Game #21 Vesey’s Harlem Globetrotters goal and Chytil’s fourth in four games sparks Rangers to 2-1 win over Stars


It was a good night to be back to our second home. Madison Square Garden treated fans to an exciting game. Complete with cool distractions like the two Harlem Globetrotters who were standing behind our section due to a father and his two kids winning free tickets to the Globetrotters on Friday, it was a lot of fun.

Even better, the hometown team came back to win 2-1 over the Stars. It was the second straight win for the Rangers following that Islanders nightmare. The Rangers will bring a 11-8-2 record into Wednesday’s MSG rematch on Turkey Eve. It’s high time they beat the Isles. They can beat everyone else. It would be an early Thanksgiving present in what’s been a great month.

Dallas was playing for the second time in two days. It showed in the second half of tonight’s game. They only wound up with 17 shots. The other 28 attempts never made it. The Rangers blocked 18 and the Stars missed the net 10 times. That included a last ditch effort with backup goalie Anton Khudobin pulled in the final 120 seconds. He relieved Ben Bishop in the third due to a lower body injury.

What the fans got was a nice reward. A fully committed team who wouldn’t let the Stars get one good shot on Henrik Lundqvist despite being under constant pressure. That’s who they’ve become under coach David Quinn. Even when they didn’t have it early in a blah first period, this roster fights back. They are relentless. A team identity that’s become a rallying cry.

Clearly, they struggled in the early going. Unable to establish a forecheck, the Rangers had a couple of ridiculous penalties go against them. First, there was the phantom slash on Vladislav Namestnikov that wasn’t. It was hideous. He barely touched Jason Dickinson. The team got it killed. Then came the Brendan Smith trip that wasn’t on Alexander Radulov. Smith was back, but touched him. However, he clearly didn’t trip the shifty Russian, who was off balance and went down on his own. It was pathetic.

Those kind of penalties kill momentum. Even if they were the wrong calls, it gave the Stars momentum. Shots favored the guests 7-4 in a frustrating period. There was more entertainment and laughter during our meeting and greet with the regulars by the escalator.

Hoping for a better second, it didn’t come right away. Mika Zibanejad took one of those needless high-sticking minors in the offensive zone when he reached around and got Jamie Benn. Brutal. This time, the penalty kill couldn’t bail him out. It took an absolutely perfect Tyler Seguin shot off the far goalpost to beat Lundqvist for a Stars power play goal. Initially, we thought his shot went through Jamie Benn’s screen and by Lundqvist short side. Just the opposite. A great shot by a great finisher, who came in ice cold with just six goals. He was due.

Prior to Seguin’s goal, the Blueshirts nearly connected shorthanded. Jimmy Vesey came in with Brett Howden two-on-one. But Bishop got across to make a nice pad save on Howden off a perfect Vesey feed. I don’t know when he got hurt, but it was definitely on a low shot like that. Injuries have been his biggest problem as a starter. Hopefully, it’s not too serious. No wonder the Stars upgraded in net with Khudobin as the backup.

Following the teams exchanging successful penalty kills, Vesey scored a highlight reel goal that may as well have been out of the Globetrotter playbook. Taking a Marc Staal pass in front, with his back turned and momentum sending him to the ice, he surprised Bishop with a no look backhand that beat him to tie the game. It was remarkable. The Rangers already have the Neal Pionk end to end goal as a goal of the year candidate. Add Vesey’s Harlem Globetrotters goal that wowed the two players I was talking to behind us. They loved it. Vesey’s seventh came from Staal and Howden. A terrific play all from effort.

Following his goal, the Rangers pressed the action against a weary Stars. Even though they didn’t score, it was enjoyable. They outshot Dallas 9-5 and got stronger as the period went on. Even on a rare off night for Chris Kreider. I’m not sure I can say the same for Zibanejad, who’s gone ice cold.

Despite not being busy, Lundqvist made one game changing save, denying an open Star in the slot with a great glove stop to trademark chants of, “Hen-rik! Hen-rik! Hen-rik!” He may only have needed 16 saves for the victory, but none was bigger.

Bishop made a couple of quality stops too on tough chances. Maybe it was one of those late shots that ended his night earlier than expected.

In the third, it was only a matter of time. With the Rangers continuing to get pucks deep, including the new fourth line of Lias Andersson, Cody McLeod (7 hits in 7:03) and Steven Fogarty, eventually they got the go-ahead goal. Filip Chytil continued his hot run by scoring for a fourth consecutive game. Taking a Smith pass, he undressed a Dallas defenseman and then had Khudobin beat with a quick snapshot that would’ve made his idol Jaromir Jagr proud. It was that good. Like an artist.

They could’ve had more, but Khudobin deserves credit for bring sharp. He finished with nine saves in relief. If Bishop is out for an extended period, Dallas can take solace knowing they have a quality substitute.

The Stars were unable to do much of anything in the final period. They did manage five shots to the Rangers’ 10. But none threatened Lundqvist, who saw each shot including one offering with over two minutes to go that he calmly gloved away.

Then came the gritty defense. Pinned in their end twice including following a Chytil rookie mistake when he shot too soon with enough time for the empty net instead icing the puck, they weren’t gonna allow anything. In particular, Staal was a force along with Neal Pionk, who eventually was replaced by Kevin Shattenkirk. The five Rangers skaters sold out to earn the win to loud approval as the buzzer sounded.

Three Rangers Stars

3rd ๐ŸŒŸ Marc Staal primary assist on Vesey goal, terrific defensively, 3 blocks, +1 in 27 shifts (22:10)

2nd ๐ŸŒŸ Jimmy Vesey highlight reel Globetrotters goal (7th) that tied it, 3 shots, 4 attempts, +2 in 21 shifts (16:13)

1st ๐ŸŒŸ Filip Chytil scored the game-winner for his fourth goal in four straight games, 3 shots, 2 blocks, +1 in 19 shifts (14:33)

Eat your heart out Staal cynics!

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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