The New York Rangers certainly stole the show last night at Madison Square Garden against the top contending Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blueshirts are finally starting to look like the talented and aggressive, work horse of a team they are known as. While the season has started off somewhat slow for the boys in blue, the minor personnel changes and the constant effort and resilience has proven to finally pay off.
Within only 31 seconds of the first period, Rick Nash made a great play off the side boards and rifled a shot that was deflected by Carl Hagelin past Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon. It was Hagelin’s second goal of the season, both of which came against the Lightning. Last night would be the second consecutive game that the Rangers got on the board first.
The pressure and aggressiveness would not end there. At 4:00 in the first period, Tampa Bay was tired and the defense tried to make a cross-ice pass that was read perfectly by Ryan Callahan, coming off the bench. Callahan picked off the pass and went in to make it 2-0 Rangers. Within the first three minutes the Blueshirts set the pace with high intensity, but the score board did not necessarily describe how the first period was being played. Henrik Lundqvist kept the Lightning off the board with two huge saves against Vincent Lecavalier on a 2 v 1 with Cory Conacher, and again on a 2 v 1 with Steven Stamkos and Nate Thompson early in the first. The first period could have easily ended with the Lightning in the lead, but Lundqvist would bail the Rangers out and keep the score at 2-0 at the close of the first period.
The second period would open and the Rangers would continue to put pressure on the puck and win the small battles. Capitalizing on a 3 v 2 opportunity, Carl Hagelin scored his second goal of the game and third goal of the season at 9:58 in the second period. The play would start with a quick poke check by Marc Staal in the opposite end to knock off the puck of the oncoming Lightning offense. Staal would get it up to the Ranger left winger, Carl Hagelin, and the Ranger offense would head back the other way on an odd man rush. Hagelin would sneak one past Giron to up the Ranger lead to 3. Upon Hagelin’s scoring success, there would be a goaltender switch, and Anders Lindback would take a stab at this relentless Rangers squad.
Lecavalier would capitalize on a bad attempt of a line change at 14:42 in the second. The Rangers turned the puck over in the neutral zone in addition to the messy line change. The Lightning would continuously test the Ranger goaltender, and finally from the low right circle, Lecavalier would end the shut out to make it 3-1. This would be the last time the Lightning would light the lamp last night.
The Rangers came out flying in the third, dominating the play for the majority of the third period. The Blueshirts stood up at the Tampa Bay blue line or in the neutral zone to the make necessary plays and take away the areas where the Bolts could be most dangerous. They also kept Stamkos quiet, constantly pressuring the Lightning weapon throughout the game. Another play where there is a turn over in the neutral zone, and another goal for the New York Rangers. Arron Asham would score a quick shot goal that would make it his first of the year and first as a New York Ranger. Newly acquired forward, Darroll Powe makes a great play and flips the puck up to Asham to create a 2 v 1, and Asham rips one off the right post and in.
Even with the hefty lead, the Rangers would not let up. Upon completion of a Ranger power play, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin get the play going and head down the ice with a give and go pass to Nash. Nash adds the cherry on top of this text-book win and rifles one past Lindback from 35-40 ft. out to make it 5-1 Rangers.
This was a Ranger team we are used to seeing. The speed, aggressiveness, and constant puck pressure were key to generating the offensive opportunities the Rangers have been lacking in prior games. A big part of the story last night was goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the first period, keeping Tampa Bay off the board early on.
“It was a track meet, and we can’t get into a track meet with them,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “The most important part of the game was (Henrik Lundqvist) in the first period. We’re up 2-0 and we’re giving up chance after chance. We could’ve easily have been down 3-2 in that first period.” (NHL.com)
With the addition of the young rookies that have shown tremendous puck poise, and with newly acquired faces like Darroll Powe, Halpern, Nash, Pyatt, Segal, and Ferriero, the Rangers have the depth they need. The third and fourth line players are key contributors to the overall success the Rangers have had lately, and it is an added bonus when they contribute to the offense.
It seemed that each period the Rangers got better and better. The first period could probably have gone either way, but the Blueshirts did not let up and it payed off. They continuously made the necessary simple plays with the puck and got shots off and pucks on net. The Rangers jumped from 12th place to 8th last night in the Eastern Conference standings and broke the .500 mark for the first time this season. With this level of intensity and aggressive drive, the Ranger squad may creep their way to the top of the standings. Slow and Steady wins the race.
This fiery Blueshirt squad will be tested again this Tuesday against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET.