out on top is exponentially better when these top guys are limited. It's also a lot better when you stay out of the penalty box, as Toronto has the second-best power-play unit. It also has the worst penalty-kill percentage, so this is an area the Rangers' 22nd-ranked man advantage could show some life.
Toronto lost Friday against Buffalo, but won four straight before that. The Rangers are still in the midst of a very strong stretch -- 10 wins in 12 games -- but they can't let the bad habits from last game show up in this one. The lines figure to be a bit scrambled in this one after being shut out -- and Brandon Dubinsky is a game-time decision. The Blueshirts need to get production from their top-six forwards or it could be another long night.
The New York Rangers showed Thursday night against the Ottawa Senators just what happens when your top two scoring lines can't get anything going. The result was a 3-0 loss on home ice to the streaking Senators who are proving that they are a team to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. The Sens, with 54 points, are four behind the Rangers, but they've played four more games.
Coach John Tortorella broached the issue of his top-six guys not doing enough, saying: "Our grinders, our role players played well but we got squat out of top guys," as quoted by The Record's Andrew Gross.
The frustrating part for the Rangers in their first loss in their last six games was that they generated good first looks. But they rarely got follow-up chances as netminder Craig Anderson, 34 saves, and the Ottawa defenders tied the Rangers up at the crease, preventing them from getting to second (and third) chances.
Despite being held scoreless, the Rangers had an excellent first period, but could (obviously) not get anything past Anderson. It was indicative of the entire game, as they outshot the Sens 13-8 and 34-24 in the game. But the Sens would convert on all their prime chances, and New York would be done in by some bad luck and great goaltending. It was the type of game that if the Rangers got one, they'd get a few, but became frustrated by the end and their deficit snowballed.
Jason Spezza scored twice in the win (midway through the second and later in the third), while Milan Michalek potted his 23rd in the third period. In making only 21 saves, Henrik Lundqvist wasn't his sharpest, but was also the victim of some lackadaisical defensive efforts -- light stick-checking instead of going hard at the puck on the goals.
The loss is nothing for the Rangers to get down about, as it was only their second in 12 games. But it is something to adjust from, and one of those may be tinkering with the lines for the next game at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. New York's ineffective power play continues to torment them as well, as they went 0-for-4 in this one and are nearing the bottom-third of the league in man-advantage percentage.
The New York Rangers continue their four-game week with a tilt that begins a three games in four nights stretch with a clash with the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG) on Thursday night. The game, No. 41, also marks the midpoint of their season -- one that's seen them rise above the rest in the NHL with 58 points (27-9-4 overall record). They will also hit the road for a two-game Canada trip once this one wraps up.
Coach John Tortorella and the rest of his players shrug off the good start, saying the NHL doesn't award anything for being the best team at this point in the season. But there's something to be said for laying a very solid foundation for the second half of the season, and New York has most definitely done this. No game means more than the other in the grand scheme of things, but none are less important, either, and the Rangers need to keep carrying out what's been successful for them in the first half to continue to be a top-tier playoff team. New York has won five in a row and 10 of 11.
The lines have been relatively balanced, but Marian Gaborik has one goal in the past six games and Artem Anisimov hasn't had a point in eight straight, so it would be nice to see this line put more pucks in the net like it was doing for such a long period prior to this mini slump.
The Senators present a very stiff challenge, as they've won six of their last seven games. After a poor 32-40-10 record last year, the Sens are now fifth in the Eastern Conference, eight games over .500, with 52 points. Coach Paul MacLean has his troops playing a very uptempo, down-the-ice style, resulting in them being the seventh-highest scoring team in the league (three spots ahead of the Rangers). Deserved or not, Ottawa has four Al-Stars: Jason Spezza, who leads the team with 44 points, stud sophomore defenseman Erik Karlsson, who is second on the team with 41 points, veteran Daniel Alfredsson, third with 30 points, and leading goal scorer (22), Milan Michalek.
What has cost Ottawa this season has been a weak defensive blue line and some unsteady play from goaltender Craig Anderson. Anderson does have 21 wins, but also sports a subpar 3.08 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Through the last two months, however, the keeper has accumulated a 2.64 GAA and .918 SV%, so he's been better lately.
The Rangers won the last meeting between these two teams Nov. 9, 3-2 in Ottawa, but lost the game in Ottawa late in October, 5-4 in a shootout -- meaning this one should be another close tilt. The Sens are the best third-period team in the NHL, with six comebacks in the last 20 minutes, so if there's a game New York can't let it's foot off the pedal, this is it.
One game is won at the lost possible millisecond. Another game is won by being opportunistic. A few more are buoyed by standout goaltending. While many others are won by purely dominating. Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, however, the New York Rangers triumphed in a way they'd only done one other time this season -- Nov. 3 -- in the shootout. Despite being the "better" team for much of the night, the Blueshirts couldn't shrug off the pesky Phoenix Coyotes, instead having to prevail 2-1 in the skills competition with Derek Stepan's sixth-round goal the decisive one.
The victory gives the Rangers five in a row and 10 over their last 11 games. They also improved their league-leading point total to 58 points.
The first period was a precursor to what was to come: the Rangers generated more chances, but the Coyotes were pretty solid defensively and relied heavily on goaltender Mike Smith to keep them in the game and ultimately earn a point. The Rangers held a 12-5 shots advantage through the first 20 minutes but couldn't break through despite some great opportunities from the fourth line.
