The Rangers defeated the Islanders by a final score of 4-2 tonight in a crazy, up and down game that pushed the Rangers' winning streak to seven games. The Rangers got goals from Sean Avery, Steve Eminger, Brad Richards (the game-winner) and Ryan Callahan (empty netter), and Henrik Lundqvist absolutely stood on his head while making 31 saves and leading the Rangers to victory on the Island.
The Broadway Hat was awarded to Brad Richards tonight, who finished with the aforementioned game-winning goal, four shots and a plus-3 rating on the night. After the Islanders tied the game at two on a power play goal earlier in the third period, Brad Richards fired a rocket of a slap shot past Evgeny Nabokov after a terrible giveaway by Josh Bailey in the Islanders' zone and a nifty little pass from Brandon Dubinsky. Richards nearly had another goal earlier in the game on the power play that hit the post, as well.
Click below to read more on tonight's game, and what Sean Avery and John Tortorella had to say about a controversial call in the first period.
Tonight was a very weird game for the Rangers, although it was everything we've come to expect from a Rangers-Islanders game at the same time. After completely controlling the game and outshooting the Islanders 14-5 in the first period, the Rangers were outshot 28-16 in the second and third periods combined, and were able to kill off four of five Islanders power plays in the game. The Rangers had four power plays of their own, including a long 5-on-3, but failed to convert on any of their chances despite showing excellent puck movement. Marian Gaborik, who had a game-high five shots on goal, was flying all night long as he has seemingly every game this year and there were several shots that the Rangers shot wide or had blocked. This very easily could've been a five or six goal outburst by the Rangers on another night, but not tonight. Tonight, the Rangers were forced to grind their way through the game and found a way to win.
Sean Avery, who played his second strong game in a row and finished with 11:57 TOI, got the scoring started in the first period after following up on his own rebound and whistling a wrist shot past Evgeny Nabokov. Later in the period, Avery and Mike Mottau came together and threw some shots at each other. Mottau then dropped his gloves, attempting to get Avery to fight him, but Avery kept his equipment on thinking he had drawn a penalty. The referees, however, had other ideas and gave both men coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct minors at 19:07 in the first. I personally thought each guy should've gotten two minutes each for unsportsmanlike conduct with an additional two minutes going to Mottau for instigating, but that's not really the point here. For some reason, one of the referees escorted Avery to the tunnel and made him go to the dressing room to finish serving his penalty while Mike Mottau was allowed momentarily to serve his minor in the penalty box. Mottau was eventually forced to leave the ice, as well, but it was a curious call that Sean Avery definitely didn't appreciate. Here's what he had to say to the media after the game, via Andrew Gross:
“We know why,” Avery said. “Why would they send me off for a regular penalty? I’d like you guys to start calling (the NHL office) and asking that and give me an explanation.”
“They shouldn’t have even called either one a penalty,” coach John Tortorella added. “They should have let them play. I looked at the tape. It’s not worth discussing. They should have let them play. They shouldn’t have called a penalty on either one of them.”
In other words, Avery was once again shown bias against him by NHL referees, despite the league claiming that there is no double-standard towards Sean. This is something that I think every Rangers fan, player and coach knows, including Avery himself, but it still doesn't make it right and it's still frustrating as hell to see when I'm watching a game. I can imagine it's probably 100x more frustrating for Avery himself considering he's the guy who has done everything he can to rebuild his image and his game, yet is still blackballed around the NHL.
Some other notes from the game:
- Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely sensational in the second and third periods after allowing what I thought was a bad goal in the first period, and a shot that Lundqvist probably would admit himself that he should've stopped. There were several highlight reel saves made by the King tonight, including a diving save that he somehow stopped while diving across the crease out of desperation to get there in time.
- Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi both had probably their worst game of the year so far tonight. McDonagh made some terrible giveaways and decisions with the puck, while Girardi seemed to be out of position on a few occasions. The good part about it is that the Rangers gutted out a win on a night when their top defensive pairing simply didn't have it, but it's fair to wonder if all the major minutes McDonagh and Girardi have been piling up game after game are going to take its toll on them every once in a while until the Rangers get another defenseman who they can give minutes to in order to take some of the pressure off McDonagh and Girardi.
- The Rangers' second goal came off a beautiful cross-ice pass from Ryan Callahan to Steve Eminger that Eminger was able to convert for a goal. It was Eminger's first goal since last February. Callahan also finished the game a plus-3 and scored what I guess you could call a controversial empty net goal if there is such a thing. Callahan shot the puck down the ice as time expired and at first the final score was announced as 3-2. But a replay on MSG showed that the puck crossed the line with 0.5 left on the clock, so the goal counted and the final score was quickly changed.
- John Tortorella juggled his liens in the first period and wound up swapping centers on his second and third lines, reuniting the line of Brandon Dubinsky-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan and moving Brian Boyle to center a line with Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko. The move turned out to work, as each line had a hand in each Rangers goal tonight. Apparently, John Tortorella said after the game that he planned to swap Richards and Boyle's spots throughout the game all along, and he eventually just left the lines alone after Avery quickly scored a goal in the first period following the rearranging of the lines.
- Sean Avery now has goals in back-to-back games and is one goal shy of his entire total last year.
- Sean Avery and Mike Mottau fought each other as soon as they stepped out of the box in the second period after serving their unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Brandon Prust also fought Matt Martin after Martin delivered a hard hit on Steve Eminger. Neither fight was really a clean victory for either guy, but it's worth noting that Prust finished the game with only 5:59 TOI on the night.
That's it for tonight. The Rangers' next game isn't until Saturday in Montreal, so we've got quite a bit of time until then. You can view the boxscore to the game here.