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Rangers clinch the Metro with win in Minnesota; Henrik sharp yet again

Bobby Bevilacqua

JT Miller and McDonagh goal celebration 4-2

JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh celebrate after connecting on the game winning goal early in the third period. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Just a week after clinching a playoff spot, the Rangers (49-21-7) clinched the Metropolitan Division title, and home ice through the first two rounds, with a 3-2 win over the red hot Minnesota Wild. It’s just the eighth time in franchise history that the Rangers have won the Metropolitan Division, and the second time in the last four years.

The Blueshirts continue to be road warriors this season, their 26th road win of the season, which sets a new franchise record. The previous record was set last season, with 25 wins.

The win also puts New York at 105 points on the season with five games remaining. Montreal and Tampa Bay are both three points behind, and the Rangers have games in hand on both teams.

The Rangers finished the season with an 18-5-5 record against Western Conference foes, and more impressively, a 12-2-0 record against the West on the road.

Despite going up against an extremely successful team that had won their last five games, and against arguably the best goalie in the NHL over the last two and a half months, nothing fazed New York, as they got off to a fantastic start, battling the whole way through to secure their 49th win of the season.

Although hockey players often use the phrase, “we battled hard,” this really embodies the Rangers style of play throughout the season. The team’s compete level is extremely high every night, and it makes them a very competitive team, and a group that is extremely tough to play against. Their constant grinding and unending effort is part of the reason that they are one of the best teams in the NHL.

Henrik Lundqvist was starting his second consecutive game in net, and he was flat-out outstanding at times, making crucial saves throughout the three periods, and bailing out the team when they were sitting back on a lead. Lundqvist finished with 26 saves, securing his 27th win of the season.

henrik lundqvist profile 4-2

Henrik Lundqvist, wearing the mask designed with Mario Batali on “The Mask,” was very sharp again tonight, finishing with 26 saves and bailing out the Rangers at times throughout the game. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

 

The game started off with a great save from Lundqvist early, coming out of his net to challenge Zach Parise and make a huge shoulder save. Shortly after that, the Rangers rewarded Lundqvist with a goal, and it was Dominic Moore scoring his seventh goal of the season.

The Wild tried to clear the puck out of the zone, but Carl Hagelin intercepted it at the blue line. He quickly turned and fired a shot on net. Dominic Moore was skating in front of the net, and deflected the puck through his legs and past Dubnyk, opening the scoring just 2:09 into the game.

The Rangers continued to dominate the period, clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing Minnesota to establish any offense, getting only as far as dumping and chasing the puck for 15 minutes. After some hard work, New York cashed in again.

After Justin Fontaine was sent to the penalty box, the Rangers got to work on the power play. After cycling the puck, Derick Brassard passed it to Rick Nash, who was hovering nearly parallel to the goal post. Keith Yandle distracted Dubnyk by skating towards the net, forcing him to cheat off the post a bit and protect the pass. Nash noticed this, shooting the puck at Dubnyk from an impossible angle, deflecting the puck off of his arm and into the net for the Rangers second power play goal in as many games.

rick nash hi five line 4-2

Rick Nash’s 41st goal of the season ties a career high set back in his second season in the NHL. Nash is second in the league in scoring, behind only Alex Ovechkin. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The defensive effort from the Rangers was tremendous in the first period, eliminating any open ice in the neutral zone. They were outshot in the period, but wound up scoring twice on six shots.

The game started to open up in the second period, and the Wild began to pour on the pressure, generating a lot more quality chances than in the first period. Minnesota would break through in this period, cutting the Rangers lead to just one.

On a great rush up the ice, Mikael Granlund dropped a pass back to the rookie Matt Dumba. Dumba made a great move to beat Dominic Moore, and backhanded the puck towards the net, where it traveled through a maze of people and off of Jason Pominville’s skate, beating Henrik Lundqvist.

Late in the period, the Rangers had a few power play chances, including a four minute double minor and a 48 second 5-on-3 chance. One of the Wild skaters broke his stick on the play, but the Rangers couldn’t convert. It seems like they are slow on the trigger at times, and too timid to take a shot on goal. This was a huge opportunity missed by the Rangers, and the period ended with New York up 2-1.

After killing off the remaining time left on the Rangers power play, the Wild started peppering Lundqvist with shots. He stood on his head at first, denying Ryan Carter alone in front on their best chance, but eventually let one through almost six minutes into the period.

It started with Lundqvist making a few good saves, dropping his stick as the puck was cleared out of the crease. As he tried to get back on his feet, Lundqvist accidentally stepped on his stick right as Matt Dumba rifled a shot wide, throwing Henrik off balance. The puck bounced right off of the boards to the stick of Thomas Vanek for an easy tap in goal, tying the game at two.

But the Rangers never let it get to them, battling back and scoring the game winner less than a minute after Vanek’s goal. Chris Kreider carried the puck into the Wild’s zone, taking it behind the net and drawing the defender’s attention to him. Kreider passed the puck up to Ryan McDonagh at the point, and he placed a perfect shot-pass right onto the stick of a well-positioned JT Miller, sneaking past Devan Dubnyk for the eventual game winner.

JT Miller hi five line 4-2

JT Miller was amped after deflecting in the game winner on a great set play. the goal was Miller’s 10th of the season, and his 22nd point. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

New York had two Minnesota natives playing tonight in Derek Stepan and the captain, Ryan McDonagh. Stepan was active all night, but McDonagh had an outstanding game. While providing strong defense, McDonagh was very relevant in the other end of the ice, leading the team with four shots on goal. He had two assists, including a perfectly placed pass right to the stick of JT Miller. Playing in his hometown in front of friends and family, McDonagh was easily one of the best Rangers on the ice.

Rick Nash’s goal was his 41st of the season, giving him sole possession of second in scoring in the league. It also ties his career high in goals that was set in his second NHL season back in 2003-04. His 67 points are the most for Nash sincethe 2009-10 season, when he finished that year with 67 total points.

Martin St. Louis returned to the lineup tonight, and had a decent game. He looked good skating, his passing was crisp, and he fit in with Hagelin and Hayes. With time, St. Louis will be back in shape and scoring goals once again.

It’s really great to see JT Miller flourishing in his role as a top six forward. Ever since St. Louis’ injury, Alain Vigneault has utilized him in many different positions on a lot of line combinations, and Miller has found a way to perform well in all roles. Miller’s goal was his 10th of the season, and he has developed into a player that is a factor in each game he plays in.

The Rangers head back to Madison Square Garden for two games, where they will take on the New Jersey Devils this Saturday.

THREE STARS

1) Ryan McDonagh – 2 A, 4 SOG, 27:05 TOT

2) Henrik Lundqvist – 26 SV, .929 SV%

3) JT Miller – 1 G, 2 SOG

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

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