The Bread Man Delivers: Artemiy Panarin is lighting up Broadway the way Jaromir Jagr once did. His two goals increased his career best point streak to 12 to highlight a satisfying 4-1 Rangers win over the Caps. AP Photo via New York Rangers
It’s so rare these days to go see a live game and come away very impressed. Especially when it comes to most area locals. Aside from the Islanders, there hasn’t been much to write about. Tonight, the Rangers changed that script by posting their most impressive win of the season. They defeated the Capitals 4-1 at The Garden.
This was the kind of complete performance they needed following the brutal two-game forgettable road trip in Florida. After giving up an ungodly seven power play goals in consecutive losses due to some lousy undisciplined penalties, the Rangers were a different hockey team on Wednesday night. For starters, they didn’t take the unnecessary early penalties that had plagued them.
In fact, they were plus-one on special teams. A welcome change that was badly needed for the MSG hosts. They didn’t give the crowd reason to roll their eyes or yawn. Even if some foolish fans in our section kept rudely getting up because they didn’t realize they were in the wrong seats until the latter stages of the second period. Something a good fan called these knuckleheads out on. That’s how it is. You get a few yo-yos.
That didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game. If you don’t believe me in what I’ve written so far, have a look at my brief review on Periscope below. I think I broke it down well by summarizing what I liked about this win. A win that improved the Blueshirts to 9-8-2. Overall, that’s not bad considering where they are at this point.
As you can tell, my Periscope is the more familiar NewYorkPuck. Our old Twitter name. And it’s still the name of our website. Yes. Anyone can follow me there. I’ll be doing more hockey podcasts on there following games. Plus a few other sports mixed in from time to time.
One thing I did mention is that the Caps were without star center Nicklas Backstrom. Not having the always overlooked superb playmaking, two-way pivot hurt. I thought with him out along with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, who got a deserved three game vacation for a spitting incident during a fracas, that the Rangers had a good chance to win. I was proven right. Washington had some players up from Hershey.
Without Backstrom, Washington coach Todd Reirden reunited Alexander Ovechkin with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson. They still had a dangerous top line, the game’s best defenseman to date in John Carlson, TJ Oshie and Jakub Vrana. Plus Braden Holtby, who heard it from the crowd in the third period. Even though none of the four goals he gave up were his fault. Chalk it up to great execution from the Blueshirts. Bret “The Hitman” Hart would be proud.
There was no scoring in a tightly contested opening period. Both Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist were sharp. Lundqvist also had some luck on his side for once. As critical as I’ve been lately on him, he had a really good night finishing with 30 saves. By winning this one, he tied Curtis Joseph for fifth on the NHL all-time wins list with number 454. It’s Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury competing for sole possession of fifth. Hank leads Fleury 454 to 450. Both are future Hall of Fame goalies.
The luck for Lundqvist came in the form of four goalposts. That included the Caps hitting a hat trick in the first. As I referenced in my podcast on Periscope, sometimes you need a little luck on your side. The puck hasn’t bounced Hank’s way much the past two plus seasons. Ironically, all four Washington shots were labeled high off the crossbar. Mostly on the glove side. That’s the book on Lundqvist. It worked out well for him thanks to his best friend.
Late in the first, an aggressive Wilson was nabbed for boarding Rangers rookie defenseman Libor Hajek with 34 seconds left. Viewing it live from our seats way up in Section 419, I thought it was more from the side. But the call could’ve gone either way. Given Wilson’s reputation, he’s usually going to wind up in the penalty box.
Even though they were unable to convert on the remaining portion of the first, the Rangers got it set up at the start of the second to convert on the power play. As luck would have it, I actually caught it on my iPhone while videoing it. It’s not great, but maybe I’ll put it up later. Some good work from Adam Fox and Kaapo Kakko resulted in setting up an open Panarin from the left circle. He put it in the basket for a 1-0 lead 74 seconds into the period.
I believe in my podcast, I accidentally said Ovechkin was in the box. That was before the conclusion of the second when he took an undisciplined tripping minor for tripping up Panarin in the offensive zone with less than eight seconds left. To correct what I said, it was Wilson’s penalty that cost his team.
Even though the Caps held a 14-9 edge in shots during the second, I felt the Rangers played well. They were able to limit most of the scoring chances to the outside, allowing Lundqvist a clear view of the puck. He stopped it. His best save was a point blank denial in tight in which he sprawled out to deny a rebound. He looked very calm in net unlike the loss at Florida. A game he wasn’t pleased with. He told New York Post scribe Larry Brooks that he felt he’s been giving up one bad goal a game. That is true. In some games, it’s been more. But at least he admitted it.
