Rangers shutout Canes to complete sweep

Cam Talbot acknowledges the home crowd after being selected 1st star during his shutout of the Canes. AP Photo by John Minchillo/Getty Images

Cam Talbot acknowledges the home crowd after being selected 1st star during his shutout of the Canes.
AP Photo by John Minchillo/Getty Images

Last night’s 1-0 shutout of the Canes won’t go down as a classic. But the Rangers will take it. It kept up their roll increasing a season high win streak to six entering tomorrow’s key match against the Caps. Ryan McDonagh scored the lone goal and Cam Talbot turned aside 18 shots for his third shutout this season.

”We’ll take the two wins, kind of in different fashions,” McDonagh said. ”We did a good job of containing them and eliminating their opportunities.”

After a slow start and injury, the Ranger captain has started to put up points. He has seven points (2-5-7) over his last 10. In those contests, the team is 6-1-0 with the only defeat coming to the Lightning on 12/1. McDonagh is up to two goals and eight assists with a plus-eight rating in 20 games.

Following a shootout win at Carolina, the Rangers started quickly. Relentless on the forecheck, they peppered Canes backup Anton Khudobin. Still winless, he played as well as possible stoning our shooters countless times. For whatever reason, he steps it up at MSG. In two starts this season, Khudobin stopped 63 of 65. It wasn’t enough.

All it took was a perfect set up from Derek Stepan behind the net to a pinching McDonagh for the game’s only goal at 4:10. Following his second goal, the Blueshirts never stopped outshooting the Canes 11-4 in the first period. For the game, they held a 31-18 edge. It was every bit as lopsided as the statistics. They dominated but were unable to get any more by Khudobin. It is a Ranger tradition turning mere mortals into Dominik Hasek. The power play misfired on three opportunities.

At least they defended well making Talbot’s life easy. All three of his shutouts have been pieces of cake. The first two came against the Flyers, who didn’t put up much of a fight. The third against a tired Carolina team that is ticketed for the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes. They are that bad. Their goalies can only do so much. Especially with Eric Staal not the same player.

”You never want to be the guy to come in and break the winning streak,” Talbot said. ”I didn’t really have to do a whole lot tonight, the guys in front of me did an unbelievable job.”

On a night Dan Girardi played his 600th NHL game, they only took one penalty and didn’t allow one quality chance. Talbot didn’t have to work but did his job a day after signing a one-year extension. The shutout was the club’s league-leading eighth. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the eight shutouts in 31 games are the first time they’ve had that many since 1928-29.

”We are no different than any team in the NHL. You can’t win if you don’t get goaltending,” coach Alain Vigneault said. ”When we use Cam, he’s given us some real good performances.”

The game was so boring, I flipped to the Sabres/Bruins and Leafs/Hawks. Those were more entertaining. It’s no fun watching your team win 1-0 against inferior competition you should blow out. Rick Nash was held without a point for the second straight game. It wasn’t for lack of chances. He attempted 12 shots with six on net. The effort is there consistently. He’s outworking defenders who are having quite the time trying to keep up. When he doesn’t score, the offense isn’t great.

There was no point watching. I caught the end with Mats Zuccarello making one final clear to preserve the shutout. On to the next one.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Cam Talbot, NYR (18 save shutout-3rd of season)

2nd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (goal-2nd of season, +1 in 23:36)

1st Star-Anton Khudobin, Car (30 saves incl. 23/24 in first 2)

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Video Of Day: JT Miller scores on a breakaway

Our Video Of Day is an easy one. It comes courtesy of blossoming second-year forward J.T. Miller, who scored this beauty on Cam Ward above. Imagine that. A well executed passing play resulting in a … POWER PLAY GOAL. ;)

Ryan McDonagh outlets to Mats Zuccarello, who makes a perfect head man pass leading Miller in on a clean breakaway and he makes no mistake. What a great deke and forehand finish. Pretty sweet for a guy that looked to be in AV’s doghouse earlier. Miller has responded since his recall with four goals and an assist. Three markers have come during the five-game win streak. Keep it up.

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Klein’s late heroics help Rangers to fifth straight win

Kevin Klein’s magical season continued. The steady defenseman’s late goal helped the Rangers post a come from behind 3-2 win in a shootout over the Hurricanes. It was their season high fifth straight win allowing them to stay within two of the Capitals (4-0 winners over Devils).

Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal in the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist made a glove save on Chris Terry to clinch the victory. It was Zuccarello’s playmaking earlier in the third period that sent J.T. Miller in for a breakaway goal on the power play that finally ended Cam Ward’s shutout bid. Miller continues to play well since coming up from Hartford. He has four goals and an assist in eight games.

That’s not the only positive during the win streak. Zuccarello has played his best hockey tallying two goals and three helpers plus the shootout decider. Chris Kreider has picked it up too notching the primary assist on Klein’s tying goal with 2:23 left. A nifty set up for Klein’s seventh. He’s been more noticeable the past four games shooting the puck and finishing checks. Ward denied him twice late in the second.

For a while, it looked like the Rangers might come away empty handed. The Canes were able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes for both their goals. They drew first blood following a turnover when Terry buried a Nathan Gerbe feed past Lundqvist on a two-on-one. Ryan McDonagh was too late. He and partner Dan Girardi struggled. A couple of minutes later, Girardi was bailed out by Lundqvist, who denied Jeff Skinner following a great move.

Despite holding a 24-13 shots edge through two, they trailed 1-0. They took some ill advised penalties. Martin St. Louis, McDonagh and Tanner Glass were guilty of silly minors that could’ve proved costly. However, the penalty kill did the job. That included a great solo effort from Rick Nash with Glass in the box for interference. He nearly scored shorthanded. He and Derek Stepan have great chemistry. It reminds me of how Stepan and Ryan Callahan were together. They are terrific and always get chances.

It took until 4:01 into the third for them to break through. Following a McDonagh outlet, Zuccarello threaded the needle to a streaking Miller who broke in and deked Ward with a sweet forehand finish to tie it. But just 26 seconds later, Skinner made another great effort sneaking a backhand past Lundqvist, who misplayed it.

It looked like they would fall short. But Klein came to the rescue again. This time, Stepan and Kreider combined to set him up for a quick one-timer that beat Ward at 17:37. It was a perfect shot. Lundqvist was kidding when he said Klein has the best shot of all our defensemen. It certainly is accurate. Most notably, he gets it through. He really reads plays well and has been a perfect fit for Alain Vigneault’s system. Michael Del Zotto may one day become the answer to Rangers Trivia.

What was admirable is they were able to overcome having a tying goal wiped out. Matt Hunwick thought he tied the game but Derick Brassard accidentally made contact with Ward knocking off his helmet. I was over at a buddy’s in South River reunited with Brian, who’s home for the holidays. We didn’t see much of the game because we watched football. But I saw plenty of reaction on Twitter with most of our contingent saying we were robbed. All I had to do was tweet Rick Carpinello, who said it was the right call. I didn’t see it until now and I agree wholeheartedly. It’s a rule and the right decision was made.

”Maybe earlier in the year, you get a bounce like that and you get down on yourself,” Klein said of the tough break. ”I thought the resilience our team showed, not to let up, we just turned to each other and said, ‘Just keep going.”’

It’s that approach that this team has gotten back to. That’s why they’re up to 16-10-4 with 36 points in 30 games. They’ve played two fewer games than Washington. They’ll make one up later tonight in the MSG rematch. Then host the Caps Tuesday.

”I made a mistake there and it could have cost us,” Lundqvist said. ”I felt like we deserved the two points, but things happened. The most important thing is, we never gave up here. We kept working hard and I think we deserved this one.”

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Devils’ holiday isn’t that merry

The Devils’ christmas present to its fans (hint: it’s a lump of coal)

Maybe I’m dating myself with this reference but tonight sitting at the arena watching another disgraceful Devil ‘effort’, I felt like Billy Crystal in the movie Forget Paris, where he plays a basketball referee and at one point short-circuits and starts tossing everyone from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the waterboy out of the arena.  Cause right now personally I’ve had it with everyone and everything associated with this team…with the possible exception of Keith Kinkaid.  And even though I love the kid and you couldn’t have asked more from him in his first three starts, the godding up of him and fans wanting to trade Cory Schneider to give him the starting job after two weeks is a little bit much.  I even heard my former seatmates at the arena tonight say we should trade Cory to play Kinkaid.

