The Rangers spoiled Phoenix's lone appearance at MSG this season with a 5-2 victory with play reminiscent of the team's early season success.
From the special teams to defensive zone coverage, the Rangers were sharper and it showed throughout most of the game.
Opportunities were created offensively by harder play on the boards and more direct passing and shooting. Throughout the last couple games, the Rangers had gotten away from the "get the puck to the net" mentality that accounted for so many of their goals.
Artem Anisimov opened the scoring early for the Rangers with a slick spinning shot to the opposite post, playing on the fourth line alongside Donald Brashear and Brian Boyle.
Marian Gaborik then continued his hot streak with a power play goal from the far faceoff circle that left everyone shaking their heads in disbelief. Brandon Dubinsky made a cross ice pass to Gaborik who took a one timer and snuck the puck in just under the crossbar on the short side.
Perhaps the only four inches that goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov wasn't covering.
Gaborik tallied on the passing side as well, feeding Vinny Prospal who cut to the net and slipped the puck in five-hole on a give-and-go.
But the Slovokian winger wasn't done.
Midway through the second period, Gaborik would put home another power play goal for his second of the game and third point of the night.
A tense moment occurred as Gaborik left the ice late in the third period as he appeared to tweak his leg. No update on his status is available.
On the defensive side of the puck, the group stepped up as a whole and looked much cleaner at both ends of the rink as well.
While Henrik Lundqvist still had to face 30 shots, the bulk were from odd angles and generally well protected by the defense.
"I think tonight we were off to a really good start," said Lundqvist. "They are a fast team."
"They skate a lot and move the puck a
lot. We did a good job."
Matching Phoenix's speed and intensity would be a challenge for the Rangers, who lacked both of those qualities with inconsistent efforts against San Jose, New Jersey, and Montreal. Much of this relied on the consistent two-way play of the Rangers' defensemen.
During the three-game aberration, the Rangers defense was spotty at best and lost a lot of the two-way flow that made them a successful group early in the season. While their defensive zone play still needs sharpening, they regained much of that movement last night.
“We were better at it. I think we gave up 11 or 12
scoring chances but we were much better away from the puck," said Head Coach John Tortorella. " The second
goal was the one we got caught changing and a couple of people leaving the
zone…we were sloppy there but for the most part we were pretty good as far as
those types of situations.”
The effort was not for a total of 60 minutes, it was more like 56 minutes as the Rangers fell asleep at a 4 - 0 lead nearing the end of the second period. Phoenix got a couple quick goals to make the third period interesting.
But they regrouped and played a calm and composed third period.
Enver Lisin put the game out of reach with a slap shot goal from just inside the blueline on former Ranger goaltender Jason LaBarbera.
One facet of the game did not necessarily improve for the Rangers: their penalties. The team took six penalties, a number a little higher than they would like.
The Rangers head to Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday night to face John Tavares and the Islanders for the first time this season.
Check out Blueshirt Bulletin Plus for further coverage from last night's game.