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Raanta makes 32 saves as Rangers take down the Capitals

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers celebrate a goal 3-4

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After a tough loss in Pittsburgh, the Rangers (38-21-6) bounced back with a huge win over the league-leading Washington Capitals (47-13-4) on the road, thanks to a goal from Derek Stepan and 32 saves from Antti Raanta.

Before the game, it looked like the odds were stacked against the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist was injured, Marc Staal was coming back from the flu, there were a few other minor injuries, and they were playing the Caps. Not a recipe for success, but they found a way to win.

The Rangers bounced back from a loss again, and they haven’t lost back-to-back games since December 20th. Also, the Rangers didn’t allow Alex Ovechkin to score a goal, snapping a nine game goal streak against the Rangers

Overall, the Rangers played a very strong first period. But it started out very poorly. There were a few really bad turnovers, but Raanta came up big and made saves on Kuznetsov and Johansson. But after that, the Rangers started to slowly build pressure, maintain possession and create chances.

But just 5:47 into the game, the Rangers wound up breaking through with the opening goal, and it was Jesper Fast with his ninth of the year. With traffic in front, Ryan McDonagh sent a shot that was blocked in front. Fast got to it first and beat Holtby with a wrist shot, putting the Rangers up early.

From that point on, it was mostly the Rangers getting the good chances. The Capitals had a power play and Raanta made a big pad save as it expired, but other than that, New York was playing better.

Karl Alzner was whistled for tripping, sending the Rangers on their first power play of the game. Mats Zuccarello hit the post with a long shot, and Derek Stepan missed on the rebound chance with the puck rolling on him. Then Derick Brassard hit the outside of the post with a shot of his own.

Eventually, Keith Yandle broke through with his second power play goal of the year. There was a ton of traffic in front of Holtby, particularly Chris Kreider with an excellent screen, and Yandle sent a shot up high that beat Holtby and gave the Rangers a two goal lead.

That would be the score after one period, and both teams were tied in shots, 8-8.

The pace of the second period was very up-tempo, with both teams skating well and generating chances. The Rangers actually were playing pretty well, despite the Capitals getting seven shots on goal in seven minutes.

But the Rangers were holding their own. Just past the halfway point, Jay Beagle backhanded the puck off of Kevin Klein and it surprised Raanta. Klein swept the puck off of the goal line, but the Caps continued to attack the net. There wasn’t a call made on the ice by the referees, and it went to video review. Despite no conclusive evidence shown on the TV angles, the video review said a goal was “confirmed” and the Caps were on the board.

Honestly, I have no idea how it counted, and I have no idea how it was conclusive evidence. The puck got lost under a mix of pads and bodies, and the nine minute review totally killed all of the momentum that the Rangers had.

EDIT: The NHL provided MSG with the angle they used, which was the camera in the goal post, and the puck did cross the line.

From that point on, the Capitals really controlled play and had a lot of pressure as the period was winding down. Tanner Glass took a stupid slashing penalty, and the Capitals broke through on the man advantage.

It started with the Rangers going on an odd man rush. Derek Stepan made a risky pass trying to hit Stalberg who was rushing towards the net, but the pass didn’t connect and the Capitals went the other way. TJ Oshie had the puck, beat Marc Staal in one-on-one coverage, and sniped one top shelf with 39 seconds remaining. The Capitals tied the game and the period ended with Washington up in shots, 23-19.

After that disappointing end to the second period, the Rangers opened the third period with a bang. Ryan McDonagh made an excellent read of a play and pinched at a perfect time, sending the puck to Stepan. He skated to the front of the net and fired a shot at the net. It deflected off of a Capitals defenseman and beat Holtby, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead on Stepan’s 15th of the season.

After that, the Rangers went into their full defensive shell mode, playing laid back hockey and letting the Capitals come at them. The Capitals had some really close chances. TJ Oshie tried to score on a wrap-around and his shot deflected off of a Ranger and nearly trickled in, but Raanta made a great save, lunging and stretching out his blocker and keeping it from going over the line.

But the Rangers didn’t give up many chances, allowing zone time but not a lot of high danger scoring chances, and they locked down on defense to secure a huge win over the best team in the NHL.

This was a really good win for the Rangers, closing out the season series against a great Capitals team. It’s good for their confidence, it was a great bounce-back effort, and for Antti Raanta, he continues to prove that he can be counted on in net. This was the third straight very good performance from him, and he made some great saves tonight.

Also, Derek Stepan continues to score clutch goals and play an excellent two-way game. His presence is so important, and the Rangers are a better team with him in the lineup. Also, Vigneault used Keith Yandle for almost 25 minutes tonight with Staal recovering from an illness, and Yandle played really well, scoring an important power play goal. Hopefully he continues to get around 20 minutes of ice time a night.

The Rangers will have a day off tomorrow before closing out a tough three games in four nights stretch on Sunday against the Islanders.

THREE STARS

1) Derek Stepan – 1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG, 18:48 TOT

2) Antti Raanta – 32 SV, .941 SV%

3) Ryan McDonagh – 2 A, 2 SOG, 2 BS, 20:59 TOT

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Posted on March 5, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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