Nothing beats Original Six matchups on Hockey Night in Canada as the New York Rangers (6-3-3) continued their winning ways with a 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens (5-6-2). The Canadiens came into the game winners of 4 straight but were missing Scott Gomez (that’s a bad thing, right?)
1) Fireworks early (not created by Avery) after a clean hit by Blunden off the bench on Dubi led to an old-fashioned line brawl. Captain Cally vs. Bluden. Sauer takes on Nokelainen (not a fighter) and both were given game misconducts for having a secondary fight. After all settled down, Crusher scored on the 5 on 3 from Stepan. Girardi made it 2-0 (more later). Del Zotto made it 3-0 with a beautiful finish off a terrific passing play by Stepan and Artie (his best game so far even w/ getting hurt in the 2nd).
2) Connecticut’s own Max Pacrioetty scored in the first minute of the second and the game turned into shinny hockey for the next 10 minutes. The Rangers were burned by not making it a 3-goal game on their many PP chances, when the Habs converted on their own 5 on 3 to make it 3-2. But, an enormous wrist shot by Broadway Brad with 90 seconds left gave the bench a sigh of relief and a 4-2 lead at the end of two.
3) The third period was going completely according to plan until the last 1:50 when Gionta brought it back to 4-3. To that point, they had been smart defensively, getting the puck in deep and controlling the neutral zone. Captain Cally gave everyone in the Rangers organization another sigh of relief moment with an empty netter.
4) A real positive sign for the Rangers is the bounce back performances of Lundqvist vs. Anaheim and Montreal following last Saturday’s meltdown vs. Ottawa. His 25 saves carried the load including big stops, especially at 3-2 in the 2nd, to preserve the win.
5) Guess we should talk about you know whom. The Grate One was unusually tame in this one. While only playing 7 shifts for 4:46 TOI you would never have known he was there. Thankfully, the MSG crowd focused on game and not him as well.
6) Power play was a major factor in this one. The Habs were really undisciplined taking 13 penalties for 40 minutes including nine power plays. However, the Rangers only converted once and that was the 5 on 3. It seemed like one more PPG earlier would’ve put this game away. The one that really hurt was with 5 minutes to go in the second, but Brad took care of that issue.
7) I’m pretty sure Dan Girardi sleeps on the ice at this point. He’s averaged 27:49 coming into the game and again played a Herculean 30:50 TOI. He’s even rewarded with a goal banging in a loose puck to make the game 2-0. Even when the 4-3 goal by Gionta goes in off of him you can’t fault his effort trying to block the shot there.
8) A stick salute to Crusher. The self-admitted shy Christensen admits he knows the criticism he gets from fans yet keeps battling. Scored on skills competition Thursday (assist too) and today picked up a goal and an assist.
9) Lots of guys played their best games of the season in this one, including Stepan, AA, Del Zotto and even Dubi. Stepan’s playmaking ability is terrific and he’s got a nose for the net. Welcome to 2011 Artie, clearly going to the net harder and willing to shoot the puck while being named 1st star. But the one I really wanted to mention is Del Orrto (get it!). That was the best he’s played, including his rookie year. He’s much more physical in the defensive zone and his instincts in the offensive zone are 100 times better. Good on him for making my insults look silly.
10) Getting back to that first period fight. Sauer has got to be smarter there. I completely agree with Callahan challenging Bluden showing leadership and that they won’t be pushed around on home ice. But, Sauer turned that into something it wasn’t by essentially creating a line brawl over what in reality was a clean body check. Plus, he went after a non-fighter kid just happy to stay in the NHL. No good there.
11) Roster movement coming with Rupp and everyone’s favorite WW (Wolski) placed on IR. Maybe time to try Hagelin. I’d bring up Mitchell but I admit I always favor the guys with size and strength.
12) Looking forward to seeing the return of the Jets to Madison Square Garden. They come into the game with a lot of injuries, especially on defense, and an offense that looks good one day and lousy the next (Wait… yes, still talking about the hockey team). Be interested to see fan reaction to their appearance. Will Garden faithful care? I think the old timers will.
AP photo, above.