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Home Cooking: Rangers secure a huge two points over the Panthers at MSG

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers goal celebration 3-21

In an important home ice matchup looking for a huge response to the sub-par California road trip, the Rangers (41-24-8) came back to form with a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers (40-24-9), despite some late scares.

Alain Vigneault and his squad corrected many of the problems they had on the road trip. The shots and possession were drastically improved and very even. The Rangers actually were the ones dominating play for the first 30-40 minutes. And while there were still some defensive miscues, it was nothing close to what we had seen for most of March.

Despite the fact that Oscar Lindberg doesn’t deserve to be sitting in the press box, the fourth line had another really solid game. They were the only line that played well in San Jose and most of the road trip, the scoring has improved lately, and the chipped in two goals again tonight, one being an empty netter. Viktor Stalberg played like a man possessed, scoring the opening goals and generating a lot of pressure. And on top of that, Stalberg, Moore and Glass all finished positive in Corsi For, the only line to do so.

This win was made even sweeter by the fact that the Islanders lost in regulation, stretching the Rangers lead to five points over their longtime rivals. The Islanders still have two games in hand, but it’s a big win for the Rangers. They needed something like this to hopefully boost their confidence down the home stretch of the season.

Following the debacle in San Jose, the Rangers held a closed door meeting to address their play. I don’t know what was said, but it worked in the first period. The Rangers flipped the table, dominating possession and controlling the puck for the majority of the period. They were up in possession, 16-6, after 20 minutes, and they outshot the Panthers 8-3. On top of that, they scored a goal. So all good from the Rangers in the first period.

From the get-go, New York was a lot more aggressive than they have been lately. Rick Nash took matters into his own hand, outmuscling his defenders and carrying the puck to the net. He didn’t score (terrible puck luck) but he kick started the Rangers offense.

Ryan McDonagh followed that up with some good pressure of his own, moving the puck well and facilitating offense from the point. One of his shots would hit the goal post, and another caused a scramble in the crease, where Jesper Fast nearly tapped in the loose puck but just missed.

But just past the 11 minute mark, the Rangers fourth line provided just the spark that the Rangers needed as Viktor Stalberg created a fantastic play en route to his ninth goal of the season. Stalberg made an excellent play to steal the puck from Jaromir Jagr in the neutral zone and start the odd-man rush with Dominic Moore. Following a nice give-and-go play, Stalberg attacked the net and brought the puck to his backhand, sneaking it through Al Montoya’s pads for the game’s opening goal.

The defensive effort from the Rangers was great this period. The Panthers only had three shots on goal and went over 10 minutes in between their second and third shots. Dominic Moore and Vincent Trocheck each received coincidental minors with about six seconds to play, and the Rangers skated into the locker room up 1-0.

The second period was also a pretty good showing, and the Rangers built on their solid start. They still outshot the Panthers by a pretty wide margin, 15-9, and didn’t allow Florida to do all that much until the last eight minutes or so.

Following a strong offensive shift from the fourth line again, Mats Zuccarello drew a hooking penalty after coming on for a change. And after drawing the penalty, he would be the man to score, finding the back of the net for the 23rd time this season and ending a three game power play drought for the Rangers.

After cycling the puck for a while, getting some shots deflected and looking for the best pass, Derick Brassard eventually sent it over to Zuccs in the slot. Since he’s not right handed, he had to swivel to get the puck to his forehand, and somehow sent a fantastic shot with some zip on it over the shoulder of Montoya, off the crossbar and into the net, giving the Rangers a big two goal lead.

The Rangers continued to control the puck and had a few more great chances in the period. JT Miller just missed connecting with Zuccarello on a 3v1. Viktor Stalberg had another few good looks, and sent a shot that was deflected by Miller, forcing Montoya to make a great save. And Dan Boyle turned back the clock 10 years to make this move and get a shot on goal.

After that, the Panthers slowly but surely began to impact the game with their brand of offensive hockey. Henrik Lundqvist made a fantastic glove-save on Jussi Jokinen on an odd man rush. Late in the period he also wound up making a nice stop on an accidental deflection from Dominic Moore.

