Rangers win again over tough Panthers team; Sheppard and Hunwick score
The Rangers (44-17-7) managed two survive 40 minutes of swarming Florida Panthers (31-24-14), earning their fifth straight win thanks to strong play from the fourth line and superb goaltending from Cam Talbot. New York skated away with a 2-1 home ice victory.
With the win, the Rangers improved their record to 44-17-7, with a 14-1-3 record in the last 18 games. Since December 8th, the Rangers are 33-7-3, propelling them to five points ahead of the Islanders in the division, and first place in the entire league.
Tonight marked the first time in franchise history that the Rangers have allowed one goal or fewer in regulation in seven straight games.
The Panthers played with desperation, clinging onto hopes of a wild card spot for the playoffs. They certainly outshot the Rangers over the last two periods, attempting a total of 98 shots, with 39 of them on goal.
Talbot was absolutely unbelievable yet again, making 38 saves in the game (career high), including 20 in the second period alone. When the Rangers were struggling to pressure offensively, Talbot stood on his head, making some remarkable saves, not giving up many rebounds, and giving the Rangers a chance to win.
Talbot has been superb filling in for Lundqvist’s shoes, with an 8-1-1 record in his last 10 games, and a 5-0-1 record in his last six starts with a .99 GAA and a .967 save percentage. He has given up one goal or less in regulation in the last six games, and the Rangers have given up six goals in the last seven games.
Matt Hunwick and James Sheppard both scored their first goal in a Rangers uniform, showing the depth that New York has. Sheppard was in the lineup for the first time in three games, and played really well. Matt Hunwick played in the second game since Klein’s injury, and hasn’t missed a beat. Both guys played really well tonight.
It seemed as if the Rangers were going to control the game from the get-go, outshooting the Panthers 12-6 in the period. All four lines were playing well, with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider leading the way. Both of them had four shots on goal in the first period.
But it was the fourth line that wound up scoring for the Rangers, as they continue to grow their chemistry. James Sheppard won a puck battle along the boards and carried it towards net, losing control but staying with it. He got the puck out to Hunwick, and his pass was deflected by Dominic Moore towards Sheppard, and he tapped it in for his first goal as a Ranger, giving them a 1-0 lead.
The second period was all Florida, as they would fire 20 shots at Cam Talbot, but not scoring once. The Panthers had total control, with the line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Jaromir Jagr standing out, dominating puck possession.
While Cam Talbot was great, the Rangers also did a fantastic job blocking shots in the game, setting a team record with 36 blocked shots in the period. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi both blocked six, and Keith Yandle blocked four.
The Panthers had a few one-on-one opportunities in the period, squaring up to shots by Jimmy Hayes, Jagr, and Nick Bjugstad and keeping the Panthers off of the board.
His best save of the period was actually two saves, denying Florida captain Willie Mitchell on an initial wrist shot and a rebound opportunity after a great pass from Jussi Jokinen. The stuff in try by Jimmy Hayes was also stopped.
Florida came very close to scoring in the period on a power play opportunity, with Aaron Ekblad hitting the post. Somehow, the Rangers headed to the locker room with a 1-0 lead after two periods.
The Panthers came out firing in the second period again, but to no avail. Nut 8:37 into the period, it was New York scoring yet again. The fourth line had another long, sustained offensive shift, winning battles along the board and pressuring the Cats. Matt Hunwick got the puck at the point, and blasted a slap shot that rang off the inside of the post and into the net, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead on his first of the season.
Brandon Pirri answered back less than two minutes later, scoring on a wrister through a crowd of people off of a faceoff win. It was his 15th goal of the season, and his 12th goal in the last 17 games. But the Panthers could not score the equalizer, and the Rangers escaped with a 2-1 win.
The effort from the fourth line needs to be commended. Dominic Moore, Jesper Fast, and James Sheppard were very responsible defensively, and they were able to contribute to the offensive game as well. They were on for both goals, and all got on the score sheet (Sheppard – G, Moore – 2 A, Fast – A). Sheppard is clearly a more skilled player than Tanner Glass, and I’d love to see him stay in the lineup for a while.
Matt Hunwick has been tremendous since replacing the injured Kevin Klein. Hunwick is a great puck mover, steady defensively, and was rewarded with his first goal of the season. The Rangers will need him to keep playing strong for the rest of the season.
Late in the third period, Martin St. Louis appeared to hurt his right knee after getting tangled up with a Florida Panther behind the net, leaving the ice. Vigneault said he didn’t think it was serious, but there will be an update tomorrow.
The Rangers will have two days off before they take on the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
1) Cam Talbot – 38 SV, .974 SV%
2) Matt Hunwick – G, +2, 13:43 TOT
3) James Sheppard – G, 2 SOG, 2 BS, 3 HT
Posted on March 16, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged Alain Vigneault, Buffalo Sabres, Cam Talbot, Carl Hagelin, Chris Kreider, Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Dominic Moore, Florida Panthers, Glass, Henrik Lundqvist, Islanders, Jaromir Jagr, Jesper Fast, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, Kevin Klein, King Henrik, Mackenzie Skapski, Madison Square Garden, Marc Staal, Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello, Matt Hunwick, MSG, MSL, New York Rangers, NHL, NHL 2014-2015 Season, Nick Bjugstad, NY Rangers, NYR, Rangers, Rangers Nation, Rangerstown, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Tanner Glass, The Ranger Zone, Zuccarello. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.