Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rangers Keep Rolling, Beat Penguins 3-1

Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves and Brandon Dubinsky and Brad Richards each had a goal and an assist each as the Rangers pushed their current win streak to four games with a 3-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

Following last night's thrilling overtime win against the Panthers, the Rangers came out looking extremely flat in the first period tonight. I can't say they were playing lazy hockey because, honestly, they just looked dead tired. After a hard fought, emotional win in the Winter Classic on Monday and another hard fought victory last night, I thought from the looks of things early on that we were in for a letdown game. And not to make excuses, but I certainly would've understood it since every team has a bad day. But tonight was one of the many reasons why the Rangers pay Henrik Lundqvist the big bucks - to bail the team out and stand on his head when the rest of the team isn't quite playing as well as they should.

Lundqvist held the fort down in the first period, stopping 10 of 11 Penguins shots. The Rangers ended the first period with seven shots on goal, but it wasn't until late in the period when they started putting on pressure in the offensive zone. For a while, the Rangers just couldn't manage to control the flow of play and were consistently pinned in their own zone. Later on in the period, though, Brad Richards won a big faceoff in the offensive zone and Ryan McDonagh fired a shot off of Marc-Andre Fleury's pads that Brandon Dubinsky just got a piece of before Brad Richards buried the rebound for a goal. The Rangers and Penguins headed into the first intermission tied at one, but things could've been much worse for the Rangers.

In the second period, the Rangers scored the eventual game-winning goal in short-handed fashion when Brandon Dubinsky tipped in an absolutely perfect pass from Ryan Callahan on a 2-on-1 after he made a sick toe-drag before feeding Dubi the puck. The goal was eerily similar to the overtime game-winner in Pittsburgh last year when it was Ryan Callahan scoring the game-winner on a great pass from Dubinsky.

The Rangers' third goal game in the third period after Marc-Andre Fleury came out to play the puck along the boards and completely whiffed on it. Marian Gaborik picked up the puck and rushed a backhand shot that went off the side of the net, and after a brief scramble Derek Stepan found the loose puck back in front of the net and buried it.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect, but in the end it was a win for the New York Rangers and that's all that matters. The Rangers were out-shot 38-21 in the game, including 14-6 in the third period, but it didn't matter. Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely sensational all night long and right from the beginning you just had a feeling watching the game that it was one of those nights that if the Rangers could find a way to grind out a couple of goals it would be all that Lundqvist needed, and in the end it certainly was. Lundqvist came into tonight tied for fourth in the league in GAA and save percentage, and tonight those stats only got even better. Hank now owns a 1.89 GAA and .939 save percentage on the season, which is obviously outstanding.

Some additional news-worthy notes from the game: Marc Staal played an even 15:00 tonight, which was his highest total of the season thus far after playing just over 12:00 in each of his first two games...Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were a game-high plus-3 each on the night, and Girardi led all players with 28:00 TOI...Rangers held Evgeni Malkin to just one shot on goal and a minus-2 rating...Ryan McDonagh and Brandon Dubinsky each had a team-high three shots on goal.

The Rangers have the next three days off before playing the Coyotes at the Garden on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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