Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rangers Beat Maple Leafs 4-3, Gain Two Points On Penguins

It wasn't in the prettiest of fashions, but at this time of the year two points is two points. The Rangers scratched and clawed their way to a 4-3 shootout victory last night against the Toronto Maple Leafs after trailing twice in the game, and were able to do it thanks in large part to the dominant efforts of the first line yet again. Marian Gaborik scored two goals in the game and Brad Richards had two assists and a shootout goal. Ryan Callahan scored the game-winner in Round 3 of the shootout, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped two of the three shooters he faced in the shootout.

The Penguins lost last night and the Flyers one, so the Rangers picked up a big two points on the Pens to give them a little bit of breathing room in the standings. They're now three points ahead of the Penguins for first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. With last night's win, the Rangers are also now tied with the St. Louis Blues for the best overall record in the NHL.

There were a lot of ups and downs in this game for the Rangers, and when one of my friends texted me last night and called it "a frustrating game" I thought that was the best way to describe it. It seemed like for every good thing the Rangers did last night there was an equally bad play to counteract it. A perfect example of this was Brandon Dubinsky being benched and demoted to the fourth line in the first period after a bad play, but he then went on to score a goal in the second period to tie the game at one. Another example was in the third period; Brad Richards made a fantastic play at the blueline in the offensive zone to get the puck to Marian Gaborik for a mini-breakaway that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead (their first lead of the game), but that same line then allowed the Leafs to rush up the ice and tie the game at three just 18 seconds later after a poor job of backchecking.

But, like I said, at this point the Rangers just need to find ways to win games by any means necessary, so I'll take it.

Some things worth pointing out from the game:

- Brandon Dubinsky finished with just 7:51 of ice time in the game, but had a goal and four shots in the game. After he was bumped to the fourth line with John Mitchell and Mike Rupp, Artem Anisimov was moved up to the left wing to take Dubi's spot on a line with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan, and the line of Ruslan Fedotenko-Brian Boyle-Brandon Prust was reunited once again. It'll be interesting to see if Torts sticks with these lines Tuesday against the Wild. I personally liked the way the Dubinsky-Stepan-Callahan line was playing, and thought Anisimov-Boyle-Prust showed some good things in Friday's game versus Buffalo, so I would like to see Torts go back to those lines again.

- Tim Erixon recorded an assist for the second game in a row, and it seems like he's beginning to open up his offensive game a bit more during his latest stint with the Rangers. He had only 9:41 of ice time last night against Toronto, but 1:25 of that came on the power play.

- Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan both led the Rangers with five shots on goal each. Stepan also saw a lot more time on the PK after Dubinsky was benched for a majority of the game.

- Henrik Lundqvist, who started both games of the back-to-back against the Sabres and Maple Leafs on Friday and Saturday, stopped 22 of 25 shots that he faced. I thought he looked shaky early on in the game, but was pretty solid as the game continued to move along, and especially in the third period and on. The third goal wasn't on Lundqvist at all, but the first two he probably stops when his game is right. It's been about a month now where Hank has been playing so-so pretty consistently, so hopefully he's close to snapping out of it.

- The Rangers blocked 20 shots to the Leafs' 11.

- Marc Staal played 24:24, which I think is a season-high in ice time for Staal thus far. He's really started to round into form recently and his ice time has steadily increased as he's gotten his conditioning level up and his game where it needs to be. There are still some times, though, where I feel like Staal is getting beat in situations he normally wouldn't have a year ago. For the most part, though, he's been steadily improving.

You can read the boxscore to the game here.

The Rangers are off today and tomorrow before heading to Minnesota to face the Wild on Tuesday night.

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