Granted I still have no use for Cory right now myself, and if he sat a few games in a row I wouldn’t cry about it, but I’m still not ready to pull a Paul Holmgren.  We (as Devil fans) can’t complain about guys like Zach Parise, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Holik, etc leaving us and then want to trade someone that did sign with us long-term.  Although after nights like tonight you wonder who’ll be asking for a trade first, Cory or Carmelo Anthony?  I might be kidding…might be.  All three goals Cory allowed tonight were a comedy of errors worthy of the Major League bad Indians montage.  Goal number one was a bomb by Mike Green, who was so wide open he looked like he was standing out in the middle of the ocean all by himself after Tim Sestito went over to cover Jack Hillen – hint, he’s not the guy with the 105 MPH slapshot – leaving Green with all the time and space in the world.  Goal number two saw Andy Greene go to cover Alex Ovechkin, who happened to be falling to the ice and Peter Harrold go behind the net chasing a skater, leaving Nicklas Backstrom wide open for a bang-bang wrister from the faceoff dot people couldn’t wait to blame Cory on.  That wasn’t even in the top ten of bad goals Cory’s allowed this year but let’s ignore all the other nonsense going on during that play or the fact no forward was in sight of the play and blame the goalie.

And for the coup de grace, after everyone couldn’t wait to make a big deal about Patrik Elias’s spinorama last night which was in fact a lucky shot with horrendous goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov, the Devils saw an ‘actual’ highlight reel goal tonight with Alex Ovechkin making Jon Merrill’s jock dissapear on the ice and also deking around our supposed best defensive forward in Travis Zajac, then making Cory look silly with the finish.  After that goal I did something I never do…I left early.  Usually a team’s either inept or noncompetitive, tonight the Devils managed to be both at the same time.  Even before Ovechkin’s goal the Devils showed little fight and indeed wound up the third period with a mere four shots on goal, with their season on the line now eight points out of the top three in the Metro and six points out of the last playoff spot (with Florida having four games in hand).  If the Devils were going to give off the mere illusion of a playoff run they had to win tonight and Tuesday before the break to get some momentum and make up some ground.  Instead they lost more ground to a Caps team that’s beaten us like a drum three times and the one game we did manage to win was one of Cory’s better efforts of the season and Braden Holtby giving us a third-period goal.

With the Devils now 12-17-6 and more than half the season to play, realistically the hunt for a playoff spot is over.  Before Christmas.  One might ask what the point is in firing Pete DeBoer now if the season’s truly over anyway, but now it’s not about getting results for this year as much as it is playing players that should be playing in a lost cause of a season instead of the Peter Harrolds and Tim Sestitos of the world and ridding the locker room of the culture of ‘we tried hard’ where even Elias was getting snippy about the crowd booing a 2-0 loss to Ottawa on Wednesday cause the effort was there.  Well whoopdie freaking doo, you want a gold star?  This organization’s still won 65 of its last 200 games, it was a cumulative boo for some bad efforts this season and a lot of bad play.  Would the optics have been better if the booing was say, tonight?  (and there was plenty of booing that I heard and partook in).  I was going to opine about the fans booing the final three minutes Wednesday but I’ll just leave it at this…if nobody this side of Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner’s going to be held accountable for three bad years by anyone in the organization then it’s up to the fans to voice their displeasure with losing since clearly it’s not forthcoming from upstairs or the bench.  GM Lou Lamoriello’s ‘I have thoughts but will not share them right now’ (paraphrase) was less than convincing.  Nobody cares about thoughts anyway, can we see some action?  From the same organization that fired Claude Julien and Robbie Ftorek in 100-point seasons the silence vis-a-vis Pete DeBoer is deafening.

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Game Preview: Rangers face Hurricanes this weekend

This weekend, the Rangers have a home-and-home series with the Hurricanes. Considering where they are in the standings, they need to take care of business. Especially with the Capitals paying a visit to MSG on Tuesday. Entering tonight’s match at Raleigh, they trail the Caps by two points for third in the Metropolitan Division. Washington has 36 points and have played two more games. Both teams are in action later. The Caps visit the Devils.

For the Blueshirts, it’s simple. Keep it rolling against a beatable opponent. The Canes rank 29th in the league with a 9-19-3 record. Only the Oilers are worse. However, they are coming off a 4-1 win over the Leafs which snapped a six-game losing streak. Cam Ward stopped 25 shots. Carolina had four different scorers- Chris Terry, Justin Faulk, Andrej Sekera and Elias Lindholm. Thus far, six of the Canes’ nine wins have come at home. Actually, they’re a respectable 6-7-1. Their fans are loud. So, it isn’t an easy place to play.

Interestingly, Faulk leads the Canes in scoring with 19 points. He’s developed offensively. In his fourth year, Faulk is on track for new career highs across the board. In ’13-14, he tallied five goals and 27 assists for 32 points. This season, he has seven power play points (2-5-7) and leads Carolina with two shorthanded goals and three game-winners. The Rangers must keep close track of the dangerous rover.

