In a battle between two bad teams who will be in the lottery, it came down literally to the final shot. John Gilmour’s goal at 1:22 of overtime from Ryan Spooner (3 assists) gave the Rangers a wild 6-5 win over the Canucks.
It snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1). The win ended a forgettable month on the right side. It was the Rangers third win of February due to it being in Vancouver.
They wouldn’t have stood a chance without Henrik Lundqvist, who tied a career high with 50 saves against a relentless Canucks attack. It marked the first time in his career he faced over 50 shots and won. If anyone deserved a win, it was a relieved King who earned it by making remarkable save after save. That included three with his mask incredibly with the last coming against former teammate Michael Del Zotto.
This wasn’t a Picasso. It didn’t have to be. Playing a Vancouver team that entered with fewer points than them, the Rangers never trailed. In fact, they got off to a great start scoring three times on five shots to chase Jacob Markstrom.
Kevin Hayes was right in the middle of it scoring twice. The first goal of the game might’ve been a break. On what appeared to be a icing, the refs thought Jesper Fast negated it. Hayes wisely wrapped the puck around banking it off Markstrom at 1:22 from Spooner and Brady Skjei.
Jimmy Vesey was able to score his 12th just 43 seconds later when he got a stick on a Neal Pionk shot. On his first shift as a Ranger, Vladislav Namestnikov made a good pass for Pionk for his first point with his new team after coming over from Tampa Bay as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to the Lightning. As far as first impressions go, Namestnikov did well also scoring his first goal by converting a breakaway. Mats Zuccarello got him the puck.
With the Rangers leading by two, there was Hayes again notching his 17th on a neat deflection of a Pionk shot pass. Spooner set up the play with a good pass for Pionk at the point. He came over from Boston in the Rick Nash trade. So far, the playmaking Spooner is making good recording three more assists after getting two in his debut. That’s five points already. All helpers by a gifted forward who just needs consistent ice-time to carve his niche. He’s a restricted free agent this summer who is making a good case to stay. He already has good chemistry with Hayes and Fast.
Once Vancouver coach Travis Green changed goalies, his team responded immediately. With Anders Nilsson in, they came back strong scoring the next two goals in the first. Talented rookie Brock Boeser got it started with his 28th from Bo Horvat going high cheese. With the Canucks on the power play, Hayes got a clean breakaway but was unable to get a shot off on his shorthanded bid. As often happens, Vancouver came the other way and scored with Horvat rebounding home a Daniel Sedin shot into a open side from twin brother Henrik at 19:12.
In the second, the Canucks made it three in a row with Daniel tying the score with his 20th unassisted to make it four straight games with a goal. The Rangers turned the puck over and on some sustained pressure, Sedin had a bouncing puck come to him firing a laser past Lundqvist tying the score at three. It might be the final year for the Sedins in Vancity. If it is, they’ll be missed. They’re true artists on the ice.
Quite honestly, Vancouver so dominated play it’s a wonder they only beat Lundqvist once in the middle stanza. They held a 18-10 edge in shots and racked up a plethora of scoring chances. The difference was Lundqvist, who wouldn’t give in making some remarkable point blank stops including with the mask and stacking the pads in tight. He sure deserved the win.
In his debut as a Blueshirt, Namestnikov made a good impression. Playing with Vesey and Zuccarello, the talented 25-year old Russian pivot formed solid chemistry recording a goal and assist. On a turnover at the Ranger blueline, he broke in on Nilsson and went five-hole for his 21st overall unassisted for a 4-3 lead with 5:02 left.
The Canucks kept coming in the third. They benefited from a five-on-three midway through the period. A Mika Zibanejad slash was followed by a Paul Carey two-hander giving the hosts a two-man advantage. They were very deliberate but forced Lundqvist into a few tough saves including a glove stop on Daniel Sedin. With the power play just expiring, Derrick Pouliot got the puck to Brendan Leipsic, who faked the Rangers our completely making a great touch pass across for Nikolay Goldobin, who had Lundqvist dead to rights picking the top half of the net to tie the game at 12:17.
Sometimes, I’m very good at breaking a slump for one of our players. Take this tweet on Zibanejad’s struggles at five-on-five.
Less than a minute later, Chris Kreider set Zibanejad up in front with the Swede remaining patient before shooting over a down Nilsson for a 5-4 lead with 5:13 remaining. My response to it.
Of his 18 goals, nine have come at even strength. So, it’s an area he must improve. Maybe getting Kreider back will help him and Pavel Buchnevich. The assist was Kreider’s first point in three games since returning.
It looked like they would win in regulation with Lundqvist continuing to stymie Vancouver. Pionk took a chance shooting for a empty net from way out missing wide. That meant an icing. That gave the Canucks another chance. They didn’t miss. On sustained pressure around the net, Horvat and Leipsic combined to find the dangerous Boeser on his backhand. He was left alone too long by a scrambling Fast. He quickly got the puck to his forehand and sniped past Lundqvist at 19:14 top shelf to the short side for a tie score at five. His 29th was a goalscorer’s goal that forced OT.
It didn’t take long. The teams didn’t play any defense. On a Vancouver turnover in the neutral zone, Spooner flew down the right wing and was able to make a brilliant pass through the blue paint to Gilmour for a one-timer high short side past Nilsson to give Lundqvist his 24th win of the season. A nice snipe from Gilmour for his second coming at 1:22.
The win gives the Rangers 62 points with 18 games remaining. They’re seven out of the second wildcard. It would seem they’re playing out the string. But with the Islanders losing a bad one to Montreal and Carolina struggling, Columbus leads the final wildcard by four. After adding Mark Letestu, Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole, they are the favorites to get in. Keep an eye on the Panthers who are hot with lots of home games left. With Roberto Luongo healthy and the Aleksander Barkov Line on fire with Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau, they’re five behind with three games in hand. Is this the year they sneak back in?