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Rangers aim to end slump and clinch playoff spot on the road against Columbus

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs blue jackets faceoff 10-10

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

The Rangers (43-26-9) have had two straight chances to clinch a playoff spot, and lost in regulation against non-playoff teams in both of those games. Tonight, they have another shot at putting that checkmark next to their names when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (31-39-8).

Things have been bad for the Rangers lately. They’ve lost three straight games, including two bad losses to teams that they should have beaten. Defensive lapses, some bad goaltending, and poor play with the puck has doomed them. The defensive coverage has been embarrassing at best and the usual culprits have been the main offenders. The offense has been lacking at times, often sitting back and not pressing, or just not being able to transition the puck and create anything. Read the rest of this entry

Staal in the family: Eric makes Rangers debut at MSG against the Blue Jackets

Bobby Bevilacqua

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers

Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennet/Getty Images.

For the first time in their NHL careers, Marc and Eric Staal will both don the same jersey and play for the same team as the Rangers (36-20-6) look to extend their winning streak to three games when they return home to take on John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets (26-29-8).

With the trade deadline looming at 3 PM, there’s no certainty about what the lineups will look like for tonight’s game, but the Rangers will definitely have a new face on the bench. Eric Staal was at morning skate and will make his New York Rangers debut tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Alain Vigneault got a lot of help from Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday, with Hank making 36 saves in a tightly contested victory over the Dallas Stars. Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein all scored goals to help pick up the team’s second straight win, and giving them nine wins in the last 12 games. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers comeback for OT win over Blue Jackets; Stepan with a three point night

Bobby Bevilacqua

derek stepan goal celebration 3 4-6

Derek Stepan celebrates after scoring one of his two goals in the in against the Blue Jackets, scoring the tying goal late in the third as well as the overtime winner. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

In one of the most exciting games of the year, the Rangers (51-21-7) scored late in the third period before Derek Stepan scored the game winner in overtime to snap the Blue Jackets (39-35-5) nine game win streak, and extending their own win steak.

With the win, the Rangers secured their 51st win of the season, and their 109th point of the season. That puts them just one point shy of clinching the Eastern Conference title, and two points shy of the President’s Trophy, which would secure home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They also moved two points ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks for sole possession of the first place spot in the NHL.

New York’s current total of 109 points is tied for the second highest in franchise history. One more win would tie the franchise record in wins, 52 set in the 1993-94 season, and three points would tie the franchise record in points of 112, also set in the 1993-94 season, the year that they want the cup. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers face tough Blue Jackets team at MSG; Brassard and Nash face former team

Bobby Bevilacqua

The Rangers and Blue Jackets will face off for the final time this season, with New York aiming for their third straight win against Columbus this season. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (50-21-7) will finish out their two game homestand, and start back-to-back games tonight when they take on the hottest team in the NHL, and winners of nine straight games in the Columbus Blue Jackets (39-35-4).

Although they have been long eliminated from playoff contention, the Blue Jackets carry their franchise record nine game win streak into Madison Square Garden tonight, including a franchise record eight game road win streak. There was a lot of hope heading into this season for Columbus, but a ridiculous amount of injuries derailed their hopes from the start.

Nonetheless, what matters is right now, and Columbus is currently the hottest team in the NHL. Read the rest of this entry

Rangers win in strong game over Columbus; Lundqvist with 35 saves

Bobby Bevilacqua

girardi and mcdonagh vs cbj 1-16

Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi both helped the Rangers pick up their 25th win of the season, ending their brief two game skid. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After a brief two game skid, the Rangers (25-13-4) managed to come away with a win in Columbus, toppingthe Blue Jackets (18-21-3) by a final score of 2-1. New York continues to succeed away from the Garden, picking up their ninth win in their last 11 games on the road.

Derek Stepan made his return to the lineup, and his presence was surely felt, with two primary assists, and a complete game all over the ice. One of his assists came on a fantastic pass to Chris Kreider for a breakaway. Although Stepan plays on the second line, he is one of the most important players on the team.

Henrik Lundqvist also had a phenomenal game for the Blueshirts, making 35 saves and stopping all but one of the shots that he faced. Lundqvist picked up his 12th win in his last 14 games, and continues to play at an extremely high level over the past five and a half weeks. Lundqvist is now 21-9-3 with a 2.27 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

The first period was a very fast and exciting 20 minutes. Although neither team scored, there were tons of chances on both sides, and excellent goaltending from Lundqvist and Bobrovsky.