It’s been a struggle for captain Eric Staal. In 26 games, he has 18 points (7-11-18). The oldest Staal is coming off a two assist game. It’s always intriguing when he goes up against younger brother Marc. Of course, there also is the bad memory of Eric accidentally injuring Marc with a hit that concussed him. That had to be very hard for the family.

If there is a player to watch, it’s Jeff Skinner. He hasn’t had a good start with only seven goals and 15 points in 27 contests. Skinner is dangerous and has great end to end speed. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi should have the task of slowing him down.

Other Canes to watch are Lindholm, Terry, streaky scorer Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash. Nathan Gerbe is also pesky. The defense is capable of contributing led by Faulk and Sekera. It can be exploited. Carolina lacks a shutdown tandem. They depend on vets Tim Gleason and Ron Hainsey. The Rangers should be able to sustain a forecheck. With red hot sniper Rick Nash bringing a career high 11-game point streak in, there’s a lot of potential for a big weekend. Mats Zuccarello could continue to surge and Chris Kreider should make his presence felt.

On the health front, they’ll get back Derick Brassard. He missed two games with the mumps. He says he’ll go tonight which should be a boost. That will allow Alain Vigneault to shift J.T. Miller back to wing. However, Lee Stempniak is the latest mumps victim. So, he’s away from the team. It’ll be interesting to see if Vigneault sticks with Kreider on the second line with Derek Stepan and Marty St. Louis. If so, does Miller slide down to play with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin? Probably. That leaves Dominic Moore centering Tanner Glass and Jesper Fast.

On the back end, the only question is will John Moore continue to play over Matt Hunwick. Moore hasn’t been good since returning. But Vigneault’s giving him a chance to prove himself. Is Moore another Del Zotto? That remains to be seen. He is restricted next summer. Unless he improves, I don’t see the Rangers qualifying him.

Henrik Lundqvist brings a four-game win streak in. He’s posted a 1.47 GAA, .946 save percentage and a shutout. Win or lose, figure Vigneault to rest him for tomorrow’s MSG rematch. Cam Talbot should get the call.

I’ll have recaps of both on the blog. Follow me at @newyorkpuck.

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Video Of Day II: Elias scores highlight reel backhand goal

Last night, all-time Devils franchise scoring leader Patrik Elias gave us two for the price of one. Not only did he score the shootout winner in Round 3 of their exciting 3-2 win over the Lightning. But he also scored this beauty above. A rare spin-a-rama backhand highlight reel goal that deflected off Tampa defenseman Matt Carle past Evgeni Nabokov.

Just a tremendous play by a uniquely skilled player. The 38-year old Czech is the Christmas gift that Devil fans have been lucky to have. A proven performer who’s been part of two of the franchise’s three Stanley Cups, Elias has 397 goals and 599 assists for 996 points. Indeed, the popular team leader who’s struggled this season might get a jump start from such a wonderful concoction of a goal. And his shootout winner was equally as special delivering Keith Kinkaid’s first win. Milestones are in his future. He’s three away from 400 goals, one away from 600 assists and four away from 1,000 points. When he gets there, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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Video Of Day: Devils Win Shootout For Kinkaid’s First Win

Our Video Of Day comes courtesy of last night’s Devils shootout win over the Lightning. That’s right. They finally won another shootout. This one was special with Patrik Elias’ nifty backhand tuck setting the stage for rookie Keith Kinkaid, who stoned Jonathan Drouin for his first NHL win. Congrats kid.

“It was one of the best moments of my life,” an excited Kinkaid said after making 26 saves and stopping Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Drouin in succession. ”I celebrated with my teammates, but it’s a great accomplishment to get the first one. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning and I can talk about a regulation win.”

Oddly enough, all three of his starts have gone to a shootout. Even though the Devils blew another lead with Kucherov sneaking a backhand past Kinkaid with 40.1 seconds left, the backup remained poised enough to get it done. He helped the Devs end a five-game skid.

Elias played the hero. On a night he scored a spectacular backhand goal, he got the lone goal in the shootout with a beautiful move deking Evgeni Nabokov and finishing with the backhand. The 38-year old franchise leader in scoring turned back the clock. He has 397 career goals.

”I was just trying to make a move, coming in from the other side,” said Elias, who said he had not scored in a shootout in a while. ”I usually don’t come in from the left side. I faked a shot to see what he is going to do and I had half the net open.”

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