Henrik Lundqvist shows off the winning game puck of victory number 455 to move into fifth all-time past Curtis Joseph in a Rangers comeback 3-2 overtime win. AP Photo credit New York Rangers via Getty Images
For a while, it looked like it would be one of those disappointing losses. However, the Rangers persistence paid off. Using a Chris Kreider power play goal late in regulation along with overtime hero Tony DeAngelo’s goal at 32 seconds of three-on-three, they rallied past the Wild to win 3-2 on Hockey Fights Cancer night at an emotional Madison Square Garden.
It also marked the return of former Ranger Mats Zuccarello. Wearing his traditional number 36 in Wild colors, the popular fan favorite heard the familiar “Zuuuucccc! Zuuuuucccc!”, chants from an appreciative Garden crowd. From the moment he stepped on the ice in warmups to his first shift, he was serenaded by the knowledgeable crowd, who loved the player he was for almost nine years in New York City.
A special moment occurred when MSG paid tribute with a video on the big screen during a stoppage. While Zuccarello looked at it, his Wild teammates gave him some taps as fans gave him a long ovation. After acknowledging the crowd a few times by waving from the bench, eventually Zuccarello got up and skated out briefly to salute the crowd. It was a very special moment that brought tears to me watching at home.
After a good start by Zuccarello’s new team, who had seven of the first nine shots thanks in large part to an early power play on a foolish slashing minor to Boo Nieves, the Rangers pushed back. Eventually, they took the lead when Brady Skjei got a little pick from DeAngelo while Zuccarello didn’t have a stick. That opened up enough of a shooting lane for Skjei to fire home his third past Minnesota starting goalie Alex Stalock at 14:50. Artemiy Panarin picked up a secondary assist while DeAngelo earned the primary.
Previously, a Kreider slashing penalty in front negated a goal. The Rangers penalty kill came through. Then Skjei scored through traffic to give him a goal and two assists in the last two games. He again was teamed with Jacob Trouba. They were okay after being reunited by coach David Quinn. In particular, Skjei was more aggressive attempting shots.
Leading by one, the Blueshirts largely dominated the second period. In fact, the Wild didn’t have a shot for a long stretch. However, like most experienced opponents, they were able to hang around due to two successful kills of New York power plays. On the latter, the home team was their own worst enemy by hesitating to shoot the puck. Stalock only had to make two stops after Brendan Lemieux drew a cross-check on an exhausted Matt Dumba, who just finished a lengthy 2:57 shift due to some unreal sustained Ranger pressure.
When the first unit kept the puck almost the full two minutes but didn’t score, I knew what was next. In fact, I predicted it in a tweet as the Wild were finally coming on.
On a sustained shift, Kevin Fiala finally skated into open space and made a perfect pass across for a wide open Zach Parise, who got just enough of the puck to sneak it off Henrik Lundqvist’s outstretched glove and in for his ninth at 17:11. Jared Spurgeon added a helper on a play that was predictable with a trio that included Lemieux, Pavel Buchnevich and Filip Chytil exhausted. Neither Skjei nor a gassed Chytil could check Parise, who still can score those garbage goals.
Minnesota isn’t the most exciting team. They rank very low in offense and also aren’t great defensively. For that reason, they don’t take many chances. Instead, they play close to the vest under veteran coach Bruce Boudreau. If you were expecting a wide open, high scoring game like Montreal, you were sadly mistaken. It’s not in the Wild’s DNA to get into track meets. They knew they had to pack it in and slow the Rangers down. They were coming off a blown 4-2 third period lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Bruins.
It was the Wild who dictated the action in the third. They created some scoring chances off their defense. Lundqvist had already robbed close pal Zuccarello on one point blank opportunity. His best save came when he denied Jason Zucker on a two-on-one with a great glove save that drew the familiar, “Hen-rik! Hen-rik!”, chants from a crowd that had been silent. It was a classic save like old times.
Playing for a chance to pass omitted goalie Curtis Joseph for fifth all-time in wins, Lundqvist was at his best. Sure. He wasn’t under siege like most nights, but he made all the key stops en route to 26 altogether for career victory number 455. Joseph somehow won 454 but isn’t in the biased Hockey Hall of Fame. He never played for any great teams. Not once did he win a Stanley Cup or play for one. The closest he came was ’01-02 when Toronto lost to Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final. He finished in the top five for the Vezina five times.
