On Rivalry Night, the Rangers made the most of some breaks to post a 5-2 win on home ice over the Bruins at MSG. Taking advantage of some undisciplined play from their old Original Six nemesis, they used two power play goals from Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan in the first period to put a flat Boston team behind.
Following an early power failure, a big Tanner Glass hit on Matt Beleskey knocked the Bruins forward into his bench. He didn’t take kindly immediately dropping the gloves with Glass, who won the decision with a knockdown to the delight of the Garden crowd. It was only my fourth game of the season. The first since a 1-0 overtime win over the Red Wings on Feb. 21. A game I left early due to anxiety. A month later, I’m doing better and was able to stay more than two periods.
The Glass clean hit and win over Beleskey really got the building going. As much criticism as he continues to receive from other bloggers, he’s fit in on the new fourth line. No one can dispute the chemistry Glass has with Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg. They’ve been together since the Californian trip and continue to provide consistent shifts under coach Alain Vigneault. I’ve critiqued him as much as anyone in this space but shifting Stalberg to that line was a good move. The fourth line has been dependable since both forechecking and generating chances while playing responsibly in their end.
Not coincidentally, the Rangers carried the play in the first period. With the Bruins continuing to take bad penalties, it was a recipe for disaster for a team that entered on a three-game skid dropping all three in California. In particular, Jimmy Hayes had a miserable game taking two ill advised minors. The first was a trip that led to the game’s first goal.
On their second power play, some great passing from Stepan and Yandle led to a nice put away for Zuccarello, who notched his career best 24th goal at 8:37. Yandle’s pass was remarkable. He looked like he was shooting. But froze Boston’s penalty killers allowing Zuccarello to score on his own Zucc Gnome Night. Every fan received one. Since my brother got one, I gave mine to a cool Rangers friend I met from Twitter. It was for her daughter. 🙂
”I like him not only on the rush and on the power play but he does a real good job of breaking the puck out for us and helping us come out clean,” Vigneault praised of the pint sized Norwegian with the gigantic heart.
”He’s able to beat that first fore checker and make that pass where we can come out with speed. He’s really playing hard and well for us right now.”
Prior to Stepan tallying on another brilliant Yandle feed in transition which made it 2-0, the Bruins had an apparent tying goal from Lee Stempniak reversed. I remarked to my brother that I thought Brad Marchand was off side when he entered the zone. Nobody picked up on it. Play continued. Following a turnover, Stempniak steered home a rebound. However, Vigneault challenged immediately for offside. He hasn’t a lot of success. But this was a good challenge. If I saw it from our seats in 419, how could the four officials miss it?
Another lazy Bruins penalty- this time from normally reliable David Krejci- led directly to Yandle outracing Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara before dishing across to Stepan for a lay-up with Tuukka Rask out of position. The goal came at 11:39. It was Stepan’s 17th from Yandle and Lundqvist, who started the play picking up his third assist this season. Even though Boston finished the period better, the Rangers took a two-goal lead to the locker room.
”He understands the importance of passing on the power play, and I think that’s something that he is so good at,” Stepan told reporters of Yandle. ”When he makes a pass it is right on the tape, and it’s to a guy in a scoring area, and that’s something that is not easy.”
Jimmy Hayes took a silly goalie interference minor a couple of minutes into the second when his team finally seemed to be getting on track. A key block from Rick Nash of an Adam McQuaid shot allowed Jesper Fast to start the play in the other direction. A Kevin Klein pass to Derick Brassard sprung him. He didn’t hesitate winding up for a huge slap shot that beat Boston backup Jonas Gustavsson top shelf for a 3-0 lead at 5:26. He absolutely wired it past The Monster, who replaced Rask at the start of the second. It was Brassard’s team-leading 26th. With eight games left in the regular season, he has a shot at 30 goals. Six of the remaining eight are at home where he’s scored 20 of his 26.
The Bruins finally beat Lundqvist legally when Stempniak got a reprieve. The Ranger killer who did damage with the Devils earlier this season continued his mastery of his former team. Following a Ryan McDonagh turnover, he was the recipient of a Brad Marchand backdoor pass for his 18th at 9:34 cutting the deficit to 3-1. Bergeron started it after intercepting McDonagh’s clear attempt. He really didn’t have many options and tried to lift it out. But Bergeron used hid stick to knock it down. That’s why he’s one of the best two-way players.
