When thinking about the Ducks, the terms ‘gritty,’ plus ‘tough,’ and ‘fast’ come to mind.
As for the stars, who else to mention but Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. After that duet, often very little matters.
The Rangers, however, know darn well that there’s a lot more to the Ducks with which to contend and that explains why Anaheim is doing quite well, thank you, in the Pacific Division. But coach Randy Carlyle’s Left Coasters are not unbeatable, and this was amply demonstrated at The Garden last night as Rangers power so obviously revealed with a 4-1 decision.
Topping Anaheim, the Seventh Avenue Skaters featured yet another two-goal game from Michael (The New Rocket) Grabner and another winning effort from Henrik Lundqvist, who appears to have found his A-game after all. Hank will get another opportunity to prove that point tomorrow when the Nashville Predators visit The Garden.
OVERVIEW: The race to top the Metropolitan Division is far from over. With that in mind, the Blueshirts have Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus in their periscope. A win over Anaheim — like previous triumphs — helps move the New Yorkers closer to what still could make them Top Banana in April. There’s time, folks, there’s plenty of time.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- CONQUERING KING: Tracers fired by Anaheim over three periods amounted to a fat 44 shots of which only one eluded Henrik Lundqvist. Unlike his more modest effort against Calgary, Henny hit the heights with this five-star performance. His Majesty’s critics now can relax; The Man is back in form.
- SAY HEY, HAYES: Returned to the lineup with his wounds healed, Kevin Hayes infused the already active arsenal with even more power. While the score sheets note but one assist, Kevin was strong in all areas of the game not covered by arithmetic. Teamed with Michael Grabner and J.T. Miller, Hayes earned many “Yays.”
- THE MIGHTY MICHAEL: Those cynics who predicted that Michael Grabner’s early season outburst was a mere aberration and that Kid Lightning would slow down under checking pressure were dead wrong. His two red lights have upped MG’s team-leading total to 25 along with a league-leading even-strength 24. This guy could wind up winning The Richard Trophy.
- PENALTY KILLERS: Not only did the Blueshirts go a perfect four-for-four on the PK, but were especially impressive after Brady Skjei was smacked with a double-minor late in the second period.
GOAL OF THE GAME: With the match still tied at zip in the first period but the visitors on the offense, the Blueshirts broke the scoring ice on a nifty play. Pavel Buchnevich teamed with Oscar Lindberg for a sweet, timely opening tally. Behind the Ducks goal, Bucky skimmed a pass to the streaking Lindy to beat John Gibson in the Anaheim net.
SAVE OF THE GAME: Nursing a 2-1 lead late in the second frame, the Blueshirts were under siege killing a four-minute penalty. It was then that Henrik Lundqvist had the Ducks shaking their beaks after he robbed Rickard Rakell’s angle shot that had goal written all over it.
TURNING POINT: Although the Rangers sported a 1-0 lead early in the middle frame, the visitors assaults appeared enough to eventually get them a tying counter. But Mats Zuccarello put a stop to that with his counter. The two-goal lead proved to be enough.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “Hank was on top of his game right from the start. The Ducks had long possession time in our end and he made key saves at the right time. That gave us a chance. After that, we were able to get a couple of odd-man rushes that we were able to bury and it won us the game.”
Alain Vigneault praises the play of Henrik Lundqvist after the Rangers' goalie made a season-high 43 saves in the win over Anaheim.
- HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “Right away the Ducks set the tone by throwing pucks at me and I didn’t expect this type of game. But the way we worked together was the key. We boxed out their guys so well. The way the guys battled out front to help me was important.”
- J.T. MILLER: “Henrik gave us a chance to win because Anaheim brought its A-Game. The Ducks came out flying and were hard to stop at the beginning. Eventually, we found a way to capitalize on the opportunities.”
- MAVEN REPORTER MATTHEW BLITTNER: “The Blueshirts demonstrated that it’s not a matter of who gets the most shots who wins. More importantly, it’s what you do with the shots taken. That was the area that enabled the Rangers to win.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Thursday, February 9, vs. Nashville. 7 p.m. TV, MSG Networks.
BOTTOM LINE: With Kevin Hayes returned to the lineup, the Rangers quick-strike ability gets even better. What more can be said about Grabner’s inflationary season other than it’s stupendous.