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Rangers avoid collapse against Toronto; Zuccarello scores game winner

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers found a way to avoid a collapse, thanks to a Mats Zuccarello game winner in the late stages of the third period. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Rangers (31-16-5) found a way to get a win on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs, avoiding a late game collapse and coming away with a 5-4 victory at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto scored two goals early in the second period to tie the game at four, but Mats Zuccarello came through in the clutch, sending the Rangers to Colorado with two points.

Offense was certainly not the problem, as the Rangers managed to find twine five times, including two goals from Zuccarello, on a total of 39 shots. 31 of those shots came in the first two periods alone.

The Rangers struggled in the faceoff circle again, winning just 40 percent (27/67) of their draws. This has been a continued problem, with Kevin Hayes and Derek Stepan the two worst faceoff guys on the team. It has gotten them into trouble, and may be something that needs to be addressed.

Cam Talbot started his fourth consecutive game in net for the Rangers, the first time he has done so in his career. Talbot was a bit shaky, making 29 saves and allowing four goals. He didn’t look as comfortable as he normally does, and let in a few goals that he would probably stop. But, he managed to make some key saves towards the end of the game, and earned his sixth victory of the season.

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Talbot was not at his best on Tuesday night, but made some timely saves to secure a 5-4 Rangers victory. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Rick Nash was another key performer, tallying three assists for just the sixth time in his career, and the first time he has done that since 2009. Nash now has 52 points (33-19-52) in 52 games, continuing his tremendous season.

One of the keys to success that all of the Rangers talked about following Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Dallas was the start of the game, which needed to be strong to get a win, and the Rangers did exactly that, with a fantastic start to the game.

Just 2:57 into the game, the Rangers took the lead on Dan Boyle’s seventh goal of the season on a perfect hockey play. Mats Zuccarello was strong along the boards to keep possession in Toronto’s zone, making a pass over to Nash. Nash circled, getting the puck behind the net. It appeared that Toronto’s defenseman Morgan Rielly would get to the puck, but Derick Brassard lifted his stick and gained possession. Meanwhile, Dan Boyle read the whole play, getting into a perfect position in front of the net without the Maple Leafs noticing. Brassard saw Boyle, made a perfect pass, and the Rangers took a 1-0 lead.

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Dan Boyle scored his seventh goal on the season, making a great read on the play and cashing in on a fantastic effort from Derick Brassard behind the net. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The pressure continued from all four lines, with the Rangers piling on the shots against James Reimer, who played very well at times and kept the Leafs in the game throughout the night.

The Rangers managed to break through again, and it was Mats Zuccarello scoring to extend his point streak. Derick Brassard made a great play to intercept the puck in the Leafs zone, and fed the puck over to “Zukes” who put it into the open net, giving New York a 2-0 lead.

Toronto was able to cut the lead to one late in the period, with Morgan Rielly firing a wrister past Talbot just six seconds into a power play opportunity. It started with the Rangers losing the faceoff, a recurring problem, and a well-placed shot past the glove of Talbot, and Toronto was back in the game.

In the second period, the Rangers got off to a strong start again, finding the back of the net just 1:42 into the period. The Rangers forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and went on the rush up the middle of the ice. Marc Staal carried the puck to the net, and fed Kevin Hayes on a backhand pass, which he tapped in past Reimer, recapturing the two goal lead.

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Kevin Hayes scored his third goal of the season following a great play from Marc Staal to crash the net before making a last minute pass across the crease to Hayes. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Kevin Klein had the other assist on Hayes’ 8th goal of the season. It’s just the second time in his career that he has reached the 20 point mark, and he is one point away from tying his career high.

But Toronto hung around, scoring 26 seconds after the Kevin Hayes goal. Stephane Robidas scored his first goal of the season on a quick shot. Joffrey Lupul was in front of the net, looking for a deflection. Although he did not get a piece of a puck, it confused Talbot, and found the back of the net, and Toronto cut the lead to 3-2.

