It wasn’t pretty and if not for Henrik Lundqvist we would be
sitting here talking about the blown opportunity the New York Rangers had; but
thanks to the man the fans call “King” the Rangers are up 2-0 after a 3-1 win.
Henrik Lundqvist earned every penny of his new contract extension with his play
in the first period alone stopping 13 out of the 14 shots he faced.
Let us not kid ourselves here as Montreal by all rights
should have had a 4-1 lead if Henrik Lundqvist had just an average period. The
Montreal Canadiens were getting scoring chances from right in the slot and in a
couple of cases 2-3 of them at a time. The Rangers were simply not able to
handle the Montreal attack and were allowing them to swarm the net and in a
couple of cases run into Lundqvist.
Montreal’s first goal was well earned as they forced the
Rangers into 2 turnovers on the same play; the first by Zuccarello right in
front of Lundqvist and then Lundqvist himself missing on a poke check as Max
Pacioretty was able to score giving Montreal a 1-0 lead.
But Montreal then killed their own momentum and fan support
when on the very next shift they allowed the Rangers to get the puck in deep
and then they worked the puck back up the boards to Ryan McDonagh who fired the
puck towards the net but it hit Josh Gorges in the rear end and deflected into
the net for the tying goal just 17 seconds after Montreal had scored theirs.
It is a shame that Dom Moore doesn’t get any credit for his
hard work on this goal as he was the one who did all the dirty work, carrying
the puck into the offensive zone, chipping it deeper into the corner and then
outskating the Canadiens to the puck where he wins the battle for the puck and
gets it back to McDonagh.
The goal took some steam out of the Montreal attack and
honestly it really looked as if Montreal was playing to win the game in the
first period. They were throwing everything and anything at Henrik as well as
taking the puck right to him.
That attack was also their undoing as with just over a
minute left in the period the Rangers got an odd man rush into the Canadiens
zone where Chris Kreider would hit a wide open Rick Nash with a perfect pass
that Nash “one times” past a late Dustin Tokarski for a 2-1 Ranger lead that
would prove to be the game winning goal.
Nash’s 2nd goal of the series and an almost carbon copy of his game
1 goal, on the attack facing the goal. That is how Rick Nash should be shooting
the puck and if he keeps doing this then he will have several more goals before
this series is over. But now Nash need to start shooting the puck more because
1-2 shots a game is not going to score multiple goals in a game.
In the 2nd period the Rangers began to regain
their brand of hockey as their defense improved and they were not playing a
scramble defense. Lundqvist still had to come up with a couple of solid saves
but the tide of this game was starting to change.
In the 3rd period, the Rangers finally took
control thanks to 2 early shifts; first the 4th line using a strong
forecheck kept Montreal scrambling in their defensive zone and unable to
attack. Montreal would get the puck as far as the Ranger blueline but the
Rangers went right back into Montreal’s defensive zone where the 3rd line repeated the efforts of the 4th line.
No the Rangers did not score on either shift but they were
able to establish the tempo that they wanted to play as well as getting into
their 30 second shift pattern. Montreal had a lot of trouble adapting to the
constant Ranger line changes as the Rangers by keeping fresh legs on the ice
were disrupting the Montreal attack.
Alain Vigneault continued his use of mixing up his lines in
the 3rd period and you could see Montreal was very much off-balanced
by this tactic. Vigneault has been coaching like a mad man during the Ranger’s
5 game winning streak.
It was pretty much smooth sailing for the Rangers until
Benoit Pouliot took a really stupid penalty in the offensive zone. Pouliot took
a boarding call that could have just as been called a major penalty as it was
just a minor but Pouliot for all that he does for the 3rd line hurts
the team with his bad penalties.
The Rangers weathered the storm and finished off the Canadiens 3-1 and now head
to what should be a very loud Madison Square Garden for a pivotal game 3 on
Thursday. Imagine that the Rangers will get 2 days off between games.
My Heroes: Henrik Lundqvist for reasons plain to see, Brian
Boyle whose play at center has gotten better led Rangers with a 8-3 faceoff
stat and Ryan McDonagh who by next season will be established an one of the NHL’s