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Rangers get back in the win column over Winnipeg; Henrik Lundqvist very sharp

Bobby Bevilacqua

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The Rangers were happy to get back in the win column on Tuesday, coming away with a nice two point performance over the Winnipeg Jets. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (48-21-7) followed up a rough weekend with a great comeback win tonight against the Winnipeg Jets (39-26-12), a team that is desperate to cling onto their last Wild Card spot. In an extremely hard fought battle against the Winnipeg Jets (39-26-12), coming out on top by a final score of 3-2 thanks to a late goal by Chris Kreider.

The win was the 25th road victory for the Rangers this season, a mark that currently leads the NHL, and ties a franchise record that was set last season. They now sit in the first overall spot in the New York is also just two points from clinching home-ice advantage in the first round.

This wasn’t the best game played by the Rangers, as it seemed like Winnepeg had the puck in the Rangers zone more often, and had more attempts and chances. The Jets had 73 shot attempts in the game. 34 of the shots were on net, 24 of them were blocked, and 15 missed the net. But the Rangers weathered the storm, battling through the tough moments and finding ways to come out on top.

Henrik Lundqvist was back in net for the Rangers, and he was rock solid tonight, finishing with 32 saves for his 26th win of the season, and his first win in 57 days. Lundqvist was able to shake off a bad first period goal, finishing the first 20 minutes with 15 saves. He said after the game that he felt much more comfortable going into this game than the game in Boston, and it certainly showed.

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Henrik Lundqvist was tremendous tonight, making some huge saves early to keep the Rangers withing striking distance at all times. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The game started with the Jets pinning the Rangers back in their own zone, eventually finishing with the first nine shots on goal. Henrik made some nice saves early, but made a positioning mistake, allowing the Jets to score the first goal less than four minutes into the period. Keith Yandle lost his stick on the play, allowing Chris Thorburn to chip the puck on net. Jim Slater collected the loose puck, and shot the puck through the smallest hole near the post with Lundqvist not hugging the post. The Jets got out to a quick 1-0 lead.

The Rangers got a power play opportunity at the 5:20 mark, which seemed to energize the team. They did not score on the man advantage in the first period, but it got them going, and started to generate shots on goal.

The Rangers answered back with a goal of their own about halfway through the period, and it was Mats Zuccarello continuing his hot streak, scoring his 15th goal of the season. Zuccarello started the play along the boards, winning the puck over to Derick Brassard, who promptly passed it off to Rick Nash. Nash fired a nice, low shot at Ondrej Pavelec through a moving Zuccarello screen. Zukes was there to collect the rebound and tie the game at one goal apiece.

Rick Nash and Derick Brassard picked up the helpers on Zuccarello’s 15th goal of the season. Brassard’s assist gave him a total of 40 for the season, marking the first time in his NHL career that he has hit the 40 assist plateau.

The first period ended with the Jets up in shots 16-9, but with New York building momentum late in the period.

The Jets got back on the board just 1:24 into the second period, and it was the former Ranger Lee Stempniak finding the back of the net for his 12th goal of the season. The Rangers could not clear the puck farther than the blue line, and went off for a defensive change, giving the Jets a chance on the Rush. Stempniak’s wrist shot was perfectly placed, beating Lundqvist high on the glove side, recapturing Winnipeg’s one goal lead.

But the Rangers continued to battle back, eventually tying the game at two with their first power play goal in five games. The Rangers were simplifying things, doing a great job of getting the puck on net and screening the goalie. On the man advantage, Derick Brassard rifled a slap shot through a perfect screen by Rick Nash, and past Pavelec for just New York’s fifth power play goal in 53 opportunities. Ryan McDonagh and Keith Yandle picked up the assists.

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Derick Brassard scored the game tying goal on the power play, the first Rangers goal on the man advantage in five games. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

Late in the second period, a play occurred that was not penalized, and should certainly be looked at by the league with a possible suspension. After JT Miller tried to stuff the puck in past Pavelec, he went down to the ice. Dustin Byfuglien hit him in the back of the neck with a vicious cross check, an extremely dangerous play. Vigneault said after the game that a play like that could have easily broken Miller’s neck. This play needs to be reviewed, and Byfuglien needs to be punished.

The third period was less eventful, with both teams tightening up their defensive play, and limiting chances. The Rangers were still hanging in there, with Winnipeg coming extremely close to a third lead, with Jiri Tlusty hitting the crossbar.

Late in the period, the Rangers would take their first lead of the game thanks to some sweet moves from Chris Kreider, scoring his 21st goal of the season. It started with a great defensive play behind the net from Derek Stepan, eventually working the puck to JT Miller. Miller was about to go off for a change, but stayed on when he say Kreider about to burst through the middle of the ice. Miller made a great pass to Krieder, who used his speed to beat Byfuglien and deke past Pavelev, scoring the go-ahead goal with 3:46 remaining in the game.

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Chris Kreider capped off a solid night with the game winning goal late in the third period, accepting a great pass from Miller and faking out Pavelec for his 21st goal of only his secoond full season in the NHL.

 

That was too much for Winnipeg to handle, and the Rangers skated out of there with a nice rebound victory in a very hard fought battle. It was the type of game that kept the Rangers on their heels, going back to their defensive game and back to the style of play that makes them successful.

The top line of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello was easily the Rangers best line in this game. Mats Zuccarello was all over the place, constantly disrupting plays and setting up chances for his own team. In his last seven games, Zukes has three goals and five assists, and is active in all areas of the ice.This top line has had tremendous success throughout the season, and should stay together as the postseason begins.

JT Miller continues to grow, improving in every aspect of his game as the season progresses. He’s one of the team’s more physical players, always hitting people and playing aggressively, yet he also has skill to show off as well. It was great to see him come back from that horrible cross check, and answer back with a great pass to set up Kreider’s goal.

Dan Girardi was one of the team’s best defenseman, finishing the game with a career high 10 blocked shots, and bailing out the team on some turnovers. Girardi has been known to be a very steady and reliable defenseman, and he was definitely one of the most reliable guys on the ice tonight.

The Rangers have one day off before heading to Minnesota to take on a surging Wild team.

THREE STARS

1) Derick Brassard – 1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 1 TK

2) Henrik Lundqvist – 30 SV, .941 SV%

3) Mats Zuccarello – 1 G, 2 BS, 18:55 TOT

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Posted on April 1, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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