Sorry about dropping the ball yesterday. I feel like I spend more time apologizing than giving you what you deserve.
We have a new guest reviewer, Alex Khalifa. Follow him on Twitter @goodguyinsports. We will also have a bonus review of this game tomorrow.
1. Al Trautwig called this game “a strange one” after the first period. I thought it was a little odd to see Carolina at the Garden on both Tuesday and Saturday. Apparently they visited Boston in between and are heading to the West Coast after playing a home game on Sunday. That will make 9 road games out of 11 total. Once in a while, I actually don’t envy professional hockey players.
2. So it’s two wins in as many recent games against the Candy Canes, neither of which were close to 60 minute efforts. Nevertheless, AV’s gang stood deadlocked with Chicago for most points in the league in the aftermath.
3. MSG showed Michael Leighton’s AHL numbers prior to the game. Well, that explained the 1.66 GAA he was sporting. I guess they decided to save Cam Ward for the home fans. I remember Leighton best for playing in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals for the Flyers, but his recent win against the Panthers was Leighton’s last NHL victory in half a decade.
4. Just four minutes in, Ryan McDonagh was patient behind the net. He then threw a long pass that ended up working to perfection. Mats Zuccarello picked up an assist by redirecting it into the offensive zone. Derek Stepan fired a wrister from the faceoff dot which was stopped by Leighton. Kevin Klein contacted the puck with his skate, which would net him an assist one game after sitting in the press box during the debacle in Buffalo. Stepan was able to corral the rebound and slide it backhand for…a goal?
5. While Stepan celebrated his apparent opening marker, I immediately began to worry about Toronto deeming it inconclusive even with Leighton’s glove over the line. Remember the awful no-goal off Zucc’s stick in San Jose? Nevertheless, a quick review determined that it did completely cross the line to make it 1-0. Vigneault did his best to look nonchalant.
6. Not an overly physical game, which is probably what Carolina wanted given their condensed schedule. Kevin Hayes had a game-high 5 hits, but I don’t remember many big ones.
7. Andrej Nestrasil thought he had a goal about a minute later, but Hank indeed made the save. Nestrasil was denied again about in the middle period by the King’s left pad.
8. J.T. Miller took a shot off his stitched knee early on. Then, he managed to play soccer-style sweeper multiple times on a sequence when Lundqvist was sprawled in the crease. In the second, Miller blocked yet another shot after Carolina held the puck in for ages. On a subsequent penalty kill, there he was again absorbing the rubber. It all said a lot about his work ethic.
9. Grabner has frequently looked to score on the PK this season. He had a shorthanded chance against Leighton with Jooris off for tripping but ultimately no shot on goal. Carolina would ultimately ice the puck at the end of a fruitless power play.
10. Lundqvist had to be sharp on several early occasions, including a pad save he made on Brett Pesce with about seven minutes remaining in the first. It was a quick period, which was probably welcome for the people coming back for the Boston College vs. North Dakota game.
11. Jesper Fast (whose paleness has always reminded me of the Simpsons character Wendell) had a fine tip of a Klein shot from in close, but Leighton was equal to the task. Henrik then had to make a late save on a knuckling puck. The Rangers would win 64% of their first period faceoffs and still trailed 14-3 in shots. The total would get as bad as 23-4 later on. The home team would catch up in the shot department, (28-23 Carolina at the end) but they weren’t as effective in the circle thereafter.
12. Nash-O-Meter: He was fantastic on Tuesday but had the H&H Bagel on the scoresheet in this one. Rick did get a couple of chances in tight, including one blocked by Ron Hanes-y, and a single shot on goal.
13. Stepan built off his goal by looking even more dangerous in the second period. Early on he missed a shot from the left circle, and later swatted a puck on net out of midair.
14. Viktor Stalberg scored the only Carolina goals on Tuesday, and sure enough he struck again here on a 3-on-1. After Stalberg stripped McDonagh and Derek Ryan sent the puck to Brock McGinn, Girardi found himself going down to block a pass that never came. McGinn found Stalberg, whose shot scored short side off the inside of the post past Lundqvist’s attempt to glove it. This time, Carolina had gotten the benefit of a bounce and the scoreboard read 1-1.