It was the Wild who surged ahead at the halfway mark. A bad neutral zone turnover that wasn’t handled cleanly by Skjei or Buchnevich resulted in Ryan Donato taking a Ryan Hartman pass and ripping his second off the goalpost and in for a 2-1 lead with 10 minutes left.
At that point, it looked like it would be a disappointing loss to a beatable team. However, Minnesota was content to sit back instead of putting the game away. That’s not going to work most games unless you are coached by Barry Trotz and playing for the Islanders these days.
Eventually, the Rangers picked up the pace. Quinn altered the lines. For a while, it didn’t look like it was working. He took Panarin off the top line and moved Buchnevich up with Kreider and Ryan Strome. There were some close calls for a frustrated Buchnevich, who couldn’t believe his misfortune when a great one-timer from the slot was turned away by a acrobatic Stalock. He prevented the goal by closing his legs to push the puck wide. Buchnevich had a couple of more high quality opportunities that he couldn’t bury. He deserved better.
Ironically, it was a very bad Hartman tripping minor in the offensive zone when he foolishly took down Skjei that handed the Blueshirts the golden opportunity they needed. Adam Fox moved the puck to Panarin, whose pass seemed to be redirected by Strome on net. The puck caromed right to Kreider who scored the huge power play goal for his sixth with 2:50 left in regulation. The scoring of the play reads Kreider from Panarin and Fox. I think it’ll be changed to Kreider from Strome and Panarin.
With only 20 seconds remaining, Fox made a great move towards the Minnesota net. He looked like he was going to win it. But his backhand missed wide. The game went to overtime. It sorta reminded me of when the old Rangers needed OT to get Mike Richter 300 wins. That was pretty cool.
This time, it was Lundqvist who got to celebrate win number 455 thanks to DeAngelo, who scored at 32 seconds of extras. The play was started by Strome with Panarin working his magic by getting the puck to an open DeAngelo, who had enough room to move in and beat Stalock with a good wrist shot for his seventh to touch off a nice celebration.
It was a really nice goal scored by a good offensive defenseman, who looks like a lock for double digit goals and possibly 40 points. DeAngelo is improving and belongs on this roster moving forward. Hopefully, they extend him soon. Or bridge him. He deserves it.
As soon as the game ended and the three stars were announced with DeAngelo getting number two and Panarin first star, I was a bit surprised that Lundqvist didn’t get a star too. He did play well. The kind of game they needed from him.
What wasn’t surprising was that MSG couldn’t wait to put the graphic up for Lundqvist. I get it. It’s nice. The production team works on these things all the time. It just felt like they were overshadowing what happened. That was a good team win like Saturday.
A comeback too in front of the home fans with many fighting for cancer survivors. If only the great Stephen Curatolo was still around to see his Rangers. He was the best fan and person because he was always so positive and happy despite his battle with cancer. That win was for him and people like him, who are smiling proudly on this night from up above. I told his good sister Jennifer as such on Twitter.
There are so many people who are the most courageous that fight every day. They are the true heroes. That’s what the true definition of Monday night was all about. No wonder they rooted for and loved the underdog like Zuccarello. He will always remain beloved no matter what jersey he wears.
By winning this game, they can make it dear I say three in a row against a good Carolina club that’s third in the Metro Division. That’s on Wednesday night or Turkey Eve. Something I sarcastically joked about due to the NYR offense seeming to disappear until Kreider’s goal saved them.
Hey. They woke up before the bar scene. 😉 Now they’ll go for that “winning streak.”
Battle Of Hudson 3 🌟
3rd 🌟 Artemiy Panarin, Rangers (3 assists, +2 in 20:24)
2nd 🌟 Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (26 saves including 13/14 in 2nd for career win number 455 to move past Cujo for 5th on all-time list)
1st 🌟 Tony DeAngelo, Rangers (game-winner at 32 seconds of OT for 7th goal plus 🍎, +2 in 15:50)
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