Lundqvist had most of the pressure early stopping a flurry of Blue Jacket shots at the start of the period. However, the momentum shifted in the Rangers favor after a power play, with New York getting 9 consecutive shots on net, but Bobrovsky kept all of them out of the back of the net. It was a strong period for the Rangers despite not scoring, and the Blue Jackets held a slight edge in shots, edging out the Rangers 14-13.

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Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves against the Blue Jackets, continuing his recent success, and picking up his 330th career win in the process. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The second period was a thriller, with the Rangers finally ending their goal drought at 146:59. The period started out very physically, with Tanner Glass doing a great job of finishing his checks and agitating the Columbus skaters.

One of Glass’ hits, a huge connection with James Wisniewski, got the attention of Jared Boll, who dropped the gloves with Glass. The fight was won by Tanner Glass, and both players went to the box. The Rangers were energized, and scored a goal shortly afterwards.

The Rangers peppered Bobrovsky with shots, and Marc Staal got to the front of the net. The puck fell at his feet, and Staal was able to sneak it through the pads of Bobrovsky, ending the Rangers goal drought, and giving New York a one goal lead with his second of the season. Stepan and Klein picked up the assists.

The Rangers killed off another Columbus power play, which was the second ranked unit in the NHL coming into tonight’s game, and got another chance of their own.

Derek Stepan hit Chris Kreider in stride with a perfect pass through the neutral zone, and Kreider used his speed to beat his defender. A slick move in front, and Kreider put the puck past Bobrovsky, giving the Rangers a two goal lead halfway through the game. Lundqvist would make a few more great saves to keep the Blue Jackets off the board. Martin St. Louis had the other assist.

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Chris Kreider scored his ninth goal of the season on Friday, receiving a perfect pass from Stepan and scoring on the breakaway, extending the Rangers lead to two goals. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The Rangers penalty kill was fantastic this period, stopping both of Columbus chances, and even getting some shorthanded chances of their own. The Rangers penalty kill was a huge factor in the win tonight, going a perfect three-for-three against the second ranked unit in the NHL.

Former Flyer Scott Hartnell opened the scoring in the third period, following a fantastic sprawling save from Bobrovsky. Ryan Johansen found Hartnell alone, and his wrist shot beat Lundqvist glove side, cutting the lead to one.

The rest of the period was relatively even, with the Rangers doing a great job defensively following the Hartnell goal. It looked like Klein scored a goal late in the period, but it was ruled that he contacted the puck with a high stick.

However, the Rangers would hold onto their lead, ending their brief two game losing streak. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but they found a way to win, something that the Rangers have been known for since early December.

Henrik Lundqvist was stellar, putting forth another strong performance with his 35 save night. In his last 14 games, Lundqvist is 12-2 with a 1.59 GAA and a .947 save percentage. The win was number 330 in Lundqvist’s career, which ties him with Hall of Famer Harry Lumley for 21st on the NHL’s all-time list.

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Henrik Lundqvist was superb again against Columbus, stopping 35 shots and earning his 21st win of the season. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

 

Derek Stepan also showed how valuable he is to the team in his return to the lineup, picking up two assists, making great passes, and strengthening the Rangers down the middle. Stepan is tied for second in the NHL in assists (23) since making his return to the lineup on November 8th. This season, Stepan has 29 points (6-23-29) in 29 games.

Chris Kreider continued his recent trend of strong games, picking up his third game winning goal in the last seven games. Kreider’s speed is unparalleled, using it tonight to pick up his ninth goal of the season. Kreider is fifth on the team in points with 21 (9-12-21) this season.

Marc Staal had another solid game, both offensively and defensively. Staal scored his second goal of the season, ending the Rangers goal drought when they desperately needed it. Staal also had two blocked shots in 19:49 of ice time.

Tanner Glass had another strong game tonight, energizing the Rangers in his second consecutive start. Glass energized the Rangers with six hits, as well as blocking a shot and dropping the gloves with Jared Boll. Although some people may not want to admit it, Glass could be the energizing force that the Rangers need in the lineup, and he played a great game tonight.

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Tanner Glass dropped the gloves again on Friday night, and energized the Rangers once again, providing the spark they needed to get going. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 

The Rangers will head to Pittsburgh for the final game of their road trip, facing off against the Penguins at 1 PM on NBC.

THREE STARS

1) Henrik Lundqvist – 35 saves, .972 SV%

2) Marc Staal – 1 G, 1 BS, 19:49 TOT

3) Derek Stepan – 2 A, 2 SOG, 18:37 TOT