Sorry for the delay in posting. I accidentally scheduled it for tomorrow instead of today. HAV.
1. Mere moments after I wrote about Jake Guentzel making his NHL debut, he enters the Rangers’ zone on his first shift and fires a low shot towards goal that somehow gets through Raanta, 1-0. Woof. Terrible goal for Raanta. Still, it was worth it for his family’s reaction.
2. OK, so this was going to have to be a big boy pants game, and it was, although it took the Rangers some time to get dressed, so to speak. I counted no less than four 3 on 2s in the first period for the Penguins, and I didn’t even start counting until they stood out to me.
3. Vesey makes a bad play at the Penguins blue line and turns it over and then falls down. The Penguins come in on one of those 3 on 2s. Kessel centers it for Malkin who tips it on goal and Raanta makes a good save, but the rebound goes to Guentzel who gets to put home his second career NHL goal, uncontested. Klein was the defenseman and was just nowhere to be found This time, someone in his family was getting a beer instead.
4. On what seemed like Klein’s next shift, Lindberg turned it over to Crosby at the blueline. Klein was the last man back but let Sheary get behind him. Crosby found Sheary down low for a short breakaway but Raanta came up big to keep it at only 2-0.
5. Boy, I loved going back and reading the comments after the first period. We stink. It was all a mirage. I never believed it. Eric being Eric. Just great stuff. By the time the second period ended, we were great again. By the time the game ended we were favorites for the Cup.
6. But the second period didn’t start great. Malkin steals the puck from Staal and centers it to Guentzel who is robbed of his hat trick by Raanta.
7. After that, the Rangers took over. Klein dumps it in and Nash wins a battle (with some help from Grabner) against the Penguins defender in the corner. He walks it towards the goal and tries to center it to Stepan. The Pittsburgh defender snow angles and stops the pass, but the puck goes back to Nash, who followed himself up on the play and then buried it, 2-1.
8. Moments after that, Fast had a Pouliot. Lindberg didn’t have a penalty, so a different Swedish fourth liner took his place.
9. The Rangers’ penalty kill was fantastic, just completing removing any quality chances from the Penguins. In fact, the Penguins only had one other quality chance until halfway through the third period. The Rangers really tilted the ice.
10. Speaking of that chance, Staal loses a board battle with Crosby by the Rangers’ bench, resulting in a 2 on 1 for Crosby and Hagelin. Crosby drilled the crossbar, still 2-1.
11. Late second period, offensive zone faceoff. Jooris wins it back to Girardi. His centering feed is deflected into the corner. McDonagh makes a good pinch to keep it in the zone. Grabner’s shot goes wide. McDonagh continues to stay in deep and sends a centering pass, off Fleury, that comes to Grabner who puts in a backhander for his 12th goal of the season, 2-2.
12. A little bit later, the refs make a pansification call of interference on Skjei as two players battled for a 50/50 puck. No matter. Miller breaks up a centering feed and breaks out with Hayes. They try to work a give and go, but Hayes’ pass doesn’t quite connect with Miller, except it hits Miller and goes in, 3-2. Miller wasn’t even looking at the goal when it went in.
13. Just like that, 3-0 in the second period. Maybe Roe was helping the boys out.
14. In the third period, the Rangers started playing mostly bend don’t break defense, absorbing pressure but not allowing shots to get through, either by blocking them or by breaking up passes in the offensive zone. Most of the Rangers’ chances came on the rush, especially Rick Nash.
15. About 2/3s into the period, the Rangers dump the puck in and the Penguins change while Dumoulin holds it behind the goal. Hayes stays in front of the goal to challenge the breakout. Dumoulin tries a wish pass up the middle that is picked off by McDonagh at the blue line. He toe drags it around Schultz and throws it in front for Hayes, and it deflects off of Hayes and into the goal, 4-2. What a play by McDonagh. No word yet if Schultz’s ankles are in better condition than Zibanejad’s fibula.
16. The Penguins pull their goaltender with three minutes to go, and although there was a lot of pressure and traffic in front of Raanta, nothing really gets through. Then, after the Penguins timeout, Raanta makes a couple of big saves. That was the last threat from the Penguins. Off of an icing, Nash wins a board battle, it comes to Stepan in the middle and he sends it down the ice into the empty net, 5-2. Did he mean to pass that, Joe? That’s a lot of empty net goals this year.
17. Daily Nash-O-Meter- I don’t want to say he scored, so he’s good, but he did score and he was good. It wasn’t just the goal. He was buzzing, skating hard, shooting, and playing better defensive hockey. His skating forced Crosby to take an interference penalty. Third period,he shot the puck like crazy and drove hard to the net. Midway through the third, he and Stepan take the puck away in the neutral zone and get some offensive zone time. Won the board battle in the defensive zone that led to the empty netter. Simple plays like that which were missing in his past couple of games.
18. The same (more shooting) can be said of the rest of the team, but especially Kevin Hayes. AV definitely got it through to them all to shoot more. Hayes was the most improved from Sunday. Hayes responded tremendously to the challenge of additional responsibility in the wake of Zibanejad getting hurt. He was great, buzzing in all three zones, on both sides of the puck. His goal, scored unintentionally, was the result of hard work and good pressure.
19. Zuccarello loves to pass in the offensive zone. Vancouver should trade for him to play with the Sedins. He would have 100 points, or 100 chances to have
20. McDonagh was awesome. He skated so well, he moved the puck very well, and he defended very well. He even displayed some swagger on the fourth goal. Just a great game for him. His improved play is one thing we, as fans, have to be very excited about.
21. The defense was generally good. Holden had a particularly strong game. Klein and Skjei struggled in the defensive zone, but Skjei was still good in transition. It looked like Sullivan was trying to get a matchup of Malkin’s line against them and Malkin’s line dominated possession against them. Klein has generally struggled this season, and this bears watching going forward.
22. After giving up the absolute howler on Guentzel’s first goal, Raanta was very good the rest of the way. He just let that first one in for dramatic effect. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
23. Pirri was pretty good as the 3C. He isn’t very good defensively, but it isn’t for a lack of trying. Wicky must have hated him.
My Three Rangers Stars:
- Ryan McDonagh
- Kevin Hayes
- Rick Nash
Your Three Rangers Stars:
1-2. Ryan McDonagh, JT Miller (tied)
3. Antti Raanta