“Okay. We won a game yesterday. If we win one today, it’s called two in a row. And if we win one tomorrow, it’s called a winning streak. It has happened before!”-Lou Brown in Major League 2
It has finally happened. It took 15 games. The Rangers finally have themselves a “winning streak!” This wild phenomenon recalled in the classic sequel Major League 2 by the late James Gammon who played skipper Lou Brown, occurred in the sunshine state. By defeating the Lightning on Thursday to follow a ugly win over the Golden Knights, they gave themselves a shot at winning three in a row.
It didn’t come easy with them forced to work overtime before Kevin Shattenkirk scored his second of the game to defeat the Panthers 5-4 on a wild and wacky Saturday night in Sunrise. The latest victory pulled the Rangers within one game of NHL .500 (6-7-2). They dug a hole for themselves and are trying to climb out of it. Slowly but surely, they’re playing better.
It wasn’t a Renoir or Picasso. But they got the job done. The game took a while to get going. At the outset, both Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo were sharp. It was Luongo’s first game back. He made a lot of good saves, particularly in the second period when the Rangers picked up their attack. They fired 19 shots on him. The Panthers got 15 on Lundqvist.
Following a scoreless first in which each goalie exchanged key stops, Florida struck first thanks to the play of their fourth line. They kept the Rangers’ fourth line with third pair Marc Staal and Steven Kampfer pinned in. A weak clear attempt by Michael Grabner was picked off by Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie. He got the puck down low to Michael Haley, who was able to outmaneuver Kampfer and get it over to Colton Scevior for a one-timer in front that beat Lundqvist. Staal got outmuscled on the play.
The Rangers responded thanks to some good fortune. On a pass from Jesper Fast to the point, Ryan McDonagh had a shot deflect off a Panther skate right across to a open Nick Holden for a one-timer that caught Luongo not set for his first of the season.
In a weird period, Scevior got his second of the game from MacKenzie and Haley on a Shattenkirk turnover. Still trailing by one late in the period, Shattenkirk took a great backhand feed from J.T. Miller and beat Luongo with 62 seconds left. It was a important goal that sent the team back to the locker room tied at two.
The third was just as crazy. Twice, the Rangers blew one goal leads. A questionable call on Chris Kreider for a “face off violation” put the Panthers on a power play. It looked like he did nothing wrong. As if it to prove a point, an aggressive Rangers penalty kill took care of business even getting the better chances. In particular, the hustle of Fast paid off. At the end of the kill, a strong backcheck allowed him to steal the puck and float a lob pass right to Grabner, who atoned for his mistake by beating Luongo on a backhand deke for a 3-2 lead.
Florida responded thanks to a good offensive faceoff play that resulted in Keith Yandle floating one by Lundqvist from Jamie McGinn and Aleksander Barkov. The former Ranger getting his second to knot it back up.
A Connor Brinkley trip of Kreider in the offensive zone resulted in the Rangers going back up 4-3 with 8:35 left. Rick Nash notched his third with a great deflection of a Ryan McDonagh shot set up by Miller for a power play goal. It was just a great play by Miller along the boards to come out with the puck and get it to McDonagh, who fired quickly with Nash able to redirect it past Luongo.
It looked like it would hold up. But with under two minutes to go, Vincent Trocheck skated in with Brady Skjei on him. He unleashed a good wrist shot from a sharp angle that eluded Lundqvist beating him cleanly high glove at 18:04 to force overtime. It was definitely one he would want back. Just a great play by a smart player who really is overlooked due to where he plays.
So, the game needed OT. A normality whenever these teams get together in South Beach. I figured that it would end quickly. I was proven right. Only 68 seconds into the three on three, Nash came out with the puck two on one. He patiently waited before making a perfect pass across to Shattenkirk, who made no mistake catching a Luongo off balance for his first two-goal game as a Blueshirt.
Another exciting conclusion. In Tampa, Miller made a great move to win that one at 1:19. He started the winning play by making a great lead pass to Nash for Shattenkirk’s OT winner at 1:08. That gave Miller three assists tying him with Mika Zibanejad for the team lead in scoring. When he’s on, he makes things happen. On a night the KZB line was held off the scoresheet, they needed it.
Next up is Columbus at home on Monday. That will present another challenge. They’re a good team who fell just short in a shootout loss at Tampa 5-4. A game they rallied in following a clean but vicious hit by Dan Girardi on Matt Calvert. Hopefully, he’s okay. Knowing him, he’ll score a goal. He usually does well against us.
If they’re gonna get back to the .500 mark, the Blueshirts will earn it against a tough club who’s 9-4-1 record is now good for first place in the improved Metro Division. One point ahead of idle New Jersey. The Blue Jackets have 19 points while the Devils and Penguins have 18 followed by the Flyers with 16. Then the Islanders and Capitals with 15. So the Rangers still rank seventh out of eight with 14. Only Carolina has fewer with 11. That’s why they must keep winning.
Rangers 3 Stars ✨
3rd Star ⭐️ Rick Nash goal-3, assist, 5 shots in 6 attempts, +1 in 27 shifts-16:52
2nd Star ⭐️ Kevin Shattenkirk 2 goals-3, 4, 4 shots in 7 attempts, Even in 32 shifts-23:06
1st Star ⭐️ J.T. Miller 3 assists, 6-and-3 on draws, +1 in 25 shifts-16:22
Notes: Paul Carey played 8:35 in 13 shifts going minus-1 in place of flu-ridden Boo Nieves. Fast recorded two assists. NYR outshot FLA 44-34. Shot attempts were 64-59 Rangers. Face offs were 35-29 Panthers paced by Trocheck (10-and-5). Kevin Hayes went 10-and-9 for the Blueshirts with Miller 6-for-9.