The second period was again more of the same: the Blueshirts finished with a 9-5 shot advantage, but both Henrik Lundqvist and Smith were sharp when called upon. New York had a power play but generated one shot and has one power-play marker over its last six games. The man advantage ranks at 20th in the league, and if one could only wonder how dangerous this team would be if they could make teams pay for being in the penalty box. It's also what makes you worry a bit, because it could be an Achilles heel down the stretch when the "meaning" of games are more heavily scrutinized.
Finally, New York would find the twine in the third period on a Ruslan Fedotenko goal 2:27 in with Brian Boyle screening and a scrum in front. Tortorella sought more offensive contributions from his bottom-six guys and he certainly got that tonight, with Boyle getting his first points in 12 games. But the Yotes would answer less than 10 minutes later as Radim Vrbata potted his 20th of the year. It was disappointing for the Rangers in that they couldn't find the goal to put them ahead, despite a well-played game.
The Blueshirts had a chance to win it outright in overtime when Stepan banked a pass off the boards to spring Marian Gaborik on a breakaway, who was slashed by Adrian Aucoin. Only Smith's athletic sprawling stick save on the penalty shot kept the game from ending. As the Rangers' third shooter, Gaborik answered Vrbata's shootout goal as well to keep the skills competition going, and Stepan's was the winner as Lundqvist made the save on Shane Doan.
The New York Rangers' defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday has given them four wins in a row, and nine in their past ten games. So when coach John Tortorella hit the "reset" button on practice after his troops didn't come out with the requisite hop in their step, he sent a clear message this team needs to remember: The season is only 39 games old, and despite leading the league, nothing should be taken for granted.
This is a tight-knit squad who has not played at all this year like games are served on a silver platter. But Tuesday night at home against the Phoenix Coyotes (7:00 p.m. EST, MSG), they'll get to continue to put Tortorella's message into action and attempt to play better than they did in the last-second win in Phoenix when Brad Richards bailed them out.
With a league-leading 56 points and a league-low nine losses, the Blueshirts have put themselves into excellent position as the midway point of the season nears. There's no doubt they've shocked the "experts" around the league -- playing so well without No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal and now without a top-four defenseman in Michael Sauer and getting stellar play from the blueliners who have had to step up. In addition, their youth on defense and offense has continued to grow, and they have all been key factors in this team's ascension.
Richards has also fit in seamlessly to the mix, even if he and Marian Gaborik haven't gelled perfectly from the get-go. The fact that the two haven't yet fit into a line has been a blessing for New York since it has added more balance to their lines, giving them two excellent scoring lines, in addition to a third and fourth line which has the ability to contribute as well. That and the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist has given the Rangers a plus-34 goal differential, third in the NHL.
Phoenix is 11th in the Western Conference with 45 points after playing so well in the beginning of the year. The Yotes managed only six wins in December and are 1-1-1 in January. Mike Smith has returned from a groin injury and has given up one goal in each of the past two games. Ray Whitney leads the team with 36 points, while Radim Vrbata's 19 goals paces the way. Shane Doan is the only other player with double-digit goal totals, 12. They are a pretty good team defensively, but their problems lie in that there just isn't a lot of scoring and no real big-time threat.
It had the makings of being an ugly one for the New York Rangers: back-to-back games against two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, a timeout by coach John Tortorella after a goal at 5:43 of the first, a 38-21 shot disadvantage (11 -1 at one point in the first 20 minutes). But that's why the Rangers employ arguably the best goaltender in all of hockey.
Buoyed by his opportunistic teammates, Henrik Lundqvist backstopped the Blueshirts to a 3-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road, their fourth win in a row and ninth in ten games. The nickname King was apropos for Lundqvist, who was given the celebratory hat and whose performance was described as "unbelievable" by a coach who doesn't normally lap praise upon his players to the media. The Swede's 37-save night gives him an 18-7-4 record on the year with an astounding 1.89 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
The Rangers have 56 points, which puts them three points ahead of the Boston Bruins (who have played two fewer games) and Vancouver Canucks for the NHL's highest point total and best record. This was yet another win that proved New York has the ability to find ways to get two points.
Ben Lovejoy potted the first goal of the game in a first period in which New York looked lost, couldn't control the puck and relied on their stud netminder to bail them out. The Rangers were better after the timeout, but throughout the game -- as seen by the shot advantage for Pittsburgh -- they needed Lundqvist to keep them in it ... and ultimately preserve the win.
The Rangers tied the game up with less than two minutes remaining in the period when Ryan McDonagh took the offensive-zone faceoff win toward the left corner, threw an off-angle shot toward the net, which was deflected slightly by Brandon Dubinsky off Marc-Andre Fleury and cleaned up by Brad Richards at the far post for his 15th of the year.
Even though the Rangers settled in after the first, the shot advantage never disappeared (13-8 in the second, 14-6 in the third), and the Penguins did have the puck considerably longer. The Rangers' defense was pretty sound from the first point forward -- with the inevitable bumps along the way covered up by Lundqvist -- limiting Evgeni Malkin to only one shot and a minus-two rating. Besides the contribution on the first goal, McDonagh was stellar on defense (physical and positionally sound) and also jumped up the ice for a few offensive chances as well.
Brandon Dubinsky would score shorthanded at 3:09 of the second period on a two-on-one with Ryan Callahan and the game never really seemed all that close because of how locked in Lundqvist was. It was essentially put out of reach 1:20 into the third period when Fleury fanned on the puck as it came into the zone. Marian Gaborik forced the unsteady play by hustling down the ice, but his backhander hit the post, ultimately to be picked up by Derek Stepan for the goal.
The Rangers look to continue their hot streak and build on their league-best record against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.
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