Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rangers Defeat Jets 3-0, Head Into All-Star Break First In Eastern Conference

The Rangers scored a goal in each period en-route to a 3-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets tonight, and ensured that they will head into the All-Star Break in first place of the Eastern Conference.

Henrik Lundqvist picked up his 22nd win and fifth shutout of the season and now trails only Jonathan Quick of the Kings for the league lead, who has six. Tonight, Lundqvist also tied Ed Kerr for second in New York Rangers history with 40 career shutouts. He now trails only Eddie Giacomin for the most in franchise history (49). Lundqvist wasn't tested much in the first two periods when the Jets had just 12 combined shots on goal, but he made several huge saves when he was called upon. If not for Lundqvist's efforts in goal, the outcome of this game definitely could've been different.

Both goaltenders certainly made their presence felt in this game. I thought the Rangers could've easily won this game 4-0 or 5-0 if not for a few outstanding saves by Ondrej Pavelec, who robbed Derek Stepan and John Mitchell of goals in the third period off of two beautiful feeds from Marian Gaborik. At the same time, the Jets could've gotten on the board and changed the flow of the game completely if not for some big saves by Henrik Lundqvist.

Marian Gaborik didn't score tonight, but he had a very strong game and seemed to be making things happen all night long. He had a few chances where the puck just bounced over his stick and was also robbed by Pavelec on a one-timer on the power play in the third period.

Andrew Ladd fell on Brian Boyle's foot awkwardly in the second period along the boards and Boyle never really seemed 100% after that. He tried testing it out a few times during even strength, but was mainly just used on the penalty kill for the rest of the game. The All-Star Break comes at a nice time for Boyle, who has been playing through some bumps and bruises for a while now.

Brad Richards scored for the first time in seven games, and had a very strong game overall, I thought. I seemed to notice him just about every time he was on the ice and when Brian Boyle went down with an ankle injury in the second period, it seemed like Richards' game really started to flourish once he began playing with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. Personally, I never thought it was a good idea playing him with Ruslan Fedotenko and Brandon Prust, anyway.

Ryan Callahan, who was awarded the Broadway Hat, had a goal and an assist for the second consecutive game and was a plus-2 rating on the night. His goal was typical Ryan Callahan - just driving hard to the net and picking up the loose change off an Anton Stralman slapshot from the point.

John Mitchell, who now has three goals in his last five games, scored in the second period off of a beautiful pass from Michael Del Zotto. Mitchell has really been impressive to the point where you have to figure he's earned himself a permanent spot in the lineup for the remainder of the season. He's done everything the Rangers have asked of him and is now a plus-11 on the season.

Marc Staal played only 12:06 tonight, which was his lowest time on ice of the season. He was previously getting over 20 minutes a night his last few games. John Tortorella must have really liked Anton Stralman's game tonight, because he finished with 21:49 TOI.

Speaking of Stralman, he blocked a shot in the third period off his hip and was slow getting up. He never went to the locker room and seemed OK afterwards, however.

Some other notes from tonight: The Rangers out-shot the Jets 31-22...Mike Rupp had 10 penalty minutes, fighting twice with Chris Thorburn...Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik both had a game-high five shots on goal...John Mitchell took Carl Hagelin's spot on a line with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan in the third period after having a strong game...The Rangers went 0-for-4 on the power play tonight.

The Rangers are off until next Tuesday when they play the Devils in Newark. Dan Girardi, Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist will all be a part of the All-Star Game while the rest of the team will likely enjoy the nice break away from the rink.

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