Rangers Bounce Back: Raanta shuts out Sharks 4-0

Antti Raanta’s first start was a rousing success. The former Hawk stopped all 22 shots in a 4-0 Rangers victory over the Sharks. He didn’t have to stand on his head. But made timely stops before a better team took over.

In what was their best effort so far, the Blueshirts methodically beat a good opponent to end a three-game losing streak. Marc Staal and Jesper Fast each tallied their first goals in the win. Mats Zuccarello scored a power play goal while Viktor Stalberg also netted his first.

After starting out a little shaky defensively, the Rangers settled down and played a strong overall game. Unlike Sunday where there were too many passengers, every player gave a good effort. That included better play from Staal, Dan Girardi and captain Ryan McDonagh. Staal was a standout with a goal and assist while making better decisions in his end. He earned the game’s third star. Kevin Klein was a standout defensively.

Another struggling player Derick Brassard got things started when he recovered a Fast pass behind the net and passed for an open Staal, whose shot looked to deflect off Fast in front. At least that’s how it looked from my vantage point in Section 419. It was my first game. It felt great to be back. MSG was fairly quiet. Not surprising considering all the Mets talk. Plus the Giants were playing against their kryptonite the Eagles. Luckily, I didn’t see much of that debacle.

The Rangers did a good job testing Martin Jones. The new Sharks starter entered red hot having allowed just one goal. A late power play tally at the Devils. Unfortunately for my fantasy team, it wasn’t his night. That was mostly due to the Blueshirts doing a better job cycling the puck and getting traffic in front. On the Staal goal, Fast did the dirty work.

Midway thru the second, Rick Nash parked himself in front of Jones allowing Zuccarello to convert on the power play. Off a feed from Dan Boyle, Zuccarello fired in front with the puck again seeming to deflect past Jones. I thought Nash got a piece but it remained credited to Zuccarello for his fourth.

The Sharks didn’t have many chances after the first. Raanta’s best stop came on Joe Pavelski, who was set up by who else but Joe Thornton off a rush only to be denied by the new backup. He didn’t get any chants. But I tried to serenade the Finn with “Raa-nn-tt-a! Raa-nn-tt-a!” chants. Maybe it’ll catch on.

Even though Chris Kreider didn’t score, he did something positive setting up Fast’s tally at 3:47 of the third that made it 3-0. Off a rush started by a Keith Yandle outlet, Kreider used his speed to get the puck to a cutting Fast who beat Jones. If he didn’t score earlier, this time it was definitely his goal.

With the contest all but decided, a perfect Staal outlet allowed Stalberg to cut in and beat Jones off the rush with 3:16 left. It was a nice reward for a hard working player who so far has fit in. Whether it be on the third or fourth line, I like Stalberg. I can’t explain what happened in Nashville or why his scoring dropped off. But so far, so good.

Rather than make more drastic changes, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault stuck with the same lineup he used against the Devils. The lone exception being Raanta making his Rangers debut which finally allowed Henrik Lundqvist to rest. Well deserved. I wonder what he must’ve felt watching his teammates play better in front of the backup. Hopefully, they’ll remember to do that when Anthony Duclair and Max Domi lead the Coyotes into MSG Thursday.

As for myself, it was nice to see old friends. It’s always the same people I catch up with. I’m glad there are still some regulars left that we’re friendly with. Without it, there’d be no point. Sure. It’s nice to go see hockey live. It’s a great spectator sport. But without your friends, it’s not the same. Ever since MSG did the renovation, there are less and less familiar faces. And way too many new ones who show up late and then don’t wait for the whistle due to the lack of security in the Blue Seats. I really resent MSG for what they did.

But at least we’re still able to have fun. I had a couple of Molson Canadians and talked with a older buddy who’s been going a lot longer than the 20 years I have with my Pop, brother and his friend. The food of course costs too much. At $11.50 a pop for beer, yikes. The hot dogs are now over six bucks. And it’s still the same crap if you don’t want to go downstairs which I didn’t. I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my brews and food while catching up with everyone.

My favorite part is always when tourists visit our section. I’ve met some cool ones. This time, it was a German family that were in to visit their son who’s attending school for three months in the city. So, they were seated next to me. It was a good conversation. I explained some of the rules including goalie interference. I always like talking to those fans and rival ones like my friend’s buddy who’s a Sharks fan. So we were discussing all the autographs on his teal jersey which included Adam Graves, Thornton, Owen Nolan, Evgeni Nabokov, Logan Couture and Scott Hannan to name some.

It’s funny because when I was speaking with another guy I know from the old Section 411 days, I was telling him that I come for the socializing. The hockey is an added bonus. I’m glad they played a good game. It was much needed. It was just nice to see them put together a full 60-minute effort.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Marc Staal, Rangers (goal-1st of season, assist, +2 in 18:10)

2nd Star-Antti Raanta, Rangers (22 saves for 1st shutout as a Ranger)

1st Star-Jesper Fast, Rangers (1st of season, assist, +2 in 16:24)

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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