Desperate times call for desperate measures. Alain Vigneault got his wish. With Kevin Hayes a healthy scratch, his team showed more urgency earning a 5-2 road win over the Lightning. It snapped a eight-game road losing streak. It was their first win away from MSG since 11/23 at Florida. The final stop on a three-game road trip Jan. 2.
At the very least, they closed 2015 on a more positive note. They finished December with a 4-7-2 record. With the Caps continuing to win (5-2 over Sabres), the Rangers are second in the Metro with 46 points. One better than the idle Islanders and three ahead of the Devils, who prevailed at Ottawa 3-0. Through 38 games, they’re 21-13-4.
A big part of the win was the play of the fourth line. The trio of Dominic Moore, Tanner Glass and Viktor Stalberg were factors. Moore got the winner from Stalberg with 16:44 remaining in the third period. Stalberg added an empty netter from 153 feet out with 1:21 left.
After being called for a “interference penalty” on a great hit on Brian Boyle that led to a controversial power play goal from Anton Stralman at 19:51 of the second, Glass separated Stralman from the puck causing a turnover which allowed Stalberg to feed Moore in front for a sweet finish. It was the hustle of that line which allowed the Blueshirts to beat Ben Bishop for the first time in 10 regular season meetings. He gave up 3 goals on 24 shots.
Moore also was involved on the first goal. On a forecheck, he fed Keith Yandle who passed across for an open Dan Boyle, who continued his great play by burying his fifth at 1:53 of the first. Boyle has been the team’s best defenseman since returning to the lineup. He’s scored all five goals in the last 10 games between 12/9 and 12/30. In fact, nine of his 12 points have come during that stretch. He also helped set up the second goal in the second period.
The only thing they did wrong was take bad penalties. Near the conclusion of the first, Rick Nash went off for hi-sticking. At that point, the Bolts were 0-for-2 on the power play with just one shot total in the first. That changed quickly when Jonathan Marchessault was able to deflect home a Stralman point shot past Henrik Lundqvist to tie the score at 16:35. That made it points in eight of Marchessault’s last nine games. Not bad for a guy who never got a sniff here or Columbus.
It was in the second that the Rangers retook the lead. Taking a Boyle outlet, J.T. Miller out-skated three Lightning players zipping through the neutral zone and around before dropping for a quick Mats Zuccarello one-timer that went high glove on a asleep Bishop. Just a great play by a more confident player who’s blossoming in his third year. A hard working player who is very involved physically, Miller finished the month with seven points (4-3-7) in the last eight contests. In fact, his 13 points (6-7-13) on the road lead all Blueshirts this season.
Unable to get much done at 5-on-5, the Lightning made the Rangers pay again on the power play. It was due to a puzzling call on Glass. With Boyle a couple of feet from the puck, an attacking Glass went to finish his check knocking Boyle into the Rangers bench where he greeted a few of his former teammates. Following a Boyle complaint to refs Tom Chmielewski and Brad Meier, Glass was sent off for interference. The explanation was that Boyle didn’t have the puck when Glass delivered the hit. It still was a garbage call by a hypocritical league that half the time doesn’t punish offenders who do far worse.
Even odder was the Bolts’ tying goal from Stralman. With time winding down in the second, Stralman battled Jesper Fast in front for a loose puck. After taking a few swipes, he connected sending a shot towards Lundqvist who looked to have it covered leading to Chmielewski and Meier blowing the whistle. However, the puck crossed the line causing the Lightning players to protest. Originally, it looked like an intent to blow rule which would prevent the goal. But after a review, they reversed the call. An awful decision by two incompetent officials who somehow missed a good goal. Instead of sticking with their mistake on a controversial rule, they changed it giving the Bolts a goal.
None of it mattered in the third when Moore was able to beat Bishop in front for his fourth on a Stalberg feed following a Glass takeout of Stralman. Moore also beat Victor Hedman on the clutch play to put the Blueshirts ahead for good.
It wasn’t a Picasso. It didn’t need to be. The Rangers played a 1-4 sending one forechecker in while clogging up the neutral zone. A strategy once employed by former coach Tom Renney. It’s ugly hockey for sure. Something that troubled Phil Esposito during a radio interview with MSG’s Dave Maloney during the second intermission. Esposito isn’t a fan of this style and feels players are over coached and that there’s not enough creativity. He also isn’t a fan of parity. All good points.
The play of the game was made from Marc Staal who saved a goal prior to Moore’s winner. He prevented a sure goal by just doing enough to keep the puck out while in mid-air. It was that close. If he doesn’t make that play, who knows if the Rangers win. Defensively, they were a lot better than recently. There weren’t many panic attacks although I cringed when Ryan Callahan caught a pinching Girardi flatfooted and then forced Lundqvist into a difficult stick save.
For the most part, everybody did their job. Lundqvist only had to make 20 saves. Following Stalberg’s odd turnaround empty netter from way out after a Moore faceoff win, Nash added an empty netter giving him 12 goals.
Now, they get New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day off. Hopefully, they’ll start the new calendar year in the same fashion against the improved Panthers.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Tanner Glass, NYR (2 attempts, 4 hits, +3 in 19 shifts-9:53-did take 2 penalties but 1 was a weak call and he was strong overall as was Stalberg)
2nd Star-Dan Boyle, NYR (5th of season, assist, +2 in 25 shifts-19:04-possibly his final game against former team)
1st Star-Dominic Moore, NYR (GWG-4th of season, assist, 10-for-14 on draws, +3 in 20 shifts-11:39)