Rangers Get Back on Track in Pitt

The Rangers Limited is back on its tracks and rolling headlong toward a Wednesday night encounter with the Penguins.

What had been a two-game losing streak, The Blueshirts Local turned into a high-speed express required overnight and the result was a Monday night 5-2 thumping of Sidney Crosby & Co. at Consol Energy Center.

Most impressive for New York was the ability of Alain Vigneault‘s sextet to not only shrug off the injury to Mika Zibanejad, but successfully counterattack after the home club mounted a two-goal first period lead.

“We were too passive to start,” said J.T. Miller who tallied his eighth goal of the season, “but became more aggressive as the game wore on.”

The Manhattanites scored three unanswered goals against Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period and cemented the victory with a pair in the third including Derek Stepan‘s empty-netter.

De-winging the defending Stanley Cup champs on their home ice is no easy task, but the Rangers realize they likely will have to steam through Pittsburgh to get to the Final next Spring. This was a step in the right direction.

OVERVIEW:

Once again, the Rangers well-balanced attack proved too much for the Crosby-centric Pens. Five different visitors pumped home goals, while the Rangers displayed no fatigue despite playing the second of back-to-back games.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

1. GRABBING THE REINS: The phenomenal scoring machine that Michael Grabner has become defies credulity. G.M. Jeff Gorton’s pick-up shows no signs of slipping. He now sports a league-high dozen goals for the young season.

2. NO HOLDEN’S BARRED: In a very unassuming but effective way, another Gorton pick-up, defenseman Nick Holden excelled in all aspects of the game and further shines with one of the best plus-minus marks on the team.

3. RALLYING RAANTA: Once again, Antti Raanta underlined his value as Henrk Lundqvist‘s back-up. At this point in time, the fabulous Finn has a better goals against and save percentage than The King.

4. PLAY OF THE GAME: In the third period, Ryan McDonagh relieved Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin of the puck and then delivered an accurate cross-ice pass to Kevin Hayes, who deposited his ninth goal of the campaign.

 

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: The visitors broke slowly from the game, fell behind by two and were saved from a three-goal deficit thanks to Raanta’s puck-stopping.

LESSONS LEARNED:

1. NASTY, NASTY: The Wednesday night tilt could be even nastier than the one in Pittsburgh. That these teams dislike each other was evident throughout with chippy play. At the end of the first period, the refs huddled with reps of both clubs for a peace parlay. Peace lasted until the start of the second period. Instead of peace, the players were trying to get a piece of each other.

2. RANGERS FOR REAL: Forget about the two previous losses, this bounce-back in Pitt re-establishes the New Yorkers as the NHL’s team to beat. The Rangers have registered 81 goals for the first 20 games of the season. A revived Rick Nash has eight along with Miller, while Hayes is up to nine red lights. Plus, New York leads the league in goal differential.

3. SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL: The Blueshirts went two-for-two on the penalty kill and added a shorthanded goal. They have not allowed a power play goal in seven of their last nine games.

WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING: From Dylan Turner of Manhattan: “The Rangers turned the game around by adjusting their game and playing very physical against the not very physical Penguins.”

NEXT GAME: The Penguins get a chance to get even on Wednesday night at The Garden at 7 PM on MSG. Prepare for a bang-up affair!