1) I sure wish this could be all about the first 65 minutes of that hockey game. But it can’t because of the bizarro ending, which was nobody’s fault, but very unfortunate. Fact is, the correct call was made on the non-goal by Dan Boyle in the skills competion. Fact is, the video review horn was blowing as the Rangers and the Penguins were exiting the rink, and nobody knew — how would they? — that they should remain or return to the ice. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Henrik Lundqvist, thinking he had won, to come right back out and try to stop Sutter. As he said, the Penguins at that point had everything to gain, the Rangers had everything to lose.
2) But I said it before the tiddly winks crapshoot began, that it was going to be a shame that somebody had to lose that hockey game, the way it was played for keeps, in such a random nonsensical fashion. Either team. Even if it ended on a normal skills competition breakaway thingie.
3) Because that was a tremendously tremendous regular-season hockey game. Mean, fast, everything you love about the sport. Until the end.
4) And while I, again, don’t blame anybody for how it ended — because they got it right — some of the stuff that happened during the game was pretty poorly officiated. Though, I must say first, the officials made the correct non-call on Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Dan Girardi, made the correct penalty ca;; on the Chris Kreider breakaway. Made most of the correct calls all night, though they missed a few (Malkin’s spear on Carl Hagelin). What bugged me most was the refs allowing Sidney Crosby to intimidate them. He yapped at them at the end of the first until they warned him, with a whistle, to leave the ice. Later, when he didn’t get a call, he slammed his stick against the glass while hollering at the referee. No call.
5) Crosby is the only player in the NHL who can show up a ref like that and not get called for it. So @seamusmcduff tweeted me, asking what Paul Stewart would have done. He copied @PaulStewart22, and when I replied that Stewie would have slapped him with a two or a 10, Stewart replied “I tossed Gretz. Mario and Yzerman when they pushed it too far. Crosby would be no different.” How great is Stewie? That’s why, even though he was a character and perhaps a bit liberal with the application of the rulebook, I think he was a better referee than the one who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this week.
6) Dan Girardi=Monster. He was a monster in this game long before he came back from being pulverized by Malkin. My goodness, does the man not feel pain? Rangers would have been in huge trouble if he was seriously hurt.
7) Henrik Lundqvist has been average, or below average, in shootouts. What happened? I don’t know. And he surely wanted the first goal back. But how about the save on Crosby’s breakaway in OT? And then the one that forced the stupid shootout in the first place?
8) Daily Nash-O-Meter. Had another big game, I thought. Marc-Andre Fleury made some big stops on a lot of the Rangers’ top forwards.
9) The first Pittsburgh goal, by ex-Islander Blake Comeau, came on a neutral zone turnover by Marc Staal with the Derick Brassard line, with Nash and Martin St. Louis, flying the zone — just deadly against Pittsburgh. Then Staal got caught moving up ice, too. Still, Lundqvist has to get more than a little piece of that shot.
11) As for the Malkin spear on Hagelin, I can only imagine what the Pittsburgh media might have thought if the roles were reversed. I also wonder what would happen if it was Dan Carcillo who banged his stick on the glass, or if it was John Moore who speared Malkin. And I wonder why Hagelin doesn’t take a dive after the spear and force a call to be made?
12) Dan Boyle. Would have been a great story if his shootout goal had counted. He looked like he knew it didn’t. Until the cough-up on the Malkin 2-2 goal — he simply whiffed, might have been related to his rust or his hand, but he whiffed — I thought he was much better than his first game back. He ran two good PPs. He hit the post early. Pulled the puck off the goal line behind Lundqvist. First PP, with a TV timeout to set up the first unit, looked darn good against a PK team on an incredible roll. I know … they didn’t score. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Gretzky-Messier-Kurri-Anderson-Coffey didn’t score every single time. Then St. Louis scored the PPG, off a Boyle shot and a great Brassard pass. the Rangers have now scored the only two PPGs Pitt has allowed in last 12 games.
13) Both of those on penalties by Steve Downie, who was the player the Penguins had to have because they were gooned out of the playoffs by the bully Rangers.
14) Great response by Lee Stempniak to answer the Comeau goal 15 seconds later.
15) I thought all four lines played big parts, and I do agree with Alain Vigneault that the fourth line is showing signs of coming along since Jesper Fast came up. Still, I think they can use Anthony Duclair. I just don’t know if he’s going to get a lot of opportunity until/unless there’s an injury in the top nine. But I liked the games of, among many, Chris Kreider (that’s three solid ones in a row for him), Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Kevin Hayes.
16) The three former Amigos Monday. Should be interesting at the Garden.
17) I saw a Christmas ad on Oct. 29 this year, and people who had their lights up the first week of November. By Nov. 15, the Christmas ads are completely out of control already.
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Dan Girardi.
2. Lee Stempniak.
3. Mats Zuccarello.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Henrik Lundqvist.
3. tie, Dan Girardi and Chris Kreider.
Photos by Getty Images.