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Rangers win thrilling battle over Panthers at the Garden; Zuccarello comes up big

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs panthers 2-2

The Rangers and the Panthers faced off for an exciting and aggressive game, with the Rangers coming away with the 6-3 victory at the Garden. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

In one of the most exciting games of the year, the Rangers (29-15-4) offense came alive once again, scoring three goals in the final period to come away with a 6-3 game victory over the Florida Panthers (21-17-10) at the Garden for their second consecutive win.

The Rangers survived some lulls in their play at the start of the game and towards the end of the second period, scoring an impressive six goals against a tough and desperate Panthers team. After scoring just one goal in the first two games following the All Star break, the Rangers have exploded for 10 goals in their last two games.

With the victory, the Rangers have won 18 of their last 23 games dating back to December 8th, and sit just two points behind the Penguins and three points behind the Islanders, with games in hand on both teams.

There were some moments of strong play for the Rangers, but they also had their lapses, not able to create any long stretches of sustained strong play. The first two periods were an example of their inconsistent play since the break.

Henrik Lundqvist started in net for the Rangers, and successfully held down the fort yet again. Lundqvist made some spectacular saves, including a glove save on Brad Boyes late in the third period, and finished with 33 saves on the night, earning his 25th win of the season.

lundqvist glove save 2-2

Henrik Lundqvist started in net again, and put forth another strong performance for his 25th win of the season. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

In the first period, the Rangers came out of the gates flat, not matching the intensity and desperation of the Panthers. The Cats were rewarded, with Aleksander Barkov scoring his sixth goal of the season just 4:09 into the game. Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over in the Rangers zone, and Brad Boyes worked with Barkov, setting him up in front of the net, and giving Florida a 1-0 lead. Barkov’s goal gave him 11 points in the past 12 games.

Surprisingly, the turning point for the Rangers came on a Dan Girardi tripping penalty, giving Florida the first power play chance of the game. For the second consecutive game, the Rangers were able to score shorthanded, and it was Rick Nash scoring the first goal for the Rangers again, the ninth time he has done that this season.

Nash took the puck away from Aaron Ekblad at the blue line, and using his speed for a breakaway, and making a slick move to put the puck past Luongo, tying the game at one. The goal was Nash’s 30th of the season, which is the eighth time in his 12 NHL seasons that he has hit the 30 goal mark. It was also his fourth shorthanded goal of the season.

nash first goal 2-2

Rick Nash made a fantastic move to get the puck past Roberto Luongo, tying the game at one with his fourth shorthanded goal of the season. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The Rangers nearly took the lead following the goal, with Kevin Hayes just deflecting the puck wide of the net after a great pass from Mats Zuccarello, and Jesper Fast barely missing the net. The Rangers controlled the remainder of the period, allowing very few Florida chances, and headed into the locker room tied at one.

The Rangers momentum carried over into the second period, with New York controlling play early on.

Less than three minutes into the second period, Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead on the power play, blasting a one timer past Luongo for his first career power play goal. Mats Zuccarello had the primary assist, and Ryan McDonagh also picked up an assist.

hayes and zuccarello 2-2

Mats Zuccarello found Kevin Hayes for a gorgeous power play goal, the rookie’s first career goal on the man advantage. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Marc Staal added to the Rangers lead with 10:32 remaining in the second period. Jesper Fast made a nice play to get over to the puck in the Panthers zone, connecting with Marc Staal on a great cross ice pass. Staal’s wrist shot deflected off the stick of Sean Bergenheim, and past Luongo, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

However, the Rangers appeared to play more relaxed in the second half of the period, and the Panthers took advantage of the opportunity.

The Panthers responded with a goal of their own, and it was Dave Bolland scoring his second goal of the season. Sean Bergenheim went to center the puck, and it deflected off of Marc Staal’s skate and off the crossbar. Bolland smacked the puck out of midair and into the net, cutting the Rangers lead to one.

Dan Girardi then took another costly tripping penalty, giving the Panthers a second power play opportunity. On the ensuing power play, Brandon Pirri tied the game at three with his fourth goal in the Panthers last five games. Kevin Klein was out of position, forcing Marc Staal to cover Dave Bolland. Bolland quickly passed the puck to Pirri for a one timer, and the game was tied.

