Pride and motivation often blend to provide victories in the unlikeliest of places.
Virtually certain to miss the playoffs, coach John Hynes’ sextet also relied on a few other factors to inspire the upset 3-2 overtime victory for the home club.
Not that the Rangers need any further lessons about pride or motivation, but they’ll get another challenge tonight at The Garden when the playoff-seeking Islanders arrive on Seventh Avenue.
With Antti Raanta guarding the New York pipes at The Rock, the Blueshirts encountered a rookie-sprinkled lineup that gave Hynes the speed he hoped would cope with the fast-flying Rangers.
It was precisely that rapid-fire attack that finally was the visitors undoing as a pair of promising young Devils — Joseph Blandisi and John Quenneville — combined on a two-on-one break with Blandisi beating Raanta with the backhand winner.
OVERVIEW: No question, the Rangers owned both the territorial and shots on goal edges, but New Jersey matched the New York grit and won the match on Cory Schneider‘s game-stealing overtime saves.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- POTHOLE IN THE ROAD: Up until last night, the Rangers had been virtually indomitable in visiting rinks. Their league-leading road record remains impressive and despite the defeat, they did pull a valuable point out of the hat.
- MISSED CHANCES: Firing 40 shots at an enemy goaltender ordinarily will produce a win. But a combination of hit posts and an assortment of other missed chances cost New York the game.
- DEFENSE RESTED: This was not a normal Rangers super defending game. Too many odd-man rushes were allowed, discounting the overtime winner which was a two-on-one deal with teams playing three skaters per side.
- PENALTY KILL COSTLY: In a contest so closely contested, power plays must be curbed by excellent penalty killing. New Jersey’s opening goal by rookie Quenneville provided the home club with a much-needed boost.
TURNING POINT: After Rick Nash tied the game early in the third period, the Rangers pushed and pushed and PUSHED. Schneider thwarted the foe and the weary Devils managed to struggle through without allowing a go-ahead goal. That and Schneid’s overtime histrionics earned his club the two points.
THE GOOD NEWS:
- ROAD DOMINATION: No, the Rangers didn’t win the game but they dominated early in the third and came this close to surging ahead.
- SCORING: Oscar Lindberg continues to prove that he’s one of the NHL’s best fourth-liners. He scored his seventh goal and Nash’s power-play counter early in the third tied the game at two. It was The Big Guy’s 19th of the season.
WHAT THEY SAID:
- MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST STEVE VALIQUETTE: “I was surprised by the choppiness. These are all tough games.”
- MSG NETWORKS’ ANALYST JOE MICHELETTI (after the late second-period line brawl ignited by New Jersey’s rookie Miles Wood): “This could be mistaken for the first round of the playoffs.”
- MAVEN’S REPORTER MATTHEW BLITTNER: “Yes, Cory Schneider stole the game for the Devils but, on the other hand, the Rangers wasted a ton of chances.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: The Battle of the Hudson gives way to The Battle of The Borough’s as Brooklyn’s own Islanders invade The Garden tonight. Game Time: 8 p.m. (NBCSN). ON MSG+: Rangers Extra will air live following the game. RADIO: ESPN 98.7 FM.
BOTTOM LINE: A hard, exciting game was decided on a blunted Rangers attack and a successful Devils counterattack. The unknown factor will be how much energy and skill the Blueshirts bring to The Garden in an attempt to restore home ice advantage against the playoff-desperate Islanders.