Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rangers Eliminate Devils From Playoff Race Thanks To Callahan, Lundqvist

The New York Rangers officially eliminated the New Jersey Devils from the playoff race today with a 4-1 victory this afternoon at the Garden. The Rangers were led by Ryan Callahan, who had two goals, and got the scoring started just 34 seconds into the game with a nifty backhand from behind the net after Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur lost track of the puck. Brad Richards also registered two assists, extending his point streak to three games, while Taylor Pyatt and Derek Stepan tallied the other two goals in the game. Henrik Lundqvist was back at his best, stopping 26 of 27 shots on goal.

With today's win, the Rangers moved three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets for the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers, who have now won three straight games in which they've outscored their opposition by a score of 18-6, are now tied with the Ottawa Senators in points (52) and are one point behind the Islanders in the standings, as well.

Right from the beginning you could tell the Rangers were on their game. They showed intense pressure on the forecheck all night long and sure didn't look like a team who has played three games in the last four days. I thought the Rangers made Marty Brodeur look like the same average goaltender he's looked like for the majority of the past few years. Ryan Callahan's goal to open the scoring came when Brodeur lost track of where the puck was during a battle along the boards behind his net, and the goal he gave up to Taylor Pyatt was clearly one that Brodeur or any other NHL goaltender would tell you should've been stopped. The Rangers, to their credit, never let up on their offensive pressure all game long and seemed to rattle Brodeur every time they were around his net.

The only time this game really worried me and made me think the Devils could put up a decent fight was early in the second period. The Devils came out flying and had the Rangers pinned in their own zone for much of the first half of the second period, but Henrik Lundqvist stood tall and was fantastic when called upon to make a big stop. The Devils only out-shot the Rangers 12-10 in the period, but for the most part I thought they were the better team in the period. Once Pyatt scored his goal off an alert takeaway by Brad Richards in the Devils' zone, the game felt like it was over. Like the Sabres on Friday night, the Devils really did not show much fight in this game and certainly didn't play like a team who needed to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. They were uncharacteristically undisciplined and took eight penalties in the game, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Patrik Elias in the third period that essentially killed any chance the Devils had of getting back in the game, and two bench minors from head coach Peter DeBoer barking at the officials (the second of which got him ejected at 19:25 of the third period). Very odd at how quickly the team seemed to unravel.

Anyway, here are some notes from the game tonight:

- Derek Stepan continued his torrid pace this month with a goal and an assist today and now has a four-game point streak (two goals and four assists). He has been held scoreless in just one game this month (April 13 against the Islanders) and overall has posted six goals and nine assists for 15 points and a plus-11 rating in 11 games in April. The kid is quickly becoming this team's No. 1 center on the roster and has matured tremendously over the last year and a half.

- Brad Richards has a three-game point streak, tying his longest of the season, and has posted four goals and three assists for seven points in that span to go along with a plus-4 rating. In 11 games this month, Richards has tallied five goals and seven assists for 12 points. He's looked like a totally different player since the trade deadline.

- John Moore had a total of 3:15 of power play time tonight a few games after John Tortorella expressed a desire to get him more involved on the power play. I think Moore has looked more and more comfortable each game he's played and you can see him taking more and more chances on offense when he has the puck on his stick. Overall, he had 14:11 TOI today, which was his highest total since becoming a Ranger.

- Taylor Pyatt's goal was his first since February 26 against the Winnipeg Jets. I knew he hadn't scored in a long, long time, but I didn't know it was that long. Amazingly, Pyatt now has a three-game point streak since being moved up to play on Brad Richards' line after Brian Boyle's leg injury and has one goal and two assists in his last three games. Before that, the last time he had recorded a point guessed it, February 26 against the Jets.

- Arron Asham actually got 22 seconds of power play time in today's game. Maybe Torts owed him a favor? In all seriousness, though, tonight seemed like a game in which Asham was noticeable on just about every shift and getting under the Devils' skin all day long. Tonight was probably one of Asham's best games as a Ranger. He was throwing hits and mixing it up with the Devils every chance he got, which is all you can ask for from a scrappy fourth line agitator. Asham received a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the game, but I didn't see or hear what the reasoning for it was.

- Ryan Callahan recorded his team-leading sixth power play goal of the season and the captain now has a four-game point streak of his own (three goals and three assists).

- Dan Girardi led all skaters with 27:00 TOI.

That's it for today. The Rangers are off tomorrow before taking on the Panthers Tuesday in Florida. After that it's a match up with the Hurricanes in Carolina on Thursday and then the regular season finale against the Devils from the Garden on Saturday.


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