It was a disappointing end to the period, and the inconsistent play haunted the Rangers once again. Vigneault started the game with the same lines from the end of the Hurricanes game, but changed things up again in this game.

The third period was a lot better for the Rangers, with the Blueshirts getting the majority of the chances early on.  Just over eight minutes into the period, the Rangers broke the tie, and it was Dan Boyle scoring his second goal in as many games that gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

dan boyle hi five line 2-2

Dan Boyle scored the game winner for the Rangers, after making a strong defensive play and getting a friendly bounce off of a defender’s stick. It was his second consecutive game with a goal. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Boyle made a strong defensive play along the boards, before throwing the puck on net. It deflected off of Willie Mitchell’s stick and past Luongo, and the Rangers had the lead once again thanks to Boyle’s sixth goal of the year.

With the Panthers pressuring, the Rangers managed to put the game away, and it was Mats Zuccarello ending his 10 game goal drought. Chris Krieder’s shot was stopped by Luongo, but Zuccarello crashed the net, and put the rebound past Luongo for his eighth goal of the season, giving New York the important two goal lead back. It was just “Zukes” second goal in the last 21 games.

mats zuccarello goal celebration 2-2

Mats Zuccarello put the game away with his eighth goal of the season, a shot off of Chris Kreider’s rebound. It was his first goal in 11 games. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Carl Hagelin had an opportunity to score, after he was tripped up on a breakaway, leading to a penalty shot. Hagelin tried to go five hole, but was stopped by Luongo. Hagelin had a strong game, and lead the Rangers in shots on goal with eight.

After Florida pulled their goalie, Rick Nash was able to score the empty netter, giving him 31 goals on the season. That ties him with Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals for the most in the NHL, and it sent the Rangers home with a 6-3 victory.

Despite the inconsistent play, it was a great victory for the Rangers, battling to capture an important two points against the Panthers. The Rangers continue to find ways to win on most nights, and are still climbing up the standings.

The Rangers are now 11-0-1 when they outscore opponents on special teams, and are first in the NHL in games with a shorthanded goal and a power play goal, having done that five times this season.

Dan Boyle wound up scoring the game winning goal, and after struggling for a stretch of games, has found the back of the net in the last two games. Boyle has also had two straight solid defensive games, and alongside John Moore, was one of the better defensive pairings tonight for the Rangers.

Marc Staal was the other standout defender, scoring the Rangers third goal and playing solid defense. He made a mistake when he deflected the puck with his skate, but for the most part this season, Staal has been the most consistent defender on the team, and had a relatively strong game against the Panthers.

marc staal shooting

Marc Staal scored his third goal of the season, as well as providing solid defense throughout the night. Apart from a few miscues, he played well. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Kevin Hayes scored a gorgeous power play goal, showcasing his shot and his scoring ability. He was on the ice for a few of the goals, but that mostly has to do with him learning the hardest position in the NHL on the fly. Hayes keeps looking better as the season goes on, and will be a big part of this Rangers team for years to come.

Rick Nash was the player to lead the Rangers offense, scoring for the second consecutive game, and eclipsing the 30 goal plateau for the first time as a Ranger. Nash leads the league in games with a goal, scoring in 24 different games, and leads the Rangers with 46 points (31-15-46). Nash is easily the MVP of the Rangers, and a candidate for the Hart Trophy at the end of the season.

Most importantly, Mats Zuccarello had a big game for the Rangers amidst the trade rumors and goal drought. Zuccarello had not scored in the past 10 games, but was all over the ice, shooting more often and connecting on some fantastic passes. Zuccarello needed a game like this to jumpstart his production, as the Rangers will really need him to start producing on a more consistent basis. Tonight was a good start.

zuccarello first star 2-2

Mats Zuccarello had a big game, tallying a crucial goal and a power play assist in the game. This could be the game that jump starts his production, which would really benefit the Rangers. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The Rangers next game will be on Wednesday, when the Blueshirts close out their four game home stand against the Boston Bruins.

THREE STARS

1) Mats Zuccarello – 1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG

2) Rick Nash – 2 G, 7 SOG, 2 HT, +2

3) Dan Boyle – 1 G, 3 SOG, 2 BS

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Posted on February 3, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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