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Thrilling third period leads to a big Rangers win; Brassard tallies five points

Bobby Bevilacqua

Dylan McIlrath and Jesper Fast celebrate 1-25

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Well, that was exciting.

After a lackluster performance against the Senators on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers (27-16-5) came back with a much better effort and a fantastic offensive performance, downing the Buffalo Sabres (19-26-4) by a final score of 6-3 in the last game for the Blueshirts before the All-Star Break.

After some tight checking, competitive hockey in the first two periods, everything opened up in the third period, where a combined six goals were scored, four of them coming in a span of less than five minutes.

While the Rangers have really struggled on the road this season, they’ve been fantastic on home ice, with an 18-5-2 record at Madison Square Garden this season. Also, they improved their record to 168-2-9 in the last 179 games when leading after two periods.

The first period opened with a clang, as Chris Kreider raced down the wing and rifled a shot off of the pipe. That would be the first of many early chances for the Rangers, who generated a lot of early offense.

Oscar Lindberg had a great scoring chance in front of the net on a broken play, but Chad Johnson reached back and made a nice save with his stick. But and the Rangers had a power play. On the man advantage, Kevin Hayes drove to the net and slid the puck behind Johnson and through the crease, and JT Miller forced Johnson to make a good save on his deflection.

Mats Zuccarello nearly scored as well off of a rebound. Dylan McIlrath sent a long shot on net, and Johnson made the stop but gave up a big rebound. Zuccs was all over it, quickly collecting the puck and trying to slide it around Johnson, but he made another great save. But after all of that pressure, the Blueshirts finally broke through. Keith Yandle faked a slap shot and drew the defender away from Dylan McIlrath before sending him the puck. McIlrath, back in the lineup for the first time in five games, rifled a wrist shot that deflected off of a Buffalo defender and past Johnson for the game’s opening goal.

Who would have guessed it? Keith Yandle makes a great play to set up the goal and the rookie scores his second career NHL goal. Just reaffirming everything that many bloggers, including myself, have said for a while. Give Yandle offensive zone starts and heavy minutes and stop scratching Dylan McIlrath.

While the goal was initially credited to JT Miller, it was changed to McIlrath. But it looked like it went off of Miller’s elbow. I wouldn’t be surprised if they change it back to Miller.

After that point, the Sabres really settled down. They spent some extended time in the Rangers zone, and didn’t let them generate much offense for a while after Miller scored. The Sabres pressure and possession eventually led to a goal.

Bryan Gionta redirected a feathered pass from Marcus Foligno, tipping it out of midair and through Lundqvist’s legs. It was an impressive redirection considering the puck was not close to going on net, but it’s one that Henrik probably wants back. Nevertheless, it was a tie game with 3:47 left in the period.

The Rangers would get a power play chance with 1:13 remaining, and despite some good shots and redirections, the period ended in a tie. The Rangers led in shots, 9-7, but only had four shots on goal in the last 12 minutes or so. New York had some great chances in the second period as well. On the expiring power play, Chris Kreider deflected a slap pass from Zuccarello wide of a completely open net. It was a play that needs to find the back of the net.

Then Viktor Stalberg continued his strong play as of late, bursting down his off wing and drawing a hooking penalty. The Rangers didn’t score, but had two great chances from Zuccarello after he deflected a puck on net and tried to stuff in the rebound. He had a chance later in the period too, getting the loose puck off of a broken play, and sending a wrister off of the post from in tight.

With just about five minutes left in the period, Viktor Stalberg finally got the goal that he deserved. After Hayes had the puck knocked away from him, it found Stalberg as he was heading towards the net. He received the puck with his back to Johnson, but quickly spun and fired a shot that surprised the Sabres netminder, going through his leg for the Swede’s seventh goal of the season.

With a few minutes remaining, Derek Stepan was called for tripping, putting the Sabres’ seventh ranked power play on the ice for the first time. They nearly scored, as Jack Eichel sent an incredible shot off of the crossbar. But after killing that off, Marc Staal ended the period with a fantastic display of physicality and defensive prowess to deny Ryan O’Reilly of a breakaway. The Blueshirts led by a score of 2-1 after 40 minutes, while also leading in shots on goal, 21-15. The Rangers have been the victim of their own lackadaisical, relaxed play in the third period. They came out strong, scoring early, Just 1:06 into the final period, Derick Brassard scored his 16th goal of the season and his first goal in the last XX games. Jesper Fast sent a backhand pass between two Buffalo defenders and Brassard, charging hard to the net, had it deflect off of his skate and past Johnson, stretching the Rangers lead to two goals.

But things fell apart very quickly for New York. Jack Eichel made an excellent play along the boards to work the puck to Zemgus Girgensons, and he sent a perfectly placed wrist shot over the right shoulder for his fourth goal of the season.

Just 1:13 later, it was Girgensons scoring yet again. Eichel carried the puck up the ice and sent an amazing backhand pass to the Latvian forward, and he deked out Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game at three goals apiece.

The Rangers surrendered back-to-back goals in under two minutes again after getting caught up ice. Also, Tanner Glass tripped Kevin Klein as he was trying to get back on defense, so that didn’t help. While the back end had a meltdown, the Rangers offense stepped up and recaptured the lead just a minute after Girgensons scored his second goal of the game. This time, the goal was definitely JT Miller’s. On the rush, Fast tried to send a puck on net but it deflected off of Zach Bogosian’s stick and right to Miller, who tapped it into the empty net for his 13th goal of the season, a new career high.

After a few good saves from Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers drew another penalty. On the man advantage, Stepan and Zuccarello combined on a perfect give-and-go as Zuccs scored his team leading 18th goal of the season.

With the Buffalo net empty, Derick Brassard secured the Rangers victory with his second goal of the game and his fifth point.

The bounce-back win was much needed headed into the All-Star Break. They got offensive momentum, power play momentum, and a positive attitude heading into the eight day break.

Derick Brassard had a fantastic game. He was struggling lately, with no points in the last five games before tonight, but he was so good today. He still manages to be one of the more underrated players on the team despite his almost always consistent play and his ability to score clutch goals. He’s just two goals away from tying his career high of 19 that was set last season, and he has 33 games left to do it.

I was really happy that Viktor Stalberg scored. He’s been such an effective forward lately and if it wasn’t for some great goaltending, he would have scored three or more goals in the last few weeks. But he’s been skating excellently and creating a lot of chances lately, and he earned that goal.

Keith Yandle and Dylan McIlrath. Yandle had an assist, McIlrath had a goal. They led all Ranger skaters with a +9 corsi for. Why aren’t they playing together every night?

Not everything was positive. They had a 3-1 lead and surrendered it with two goals in rapid succession. Against better teams and in playoff games, that won’t cut it. Improvement needs to be made.

The Rangers will resume play on February 2nd against the New Jersey Devils.

THREE STARS

1) Derick Brassard – 2 G, 3 A, +3, 6 SOG, 3 TK, 19:17

2) JT Miller – 1 G, +3, 2 SOG, 14:12 TOT

3) Jesper Fast – 2 A, +2, 14:34 TOT

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Posted on January 26, 2016, in Game Recaps, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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