Miller Time literally as JT wins it in overtime

JT Miller

Miller Time II: It was Miller Time again for J.T. Miller who beat Ryan Miller at 3:54 of 3-on-3 overtime in a Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Canucks. AP Photo by Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

It was Miller Time literally. J.T. Miller bested Ryan Miller in overtime giving the Rangers a much needed 3-2 win over the Canucks at The Garden. It was the first time they scored during actual 3-on-3 under the new format. The previous OT wins were manufactured on 4-on-3 power plays. Either way, they’ll take it. Especially after a virtuoso performance from Ryan Miller, who made 46 saves. He was hung out to dry by his teammates.

For a while, it looked like Miller would backstop Vancouver to another win in the metropolitan area. They relied heavily on him in a 2-1 shootout triumph over the Islanders in which he had 47 saves. In two straight starts, he’s stopped 93 of 96 shots. Way too many for a club trying to make the playoffs in a awful Pacific Division. The Canucks now have 49 points and are tied with the Coyotes and Sharks for second place. A sad commentary on the current state of hockey.

As for the Rangers, the win moved them back into second ahead of the idle Islanders. They improved to 25-16-5 and now are a point up on the Isles with 55. Most notably, that is their 23rd win in regulation or overtime (ROW). Two more than the Isles and Devils- 4-2 winners at home against the underachieving Flames. New Jersey has 51 points and are in the second wildcard ahead of the idle Penguins.

Lots positive in tonight’s win. Let’s start with the play of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, who in my estimation had one of his best games of the season. Repaired together, they were outstanding. Turnovers weren’t a issue for Girardi, who led the defense with five shots while playing better defensively with three blocks and going plus-one in 27 shifts (20:53). McDonagh was stellar dominating play possession wise as well as overall. He set up a changing Miller for the winner with 1:06 left in extras.

The Canucks aren’t good. They really got dominated. If not for the brilliant play of Miller, it could’ve been 5 or 6-2 in regulation. The Rangers also hit at least four goalposts including one by the snake bit Rick Nash and one by Keith Yandle, who so rarely shoots the puck that it’s noteworthy when he does. He hit a post early and then went back to mostly passing. It was his superb pass to a wide open Mats Zuccarello in front that tied the game with 8:14 left in the third period. That broke a seven-game goal drought for Zuccarello who now leads the team with 17 goals.

They also got good play out of Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider again. Stepan had a goal and assist while Kreider notched a helper giving him points in four straight (3-2-5). He helped set up Stepan’s ninth to knot the score at 4:18 of the second. Nash drew the primary with some good work in front on a Kreider one-timer that caromed allowing Stepan to cash in the rebound. The tying goal came on a delayed call which allowed them to take advantage of having the extra man out with a 6-on-5.

Up till that point, Miller had stoned them stopping all 17 shots in a busy first. Only one got by Henrik Lundqvist and he wasn’t at fault on Sven Baertschi’s snipe off a Bo Horvat feed from around the net. An onrushing Horvat went around Dan Boyle and Marc Staal to set up a cutting Baertschi with Nash late covering. Zuccarello also did a poor job allowing Horvat to come out. Horvat stayed hot with his 10th point over the last nine.

Most of the play was 5-on-5 which favored the Rangers. They dominated so much at even strength that it made one wonder how the Canucks even win games. They rely heavily on the goalie which in this case was Miller turning back the clock to his Sabres’ days. Plus plenty of help from Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Without Henrik, their offense was nonexistent. They were outshot 49-20 and rarely had the puck.

However, they still led 2-1 after 40 minutes due to old buddy Emerson Etem setting up Alex Burrows at 16:11 of the second stanza. Jayson Megna got lost in coverage resulting in a 2-on-1 down low with Etem threading the needle to Burrows for his sixth. No coincidence that Etem would play well in his MSG return. Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins played him. He received 15:51 including 15:30 at even strength including a OT shift. Imagine if he had scored. That would’ve been so Rangers.

If our team had actual finishers, it wouldn’t have been a contest. But full credit to Miller for that performance. He was that good. And had it not been for losing his goal stick on Zuccarello’s tying goal, it’s possible the Rangers don’t even get a point. They absolutely dominated outshooting the ‘Nucks 16-2. It was so lopsided, not one Blueshirt finished with a negative Corsi. McDonagh and Girardi were at the top going a combined plus-38 in shot differential prior to 3-on-3 overtime. Unofficial due to war-on-ice not updating properly. But still.

On the Miller winner, smart play by Stepan getting to the bench to allow a fresh Miller to come on and take a McDonagh drop pass. Miller then did the rest firing a low shot on Ryan Miller and got his own rebound and beat the Vancouver goalie with a wrap around to the other post. Outside of that goal, the 3-on-3 was brutal. The Canucks kept resetting and the Rangers weren’t much better. But they were the aggressor and got just reward on the scoreboard. Hooray for no shootout.

There’s really not much to complain about. This was a much more consistent effort. Other than Yandle refusing to shoot on a wide open look and Boyle struggling defensively, I can’t think of much wrong. Megna didn’t get much done and only got 13 shifts going minus-one with the bad mistake in 8:44. Tanner Glass was solid again doing some good things on the forecheck to generate chances. He was even in front on a shot missing a redirect. He only got 12 shifts (7:40) but was caught on for the goal against.

Dominic Moore replaced Oscar Lindberg late with the game tied. I don’t mind that so much due to Moore being a dependable center who can win draws. He also nearly had the game-winner steering a great chance back into Miller and off the outside of the post. With Moore chased late on a defensive draw, Zuccarello stepped in and won a crucial face-off. He actually went 3-for-3 with Moore only 3-and-2. Stepan was strong again going 9-and-7. He continues to inch closer to 50.0 percent for the season. What a turnaround.

I would prefer to see Vigneault trust Lindberg more. It’s not like he doesn’t generate offense. Him receiving 10:22 of ice-time in 16 shifts is unacceptable. Jesper Fast (13:36) had a great chance shorthanded but after making a nice move, he missed on a backhand deke wide. Quickie really works hard.

It wasn’t a hard game for Lundqvist, who finished with 18 saves. But he was sharp when he needed to be getting a piece of a Derek Dorsett chance with the right pad. Speaking of former Rangers, Brandon Prust also suited up. He played with Dorsett on a checking line.

Daniel Sedin was mostly ineffective playing with Jared McCann and Jannik Hansen. They had no impact.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (assisted on Miller’s winner, 3 SOG, 7 attempts, 2 takeaways, +2 in 28 shifts-24:26-played like a captain)

2nd Star-J.T. Miller, NYR (overtime winner at 3:54-10th of season, 8 SOG, +2 in 27 shifts-20:07-continues to grow)

1st Star-Ryan Miller, Van (46 saves-full beast mode)

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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