Over the first 40 minutes, the Rangers only had to kill off one penalty. A Greg McKegg minor for tripping Oshie. They were successful. I think Carlson hit a post. However, I never got the sense the Caps would score. They just seemed off most of the game. They tried some of those misdirection plays and were unable to get the puck to Ovechkin in his office. Yes. Lundqvist never had to make a crazy glove save on the game’s best finisher.
Following a successful kill of an Ovechkin tripping minor, Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov hi-sticked Fox 40 seconds later. That gave the Rangers another man-advantage. This time, they made it count. On a good pass from point-per-game center Ryan Strome down low to Kakko, he made a power move to the net and tried to stuff it in. Instead, he lost control of the puck which worked out well with it coming perfectly over to a wide open Panarin for a layup at 3:57.
That made it 2-0 in favor of the Bread Man, who extended his career high point streak to a cool dozen (7-12-19). He shows no signs of slowing down. He’s such an intelligent player. Watching him live is a treat. If you can go to a game, go just for Panarin. I haven’t felt that way about a Ranger that was acquired via signing or trade since Jaromir Jagr. With apologies to both Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash, who both were good, the immense skill level and consistent production Panarin is playing with is a sight to behold. He deserves a lot of accolades. Without him, this team would be a mess.
With fans still celebrating Panarin’s 11th goal, the second line put the game out of reach on the following shift. Just 23 seconds later, Brendan Lemieux sent Pavel Buchnevich and Filip Chytil on a two-on-one rush. What followed was remarkable passing with the duo working a give and go down low that saw Chytil dish the puck across for an easy Buchnevich tap in for his third of the season. As nice as the play was, I was most happy for Lemieux, who’d been busting his ass the entire night. He was robbed by Holtby three different times. He always plays balls out. He still had an extra treat left for the fans who stayed.
With the Rangers up by three, there was this prevailing thought that quite possibly Lundqvist could do something he hasn’t done in over two years. But it wasn’t meant to be. Brendan Smith took a dumb tripping minor that killed any thoughts of the dreaded ‘S’ word. Kuznetsov had other ideas when he snapped home a wrist shot from the right circle far side past Lundqvist for his 10th from Carlson at 7:24.
As disappointing as that was, the Rangers didn’t let the Caps steal it. Instead, they buckled down to put the game away. On a effective forecheck from Chris Kreider, Buchnevich found Brett Howden by himself in front of Holtby. He didn’t miss to convert his third to restore a three goal lead with 6:26 left in regulation.
It was a satisfying victory. But Lemieux showed some big cajones by fighting Wilson. How he wound up with an extra for roughing when both Wilson and Ovechkin double teamed him along the boards, I’ll never know. But in a game that for the most part was well officiated including referee Furman South (yes, that’s his name) taking a puck that bloodied him but stayed in to cheers from the crowd (imagine that), it was nice to see Lemieux stand up to Wilson. He even got some good shots in on one of the game’s toughest fighters. We loved it.
To me, Lemieux epitomizes what it is to be a younger Blueshirt on this team. He busts his butt by going all out every shift. Maybe he’s not always the brightest, but I like the jam he plays with. He will do whatever it takes to help this team win. Whether it’s diving to block a shot, lay a big hit, or make a hard working play that leads to a penalty drawn or even a goal, Lemieux will do it. He has his teammates’ backs.
The best thing I saw tonight was what happened during a stoppage. The Garden had a contest for a kid who named more sports movies than Fox. Not only did he win the in arena prize of a brand new Rangers jersey. It was presented to him by his Dad, who just returned from Afghanistan after a year of duty. The emotional moment was one to behold for everyone. Seeing the emotional boy cry and hug his father, who got back from serving, was one of the best things I’ve ever seen at MSG. Kudos to the Rangers organization for doing this. If you missed this magic moment, please watch it. It’ll move you to near tears.
That is something that left me with an ear to ear smile. This was the best win so far. Let’s see if they can follow it up in Ottawa on Friday.
Battle Of Hudson 3 🌟
3rd 🌟 Kaapo Kakko, Rangers (2 🍎 for first career 2 assist game in his return from the flu)
2nd 🌟 Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (30 saves including 24 of 24 first 2 periods)
1st 🌟 Artemiy Panarin, Rangers (2 power play goals giving him 11 goals so far and extending point streak to career best 12 for 7-12-19)