A legal J.T. Miller hit that caught Chara against the boards led to the Boston captain losing his mind with a double-minor for hi-sticking Fast. The Rangers nearly made them pay again. But following another great Yandle pass, Zuccarello missed on Stepan’s perfect pass across with Gustavsson down and out. That missed opportunity kept the Bruins afloat. They pressed the action in the second half of the period. A Dan Boyle minor gave them their second straight power play. But despite a couple of close calls, Lundqvist was able to keep it a two-goal contest after the second.
At the start of the third, the Bruins started quickly. As has been customary, the Rangers let them attack more. As usual, it led to some dangerous chances around Lundqvist’s crease. Once such opportunity saw him flat out rob Stempniak with a remarkable glove save with the puck dangerously close to the goal line. The play went to video review. At first look live, I felt it was only halfway across. But the final replay NBCSN showed indicated otherwise. It looked like the puck was in Lundqvist’s glove over the line completely. But, the officials ruled that it wasn’t conclusive enough to overturn.
In the future when they put in better technology, such controversial rulings will be overturned. The reason it wasn’t was due to the original call on the ice. With the puck being in his glove, they couldn’t determine if it crossed completely. But even the biggest Rangers homer knows they caught a break. Their second of the game on a night it went their way. Frankly, they were the better team despite the Bruins holding a 41-24 shots edge.
As if to confirm that, Miller reached 20 goals for the first time when he converted at the doorstep from Stepan and Zuccarello at 6:32. That made it 4-1. Miller has been moved around plenty by Vigneault, who tonight decided to start him with Stepan and Zuccarello. They were good. The line combined for three goals and three assists. While they flourished, Eric Staal continued to struggle offensively. Vigneault still hasn’t found the right combo. It was Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider with neither distinguishing themselves.
Frank Vatrano got one back for the B’s with his seventh coming with 7:54 left in regulation. Loui Eriksson and Chara netted helpers that cut it to 4-2. But that was as close as they got. Nash’s third empty netter (fourth if you count his first goal of season which never entered the net) salted it away with 2:53 left.
Battle Of NY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (39 saves incl. a couple of gems-didn’t have to be good early but more than made up for it)
2nd Star-Stepan/Zuccarello, NYR (2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points for cohesive duo that should stay together)
1st Star-Keith Yandle, NYR (2 assists-leads team with 37, dynamic passer who could’ve had another helper and a goal if he was more selfish)
Notes: Prior to the puck drop, the Rangers held a moment of silence for the tragedy in Brussels. The best part is no one made a sound. Following it, fan favorite John Amirante did the national anthem to loud cheers before and after. You can’t replace a legend. … Dan Girardi was recognized by MSG during a stoppage. He took part in his 719th game as a Ranger, which tied him with the late Andy Bathgate for 10th on the all-time list. … With his 17th goal, Stepan is three shy of 20. His most came during his rookie year when he recorded 21 in ’10-11. With three points (1-2-3), he reached 40-or-more for the sixth straight year to start his career. The only other Ranger who did that was Steve Vickers. … Rangers (42-24-8, 92) get two days off to prepare for a big weekend. They visit Montreal Saturday night and return home for Pittsburgh Sunday.
… With the Islanders finally winning (3-1 over Senators), they are up to 87 points with 10 games remaining. The idle Penguins remain a point up for third in the division with 88. Pittsburgh holds the first tiebreaker with 37 ROW (regulation overtime wins) to Isles’ 35. Rangers have 39 with eight left. They see the Pens Sunday and the Isles April 7.
EAST PLAYOFF PICTURE
+*M1.Caps 72 GP 109 Pts 48 ROW
M2. Rangers 74 GP 92 39
M3.Penguins 72 GP 88 37
WC1.Islanders 72 GP 87 35
WC2.Flyers 72 GP 83 33
6.Devils 73 GP 77 33 (Tragic No. 13)
7.Hurricanes 73 GP 76 30 (Tragic No. 11)
8.Blue Jackets 73 GP 68 24 (Tragic No. 3)
A1.Lightning 73 GP 89 39
A2.Panthers 73 GP 89 33
A3.Bruins 74 GP 86 35
4.Red Wings 73 GP 83 34
5.Senators 75 GP 76 28 (Tragic No. 8)
6.Canadiens 74 GP 74 29 (Tragic No. 8)
7.Sabres 74 GP 70 28 (Tragic No. 3)
#8.Maple Leafs 72 GP 63 20