Around the halfway point of the period, Derick Brassard was sent to the box for tripping. However, it was the Rangers scoring their 7th shorthanded goal of the season, and Dominic Moore scoring his fifth goal of the season. After getting the puck into Toronto’s zone, Carl Hagelin chipped it back to Moore, who fired a quick slap shot past Reimer, a puck that he didn’t quite see. Giving the Rangers back their two goal lead once again.

Just 20 seconds into the third period, Morgan Rielly, who played a fantastic game, scored his second goal of the night, firing a wrist shot through the legs of Mats Zuccarello after Toronto forced a turnover at the blue line.

Following another turnover, Toronto generated another scoring chance, with Daniel Winnick carrying the puck deep into the Rangers zone. His centering pass went off of Ryan McDonagh, who went to the ice too early, and past Talbot. Shockingly, the Maple Leafs had somehow battled back and tied the game at four.

With less than five minutes remaining, and the Maple Leafs pressuring Talbot and the Rangers, the Blueshirts managed to break the tie, and it was Mats Zuccarello scoring his second goal of the game and his 10th of the season. Rick Nash made a nice backhanded pass to Zuccarello at the point, and he placed a perfect shot top shelf, giving the Rangers the lead with 5:56 in the game.

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Mats Zuccarello scored two goals in the Rangers win, extending his point streak to six games, a career high for the Norwegian. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Toronto would come close, with Nazem Kadri hitting the post, but the Rangers held on for a win, and took over third place in the Metropolitan Division.

While it was not the Rangers best game, and there were certainly some glaring errors, they found a way to battle back and win, which is what good teams do.

The Rangers offense was fantastic, creating tons of chances, breakaways, and most importantly, scoring a lot of goals. New York’s 39 shots on goal is one of the highest totals this season, and showed how well they played in the Maple Leafs zone.

One of the Rangers best lines was the third line consisting of Carl Hagelin, Kevin Hayes, and JT Miller. Hayes had a great night, and seems to be developing into a solid defensive player as well, often making smart reads and knocking down pucks in the passing lane. Hayes also has a three game point streak, with a goal and two assists in that span.

Carl Hagelin has been very good since scoring the overtime winner against the Ottawa Senators, effectively using his speed and always getting a lot of shots on net. Hagelin had five shots on goal against Toronto, and assisted on Dominic Moore’s goal.

Dominic Moore doesn’t get talked about often, but he is having a pretty solid year as a fourth liner, considering the personnel and lineup changes he has had to deal with. Moore’s shorthanded goal was his second of the season, and he has a total of five goals and 11 assists this season. He is also solid in the faceoff circle, and a valuable penalty killer.

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Dominic Moore is a very under appreciated part of the Rangers team, and he scored a huge shorthanded goal against Toronto. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

Brassard’s two assists put him over the 40 point mark this season, currently sitting in second on the team in scoring with 41 points (13-28-41). He has six points, a goal and five assists, in his last five games, and an impressive 24 points (7-17-24) in the last 28 games. Brassard has already surpassed his assists from last season, and is two away from tying his career high. “Brass” is a huge asset to this team, and one of the most consistent performers as well.

Tonight was the type of game that Mats Zuccarello needed to regain his confidence. Despite putting him back on the line with Rick Nash, Zuccarello shot the puck much more frequently, totaling five shots on goal, and scoring on two of those. He also moved the puck very well, like he always does, and extended his point streak to six games, where he has three goals and five assists in that span. The six game point streak is a career high for Zuccarello. The two goals put him in double digits, and gives him a total of 31 points (10-21-31) this season. Zuccarello is doing everything he can to show Vigneault and the Rangers that he should stay in New York.

The Rangers will head to Denver to take on Jarome Iginla and the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night in the second game of their road trip.

THREE STARS

1) Mats Zuccarello – 2 G, 5 SOG, 3 HT

2) Rick Nash – 3 A, 2 TK, 16:28 TOT

3) Dominic Moore – 1 G, 1 A

 

 

 

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Posted on February 11, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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