It’s funny how things work out. In my last piece, I discussed how Rick Nash deserved better than the four goals he had- expressing confidence that he’ll turn it around. Low and behold, Nash was front and center in the Rangers’ 4-2 win over the Oilers at home. That made it six in a row as the winning streak continues.
After such a awful start, it’s the Rangers who are the hottest team. The latest victory upped their record to 9-7-2 giving them 20 points to tie the Devils and Penguins for a share of first in the Metro Division. Both play later.
It should be noted that it took this streak to get the team back in it. The game’s second star Henrik Lundqvist isn’t satisfied. He spoke to reporters following the win appropriately donning a Army hat as the organization honored veterans on Veterans Day.
The encouraging part is that they know they’re not out of the woods. Not by a long shot in a deep division that should be nip and tuck all season long. With the Devils, Blue Jackets coming back to the pack and the Pens and Caps not as good as last year, it’ll be a close race throughout. Not to mention the Flyers’ improvement along with the Islanders. Only the Hurricanes have struggled so far yet five total points separate first from last.
Don’t look now. But the Rangers have won five straight at MSG. The streak started with the big third period against the Golden Knights. They haven’t stopped since. Turning home ice into a advantage is important. It lets opponents know it won’t be a easy building to play in.
They’re now able to get off to better starts. They did so in the win over the Bruins and did it again today against Edmonton. Nash scored the game’s first goal by burying a Kevin Hayes feed off a two on one rush. A good play started by Mats Zuccarello, who trapped a Oilers defenseman to create the goal. He and Hayes were two players I mentioned in my previous post. Both had great afternoons. Hayes had a assist and was a strong two-way presence while Zuccarello recorded two helpers.
In order to be successful, it has to be a total team effort. It can’t always be the same guys. The KZB line didn’t factor in at even strength. Neither did J.T. Miller. It was the Hayes line that was their best at five on five. They were matched mostly against the scary Oilers top line of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon. Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden drew the assignment doing a fantastic job. That five man unit was out late before Alain Vigneault stuck Michael Grabner with Jesper Fast out alongside Mika Zibanejad in the last minute. It worked with Grabner sealing it with a empty netter giving him seven goals in his last eight.
The Rangers were far from flawless in the early 1 PM matinee with the Knicks later at the place on 33rd and 7th. A failure to clear the zone by Pavel Buchnevich resulted in Darnell Nurse keeping the puck in. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fed call up Jesse Puljujarvi in the slot for a quick wrist shot that beat Lundqvist to tie the score. Puljujarvi was dangerous throughout hitting a goalpost and forcing Lundqvist into some difficult saves. The 2016 first round pick looks like he wants to stay with the Oilers.
A bad second period at five on five put them in a hole. With Edmonton tilting the ice, they began to dictate play. Using their speed and forecheck, they generated a lot of chances. Lundqvist held strong to keep the game tied until a Steven Kampfer hooking minor led directly to a McDavid power play goal. The Oilers captain and last year’s Hart winner was able to get to a Milan Lucic feed down low and beat Lundqvist to give his team the lead at 10:06. Oscar Klefbom added a secondary helper.
Unable to get through the neutral zone, the Rangers got some much needed help from Edmonton who came unglued with a couple of undisciplined penalties. The first was Brad Malone a few feet from his own blueline throwing the puck out of play for delay of game.
Some remarkable passing resulted in Buchnevich getting his seventh goal in the last eight. His eighth of the season was perfectly set up thanks to some splendid teamwork from Zuccarello and Shattenkirk. With Buchnevich coming on a change, a hustling Zuccarello made a nice pass across for Kevin Shattenkirk, who then found a cutting Buchnevich with a bullet touch pass for a easy tap in past Cam Talbot to tie the score at two with 4:50 left.
If that weren’t enough, Edmonton’s Maroon took a needless elbowing minor when he caught McDonagh on the chin. Of course, he protested. It was hilarious. As if to prove a point, the Rangers lethal power play went to work. Now one of the league’s best thanks to the Shattenkirk addition along with better units used by assistant coach Scott Arniel, they made Maroon pay for his idiocy.
This time, it was some great hustle from David Desharnais that got the play started. While being pressured along the boards, he made a soft pass for McDonagh who kept it in at the right point. The captain then made a very good pass across to Brady Skjei. He skated with the puck before firing a textbook centering feed for a Nash redirect past a aggressive Talbot for the second consecutive power play goal. That gave them a 3-2 lead. The play itself was mesmerizing. It was some of the best passing on a Ranger power play in recent memory. Think the fun Tom Renney Era with Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, Petr Prucha and Michal Rozsival.
The power play swung the momentum. The third was a marked improvement. Knowing full well who they were up against it, they played a stellar final period. They outplayed Edmonton and outshot them 12-7. They didn’t go backward or in prevent mode. But rather kept going forward. If not for some good stops by Talbot along with some near misses from Zuccarello, the game doesn’t come down to the final minute.
Playing a smarter aggressive style while continuing to execute defensively by taking away the Oilers time and space, the Blueshirts made life easier on Lundqvist. He wasn’t called on much to make many difficult stops. His toughest coming on a Klefbom point shot with Talbot pulled in the last 30 seconds. He was able to see the puck as Holden tied up Lucic in front.
It was the kind of attention to detail we’ve been waiting for. A last second desperation shot from Klefbom was blocked by Fast and intercepted by Grabner, who fired in his eighth into a vacant net with two seconds left.
NYR 3 Stars ✨
3rd Star ⭐️ Mats Zuccarello 2 assists, 5 shots, won all kinds of battles, 2 blocks, +1 in 26 shifts-19:02
2nd Star ⭐️ McDonagh-Holden assist, held McDavid/Draisaitl to 2 combined shots 5 on 5 and minus-4, plus-2 with McDavid’s goal on power play
1st Star ⭐️ Rick Nash 2 goals-5, 6 including game winning PPG, 5 shots, 8 attempts, 2 takeaways, +1 in 27 shifts-19:00
Notes: Jimmy Vesey missed a majority of the second period and some of the third after accidentally taking a Zack Kassian skate to his mouth. He lost a few teeth but returned with a full cage because as Vigneault noted, “That’s Hockey.”
… NYR outshot EDM 34-29. Oilers outattempted the Rangers 54-48. … Stat of Game: Takeaways NYR 17 Miller 4, Hayes 3 EDM 7 Nugent-Hopkins 3. … Oilers won faceoffs 33-29 with Draisaitl 8-and-5 while Nugent-Hopkins went 12-and-12. Hayes led the Rangers going 11-and-8. Desharnais was 4-and-2 and Boo Nieves 3-and-3 in 14 shifts-7:32. … Rangers face the Blackhawks in Chicago this Wednesday. They’ll get some time off. … The Devils host the Panthers and Islanders are at St. Louis. The struggling Sabres are in Montreal.
Video of Night: Look who was in the building!