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.