1) This was an onions game. A big boy pants game. And a lot of Rangers showed up, played with onions, put their big boy pants on. A lot of them battled more than they had all season. Rick Nash was obviously the leader, right from the start, targeted, pushing back, shoving back, punching back. As if he was a different player. Could you even imagine the type of player he’d be if he played like that even just once in a while.
2) Guys like Derick Brassard — the Rangers best player for two wins in a row — and Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello all did battle right from the start.
3) Let’s be clear, the Rangers were outhit, and they aren’t likely to be able to survive, as currently constituted, playing game after game like that. But like the ’11-12 team that we reference often, they got punched in the mouth and got better after the punch. That ’11-12 team always responded, played meaner and harder when opponents got nasty. This team is not that team. But coming down the stretch, it will have to respond like that. Or go home. The game was played at a great pace and with mucho truculence. If only the Rangers could have mustered a fraction of that in Carolina, they’d be in so much better shape.
4) Benoit Pouliot. Good for him. The guy comes back from his daughter’s birth and plays a game like that, with a fight to boot. I don’t blame him completely for that pass. His stick broke. And I can’t say it was the wrong play to go back with the puck there without knowing what their breakout is. I don’t know. If his stick doesn’t break, nobody probably even notices he went backward with the puck.
5) Great response by Derek Stepan bailed him out, too, quickly tying the game on strong plays by Ryan McDonagh and Derek Dorsett. I thought Dorsett played the way he was playing before the injury, before the Daniel Carcillo trade. The Rangers are probably going to need both of those guys sooner or later. Or now. Dorsett very, very nearly scored a gigantic goal, too.
6) The daily Nash-O-Meter: The needle broke off. Guy was a monster. He was run at and run over and fouled. He scored a goal that absolutely should have counted. He was all over Sergei Bobrovsky and anybody else. He dropped the gloves with a guy who was, somehow, allowed a whole bunch of crosschecks and hacks and somehow ended up with the same number of penalty minutes (Nash won the fight, too). And let’s be clear here. He was booed because the Columbus fans were told, by then-GM Scott Howson, that Nash asked to be traded at the ’12 deadline. When, in fact, Nash had been told the Blue Jackets were going in a different direction, and asked what he wanted to do. When he said, in whatever manner, that he’d prefer to go, Howson — who screwed up the entire deal and maybe could have had Chris Kreider that day — announced post-deadline that Nash wanted to be traded. That’s why he was booed. You can’t blame the fans for that.
7) Henrik Lundqvist. Was pretty fabulous. He got caught off guard a bit on the goal after the Pouliot giveaway, but man, did he keep it 0-0, then 1-1, then 2-1. And how about that scramble late third, at 2-1, when Dan Girardi made a save behind Lundqvist and the fourth line and McDonagh put Blue Jackets on their keysters, and Lundqvist survived the ensuing barrage even after both Brian Boyle and Dorsett lost their sticks. Mayhem. But the Rangers are back to defending, for the moment, after that woeful game in Ottawa. They played last night as they did on Sunday vs. the Sharks. Only this time they scored. Actually again scored a goal that should have counted and didn’t, too.
8) And wouldn’t Lundqvist have been skewered here if he gave up the type of wrap-around game-winner that Sergei Bobrovsky allowed to Brassard? Terrific strong move and smart shot by Brassard, but that can’t go in.
9) I didn’t think the Blake Comeau hit on John Moore was illegal. Predatory perhaps, player lined up and defenseless, but not illegal. Moore wasn’t a few feet from the boards and he didn’t have his back turned, and it didn’t appear that the main point of contact was the head. Still, Comeau could have let up and blasted away. It didn’t look good for Moore, and if he’s out a while, it will be interesting to see who fills his slot — Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk or Conor Allen being the likely candidates.
10) The PP really has gotten predictable and stale. I thought, for moments, it moved the puck last night, but not nearly enough moving of feet. And faceoffs. My God. So many times the Rangers get a power play, lose the draw and have to start again from 180 feet away. The one time Brad Richards won a draw, the PP did get set up and threaten briefly.
11) What’s up lately with Zuccarello and passing up chances to shoot? Can’t be a good formula for him to repeat the success he had pre-Olympics. I think he’s played well since he returned, but seems to be hesitant to shoot it, maybe in deference to Martin St. Louis. …
12) Who, by the way, had only one shot on goal, doesn’t look comfortable on the PP, or anything like the player who scores a lot of goals. He does score in bunches, and maybe he still will, and if he does, I imagine all will be forgiven. Otherwise this could be a disaster.
13) Even in a snarly game like this, where you know whistles around either net are going to be followed by post-whistle shenanigans every time, MSG Network continued its terrible habit of going directly to a closeup elsewhere. Awful.
14) Let’s do this again tonight in Newark.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Derick Brassard.
3. Henrik Lundqvist.
Kenny Albert’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derick Brassard.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. Rick Nash.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Derick Brassard.
2. Rick Nash.
3. Henrik Lundqvist.
Photos by Getty Images.