By PATRICK MCCORMACK, PINCH-HITTING FOR THE MAVEN
The team — already without Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, and Rick Nash — found out Henrik Lundqvist was going to miss the game against Ottawa due to the flu.
The wounded Blueshirts started their first game after three days off flat, allowing two goals on the Ottawa Senators first two shots. It looked as if the home team was on the verge of losing their third straight game.
Steve Valiquette and Al Trautwig break down the Rangers' gutsy effort in the second and third periods in their comeback win over Ottawa.
But New York stepped up. Led by a collective effort from Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Nick Holden, Mats Zuccarello and Antti Raanta; the Rangers were rejuvenated and climbed back into the game.
The Blueshirts found a way to leave Madison Square Garden with a 4-3 victory over the Senators Tuesday evening.
It didn’t start as their best game, but the Blueshirts buckled down and went back to playing their style of hockey — which starts with speed and skill — to earn two points and improve to 11-1-1 in games following a loss this season.
OVERVIEW: It looked like two different Rangers teams were on the ice. The Rangers of the first period struggled. They came out sluggish, turned the puck over, and found themselves in an early hole. But the team found life. They started winning battles, received solid goaltending, and found a way to create on offense. New York’s play following the first period allowed the team to earn a much-needed win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- DEREK STEPAN: The Rangers alternate captain led by example. He played hard every shift and encouraged his team to play better after their flat start. His effort resulted in two goals, which included the tying goal in the second period. Over the last two games, the center has registered five points and has recorded at least one point in the last four games.
- DEFENSIVE PRODUCTION: New York’s defensemen registered six points. Ryan McDonagh led the bunch with three assists. Nick Holden netted two goals, including the game-winner at the 6:31 mark of the final period. Brady Skjei picked up a helper on Holden’s second tally.
- RAANTA’s RECOVERY: Antti Raanta had a rough start to the game. After he gave up two goals on Ottawa’s first two attempts, he settled down. The Blueshirts’ netminder stopped 33 of the next 34 shots to help lead the Rangers to victory.
- THE COMEBACK: New York trailed by two goals twice in the contest, once with the score at 2-0 and another instance at 3-1 in favor of Ottawa. Despite playing from behind, the home team stuck to their game and chipped away at the Senators lead. Responding at the right time, with Stepan and Holden scoring timely goals.
- THE POWER PLAY: The Rangers man-advantage had not scored since December 11th coming into the game. Stepan deflected a Zuccarello pass past Mike Condon to tie the game at three. New York also scored two goals seconds after penalties expired.
- THE PENALTY KILL: New York killed all four of its penalties. Their biggest kills came in the third period when it killed two penalties with under 10 minutes remaining.
Shorthanded and trailing 3-2 in the second period, Raanta lunged towards the post and denied Cody Ceci’s shot from point-blank range with just about 12 minutes to go in the period to keep it a one-goal game.
- THE START: The Rangers dug themselves a hole. They made sloppy passes, turned the puck over, and put Raanta in a tough spot against a skilled Ottawa team.
- THE PARADE TO THE PENALTY BOX: New York was shorthanded four times, including two times in the third period.
WHAT THEY SAID:
ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “There’s no doubt that (was) a worst-case scenario to how the game started. I think it says a lot about our group about staying with the process.”
RYAN MCDONAGH ON ANTTI RAANTA: “He made some incredible saves, especially in the second period and down to the last five minutes there. It was great to see him rebound and kind of refocus.”
DEREK STEPAN: “This is the way we need to play. Winning is difficult in this league and it’s not easy work. You have to work hard to win and if you don’t push that work ethic you won’t have a chance to win.”
Derek Stepan gives praise to netminder Antti Raanta and explains what happened when he became so vocal on the bench.
BOTTOM LINE: New York needed to come out and win against the Senators. Following two losses, the team needed to find a way to get back to its game. It did. Behind good goaltending and its leaders stepping up, New York erased an early deficit and found a way to pick up a victory.
NEXT GAME: Thursday night vs. Arizona on MSG with coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m.
OUTLOOK: The Rangers have a chance to build off Tuesday’s win on their trip out west. They play Arizona and Colorado, who are both struggling as of late. The Blueshirts can continue to improve their game and pick up important points to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division.