15. Zuccarello did his best to redirect a Dan Girardi shot, but it didn’t change direction enough to threaten the goaltender. At least both were attempting to shoot, which didn’t seem to happen enough even when the Rangers did have possession.
16. McDonagh did have his stick in the vicinity of Sebastian Aho’s leg when he was whistled for tripping, but to my eyes it was not exactly a textbook call. You can see on replay how Aho felt the stick and appeared to go down easily. Then a second slashing penalty against Kevin Hayes really stacked the deck to create a potential 1:08 of 5-on-3 for Carolina. Lee Stempniak would bail out the Rangers with a slash of his own 20 seconds later and nothing came of the whole sequence.
17. Carolina owns the league’s best penalty kill so far, which gave the Rangers some consternation on their first full power play courtesy of a Phil di Giuseppe hook. Hayes broke in during the final seconds but disappointingly didn’t get a shot away.
18. The Rangers had already won 12 straight at home against Carolina, but heading into the third it felt like anyone’s contest or worse from a Ranger fan’s perspective. Kreider did test Leighton early, who appeared to be fighting the puck. That ended up being a bit of foreshadowing for both men.
19. After going quiet for a few games, Michael Grabner had lucky #13 in the third period when the Rangers sorely needed it. Fast made a backhand pass at the red line for Brady Skjei, who has been racking up the assists this season. Skjei fed Grabner right in the crease for the finish. Grabner knew he didn’t need to one-time it, but he nearly used one motion to collect and then put the puck home. Officials found the evidence inconclusive after an offside challenge by Bill Peters.
20. Just like that, though, the game was tied 2-2. The Rangers hardly deserved to be in the lead, but I expected them to hold it for more than 32 seconds. The other Vic (Rask) played give-and-go near the blue line with Brett Pesce off an initial pass from Jaccob Slavin and beat Lundqvist on a long slap shot inside the post on the glove side. Kreider attempted to stuff the shot, but the puck found its way off his skate and in behind Henrik.
21. I always see complaints in this space when THE Kreider doesn’t show, but he was in the right spot to put home the game winning goal with Leighton flailing in his crease. He made sure it was top shelf, and certainly had enough time in which to do so. The play began with Justin Faulk losing his stick and Kreider shuttling the puck to Dan Girardi from behind the net. Girardi’s point shot led to a wraparound by Stepan. That hit the goalpost, but #20 cashed it in for a 3-2 edge.
22. Zuccarello would win a puck battle in his own zone and it ended up on the stick of full-speed-ahead Kreider, who had the Norwegian on his wing entering the offensive zone. Kreider got a fortunate bounce when his shot attempt nicked the post and the netminder before heading over the line to make the final score 4-2. After a single goal in his last 16 games, he had two tallies in fewer than five minutes. Carolina is a league-worst minus-8 in third periods this season, and they didn’t improve that figure by allowing three in the third. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the always-humorous hug between diminutive Zucc and hulking Kreider.
23. The postgame quotes acknowledged the team’s poor beginning to the game, even though they possessed a 1-0 lead through much of it. Captain McDonagh: “I think we were all pretty frustrated by our start.” Lundqvist sounded frustrated that they let the previous game slip away, but said the team’s mood was good after a weak first two frames. As he put it: “Overall, I think we were a confident group going into the third.”
24. The Rangers still lead the league with 3.6 goals per game. Sure, they miss Zibanejad and Buchnevich. Vesey and Pirri couldn’t keep up their incredible starts. Still, they are finding a way to put the puck in the net most days. In this one, they just spent too much time in the defensive zone at the outset and gave the puck away on numerous occasions.
25. Carp, it’s great to read your tweets and I hope we get full reviews from you again in the near future. You’ve always made following the team more fun.
My 3 Stars (same as the official 3 Stars):