But perhaps his best sequence came on a broken play that led to a massive scramble in the crease. Trocheck missed a one-timer at the side of the net, but brought it right back to the crease. Skaters from both teams attacked the net, and Lundqvist was flailing around, doing anything it took to keep the puck out of the net. He made three saves, but Reilly Smith came very close, hitting the goal post and having it nearly sneak behind Hank.

However, that didn’t amount to anything, and some great goaltending by Lundqvist allowed the Rangers to carry their two goal lead into the third period.

The Rangers slipped into their usual defensive shell in the third period, cutting it extremely close but eventually coming away with a win in the end. The Panthers cut the Rangers lead to just one goal on two separate occasions, but some timely goal scoring was the difference in the end.

Florida started out the period by nearly scoring an early goal, but it was waved off on the ice. A long shot from the point was deflected by Jiri Hudler, went off of Lundqvist and popped into the air, and defenseman Stephen Kampfer batted it into the net out of midair. But he didn’t wait long enough, and connected with the puck above the height of the crossbar. No goal.

However, it was the Panthers totally dominating the play in this period. The Panthers had 15 shots on goal to the Rangers’ nine, and were a +10 in Corsi For. After seven minutes of dominating the play, Florida finally broke through with their first goal of the game. Vincent Trocheck continued his breakout season, scoring his 23rd goal of the season. It was a pretty passing play, with Jussi Jokinen sending a fantastic pass to Trocheck for the redirection.

The fourth line started to get things going again, with Dominic Moore making a great move and forcing Al Montoya to make a great pad save. Tanner Glass just missed scoring on the rebound, but it would lead to more Rangers pressure and another power play.

And although the Rangers didn’t get credited for a power play goal, Rick Nash scored just as it expired, giving the team their two goal cushion back once again. Derick Brassard started the play, carrying the puck into the zone and getting a shot on goal. He stayed with the play, forcing a turnover and getting the puck to Kevin Klein, who sent it over to Nash quickly for a one timer right through Montoya’s pads.

The goal was Nash’s 13th of the season, and his first of 2016. His last goal came on December 30th, and he missed extensive time with a leg injury after that. It was also his first point since returning to the lineup. It’s also important to note that Henrik Lundqvist made a fantastic arm save on a wide-open Jussi Jokinen shorthanded chance prior to the goal.

With a few minutes remaining, the Panthers really started to pour on the pressure. Vincent Trocheck came really close to scoring his second goal of the game, splitting his defenders through the middle of the ice and sending a wrist shot off of the crossbar. Trocheck then went on to draw a tripping penalty, sending the Panthers on the power play with just over two minutes remaining.

With the net empty, Jiri Hudler wound up scoring his fourth goal for the Panthers. Dmitry Kulikov fired a shot that was expertly re-directed by Teddy Purcell, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make a save. But Hudler was positioned perfectly to slam the puck into the back of the net, cutting the lead to one with 35.7 seconds remaining.

Florida would pull Montoya again in an attempt to tie the game, but the Rangers fourth line had another good shift, Tanner Glass specifically. He blocked multiple pass attempts as Florida was attempting to transition through the neutral zone, and he wound up scoring the empty net winner. That gives him three points (2-1-3) in the last seven games.

While it was a bit concerning how the team played in the final period, overall it’s a pretty good performance by the Rangers. When they do play a reserved style and go into their defensive shell in the third period, bad things tend to happen. The Panthers scored twice and the Rangers could have lost if it wasn’t for Rick Nash. Going forward, I think AV needs to make sure his team stays focused and continues to forecheck and generate pressure when leading in the third period.

The Rangers get a day off before another home matchup against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

THREE STARS

1) Rick Nash – 1 G, 3 SOG, 14:03 TOT

2) Viktor Stalberg – 1 G, +1, 4 SOG, +6 CF, 11:48 TOT

3) Henrik Lundqvist – 25 SV, .926 SV%

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Posted on March 22, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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