Despite the 2 - 1 OT result, the New York Rangers likely deserved their two points in the first 60 minutes of play.
One of the stronger and more cohesive games the Blueshirts have played this season was nearly foiled by an equally impressive effort by Carolina Hurricanes' netminder Cam Ward, but New York continued to press and ultimately prevailed.
"It was a fun game to play, a lot of action on both ends," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who recorded 31 saves in the victory. "It is important in a low scoring game to not give the puck away and we didn't.
"Tonight we played a very smart game."
It was the smart effort that Head Coach John Tortorella had been looking for. Penalties were limited. The offense contributed to the defense and the defense contributed to the offense.
"I think we got a little bit of our personality back and the style of play we wanted to play," said Tortorella. "I thought Ward was outstanding. The good thing about our club is that we didn't get frustrated, we didn't force the issue and played the style we wanted to play."
Despite controlling the flow through most of the game, the Rangers were held scoreless until 8:41 of the third period when Matt Gilroy took a pass in the slot from Mats Zuccarello and buried a wrist shot against the grain to beat Ward on the stick side.
Gilroy has improved dramatically in the past several weeks, leading to his solidifying a position in the top-six and allowing the Rangers to send struggling young defender Mike Del Zotto to Hartford to regain his confidence.
But the night was capped by the young Norwegian Zuccarello who, after assisting on the game's first goal, became the OT hero.
Zuccarello retrieved the puck behind the Carolina net following a rush by Brandon Dubinsky and strutted quickly around the post to beat Ward with a near-side off-angle shot.
The victory put the Rangers at 7th place in the Eastern Conference with 49 points, seven ahead of 9th place Carolina.
The Rangers return to action this Friday in Dallas to take on the Stars at 8:30 pm EST.
NOTES and SPECULATION:
- Brandon Dubinsky contributed on both goals and continues to grow his puck possession game
- Henrik Lundqvist equalled Cam Ward's effort with several key saves in the few defensive breakdowns
- Ryan McDonagh, called up prior to the game when Del Zotto was assigned, did not dress.
- Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko had several opportunities and put in noticeable effort
- FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Reports today indicate that disgruntled former New Jersey Devil (current Columbus Blue Jacket) Mike Commodore is seeking a trade. Could the Rangers consider making a move for the rugged stay-at-home defenseman? While he is a right-handed shot, should the Rangers include struggling Michal Rozsival, the position would be a swap. Perhaps the Rangers could sweeten the deal and bring back former Blueshirt Fedor Tyutin (a left handed shot) as part of the deal. The money would nearly work as Commodore carries a cap hit of $3.75 million and Tyutin at $2.975 million. If the Rangers include Mike Sauer in the deal, at $500,000, New York would only need to take on an additional $1.225 million, which they have the flexibility to do.