Any Rangers fan worthy of his or her Blue Shirt might see “Colorado” on the schedule and assume that another two points are in the bag.
On the other hand, any coach worthy of his job will counter that not even an NHL bottom-feeder, such as the Avalanche, should be taken any more lightly than the Cup Champion Penguins.
When it comes to Alain Vigneault‘s troubadours, catching the defending champs is still a realistic possibility. Hence two points from the Avs is as good as a pair from any other team.
As a result, the 4-2 victory last night at The Garden was one good way for the team to enjoy this wintry weekend. For that, the Blueshirts can especially thank third-period goals from Kevin Klein, Rick Nash, and Kevin Hayes, along with 17 saves in the final stanza from Henrik Lundqvist, who became the first European-born goaltender and the 12th in NHL history to record his 400th career victory.
And with what looms as an energetic engagement with the Blue Jackets tomorrow night at Columbus, the Rangers can continue their trek to the top.
OVERVIEW: Word once again is circulating around the league that this Rangers club figures to be one of the genuine Cup contenders. The combination of dazzling speed, reliable goaltending, smart coaching and a gifted blend of young talent appear poised to take on the homestretch with confidence and perhaps a justified bit of swagger to boot.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
1. HENRIK’S HISTORIC NIGHT: Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves in the game, including 17 stops in the third period to earn his 400th win of his career in his 727th appearance, which makes him the fastest goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone. The King shined making big save after big save helping the Rangers win their fifth straight contest. The Garden Faithful saluted Hank with cheers of, “Hen-rik, Hen-rik,” throughout the game.
2. KEVIN KLEIN: The blueliner displayed his heavy shot in the victory. He put New York on the board in the first period and tied the game at two with a blast in the third. Klein’s performance showed that anyone can contribute on any night for the Blueshirts.
3. THREE IN THE THIRD: Trailing 2-1 entering the final frame, New York netted three goals in the third period en route to victory. It all started with a blast from Klein. Rick Nash then tipped a Derek Stepan pass into the net for the game-winning goal and Kevin Hayes iced the game with an empty-netter. The Rangers have used big plays in the third period all season to come back from deficits. Last night was another example.
4. THE PENALTY KILL: After giving up two power-play goals in their 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday, the Rangers PK was one for one against Colorado.
5. HOME SWEET HOME: The Blueshirts concluded their four-game homestand a perfect 4-0. New York used timely goals, big saves, and stuck to what they do best, which is playing the game with speed and skill.
BEST SAVE: Francois Beauchemin fired a slapper from the top of the circle, which Lundqvist stopped with his glove and covered with under two minutes left in the second. The save kept the score at 2-1 and allowed New York to rally in the third.
BEST GOAL: Nash completed a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Stepan and Ryan McDonagh to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead at the 5:36 mark of the third period.
TURNING POINT: Klein tied the game at two at the 2:50 mark of the final frame. The goal gave New York momentum and sparked its third-period rally.
WHAT THEY SAID
1. ALAIN VIGNEAULT ON LUNDQVIST: “His preparation and his focus is up there with the top players I’ve coached. He wants to do well and he wants this team to do well. You got a great role model there as far as competing and working.”
2. HENRIK LUNDQVIST ON 400TH WIN: “I’m just really proud and I’m really thankful for that opportunity. This organization means so much to me and they’ve given me this opportunity to play a lot of hockey…
I will definitely enjoy this tonight and kind of reflect a little bit before you go back to work tomorrow morning.”
3. DEREK STEPAN ON THE THIRD PERIOD: “I didn’t think we played a very good second, and I think we just found our game a little bit in the third. We simplified, got pucks to the net, and scored some big goals.”
4. RYAN MCDONAGH ON THE TEAM’S PLAY: “We were kind of frustrated and not connecting the dots with our passes, getting too spread out, so we got back to coming up in a unit of five and making sure we got pucks in and worked them from there. It was good to see us respond.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Rangers at Columbus, Monday night. TV: 7 p.m., MSG Network.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blueshirts did precisely what was expected of them. Who could ask for anything more? Except for a win over the Blue Jackets.