A win is a win. Even if it wasn’t pretty by any stretch, the Rangers found a way to win at home finally. They defeated the Flames 4-3 at Madison Square Garden on Super Bowl Sunday. Why they played hockey today I have no idea. But they did.
You don’t get style points for winning. And when it comes to MSG, they haven’t been all too successful. They entered losers of five out of six at home. It was refreshing just to see them win at 33rd and 7th Avenue. Even if I picked the right period to miss and treat myself at the Mall, it was great to see them score three times in a wild third in which the teams combined for five goals.
In the first, Dougie Hamilton and Rick Nash traded power play goals 1:55 apart for the scoring. Hamilton’s came on a iffy Dan Girardi phantom trip with his right point shot deflecting off Nick Holden past Henrik Lundqvist at 6:59. Not much you could do about that. Nash finally got one on a brilliant pass from Derek Stepan to end a seven-game goal drought. He had been so close last game that it was a matter of time. It was number 16 from Stepan and Ryan McDonagh at 8:54.
I got back just in time to see Michael Grabner score his team-leading 23rd off a great passing play from Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller. It was a wonderfully constructed play with Miller feeding a pinching Skjei, who found Grabner wide open for an easy finish following a sloppy Calgary turnover.
Before they could breathe, Troy Brouwer got to a Johnny Gaudreau errant shot that took a funny hop right to him and tied it up. Just a bad break. Ten seconds later, Pavel Buchnevich got into it with Kris Versteeg in an odd and very quick fight if you could call it that. Versteeg didn’t have his jersey tied down. So, he received an automatic ejection.
The third continued to be wide open. A few minutes later, Chris Kreider matched his career high with his 21st tally off a rush. His shot may have deflected off a Calgary player. Mika Zibanejad and Girardi picked up helpers. A Flames’ miscue led directly to Jesper Fast burying a lay-up from the crafty Miller (24th assist). Grabner also helped set it up giving him a two-point day. It’s always nice to see a hard worker like Fast get rewarded. He never takes a shift off and is responsible defensively. Always hustling.
But with a two-goal lead, the Rangers got too comfortable. Girardi did as did Lundqvist. The two elder statesmen were responsible for Matthew Tkachuk’s tally 61 seconds later which made it 4-3 with 7:27 remaining. Girardi felt forecheck pressure from Mikael Backlund with the puck going right to Tkachuk, who let go of a wrist shot Lundqvist probably should’ve had. It went short side. Something that’s happened too much. Just an ugly play overall by the two Rangers who have been here the longest.
Tkachuk’s 10th came following a near miss by Jimmy Vesey at the other end on a Stepan set up. If he doesn’t miss the net, the Calgary goal doesn’t happen. That’s hockey.
There were a couple of nerve racking moments as the Rangers protected a one-goal lead on home ice. Honestly, when the Flames pulled Brian Elliott for an extra attacker, I thought they would tie it. But Lundqvist made a couple of big saves and his teammates defended well enough to come away with an important victory to start a four-game home stand on the right foot.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Rick Nash, NYR (goal-16th, 5 shots on 7 attempts, 3 hits, 2 takeaways, 2 blocks, even rating in 27 shifts-18:41-has looked really good last 2 with Stepan and Vesey)
2nd Star-Mikael Backlund, CGY (2 assists, 4 shots on 8 attempts, +1 in 21 shifts-17:59-quietly leads the Flames in scoring and plays a similar style to another Swede Michael Nylander)
1st Star-J.T. Miller, NYR (2 assists, 4 shots on 6 attempts, 2 hits, +1 in 24 shifts-14:35-J.T. makes so many things happen. How did he only get 14:35? He’s tremendous)
Ferland’s response to Klein an overreaction to a clean hit: Prior to Fast scoring to put the Blueshirts ahead by two, Kevin Klein came across the ice with a clean hit on Lance Bouma sending him down. There was nothing wrong with it. It was a good hockey play. Predictably, Micheal Ferland made a bee line for Klein dropping his gloves first and the two fought. Honestly, clean hits shouldn’t prompt such a response. But this is the wussified NHL we get now. It should’ve been an instigator on Ferland. Instead, he and Klein each got five apiece. Alain Vigneault deflected the question letting it speak for itself. The last I checked, hitting is allowed as long as it’s legal. There are too many instances where players overreact to clean checks. That’s my hard hitting take for the day. Enjoy the Super Bowl. Let’s Go Falcons!