It required another comeback and another shootout, but the Rangers won a game that they absolutely had to. The Rangers tonight looked like they were back to their mid-season form. There were mistakes in all three zones and some pitiful decisions with the puck, but they worked hard, put pucks towards the net, and persisted even when a chance of a positive outcome looked bleak. With the win, the Rangers maintain their perfect record when taking a lead into the 3rd period this season and snap a four game road losing streak. More importantly, though, they add two important points to their total and limited the close-behind Hurricanes to only one. Let’s look at the post-game notes:
Henrik Lundqvist- Don’t let the 3 goals, none of which he deserves any blame for, fool you. Lundqvist was the most important Ranger tonight, as he should be. The Rangers defense gave the Hurricanes numerous odd-man rushes and Lundqvist bailed them out on virtually all of them. He made multiple stops on Eric Staal and Erik Cole, made other numerous ridiculous saves, and was perfect in overtime and the shootout. With the win, Lundqvist moves into sole possession of 4th all-time on the Rangers’ win list.
Jussi Jokinen- Got to give “the other Jokinen” some credit. He scored two great goals tonight and was just buzzing in general the whole game. Dallas made a big mistake in trading him away.
Michael Sauer- Tonight we saw another step in the career of Michael Sauer. He made some mistakes in the defensive zone and turned over a few too many pucks, but Sauer’s time increased once Marc Staal was sent to the locker room and Sauer, for perhaps the first time in his NHL career, made a real effort to get involved offensively. Multiple times he carried the puck into the zone and also skated as far as behind the Hurricanes’ net. Wolski gets the tying third goal, but that goal was the result of Sauer’s pinch into the slot. That pinch gave Wolski an option in front of the net and forced the Carolina players to try to block the puck from getting to him.
Mats Zuccarello- He picked it up tonight for sure. He created multiple scoring chances and had a few shots of his own, but he really displayed his vision with his perfect shot-pass to Callahan on the 5-on-3 which resulted in the goal. Sather will most likely add a powerplay quarterback before the deadline, but Zuccarello filled the role well tonight.
Marc Staal- Let’s hope the injury isn’t anything more than day-to-day. The Rangers’ defense is young, inexperienced, and depleted as it is. They can not afford to lose Staal for any significant amount of time. The good news is that his injury was nothing related to receiving a hit from his brother Eric, but rather from him twisting his knee in the first period that got worse as time went on.
Wojtek Wolski- Last, but definitely not least, is Wolski. Wolski was far and away the Rangers’ best forward tonight. Since the Rangers acquired him he has added a much needed secondary source of offense. Tonight, though, Wolski possessed the puck and made decisions with full confidence and played like a guy who knew Gaborik’s shoes had to be filled. Wolski has always had games like this in his career but just hasn’t done it consistently enough. Hopefully he plays like he did tonight the rest of the season, but for at least this game Wolski stepped up and got the job done; A goal and the shootout winner.
With the win, the Rangers are now three points ahead of Carolina for the 7th spot in the East. The Rangers don’t play again until Friday night against Washington, and if Staal’s injury is as insigificant as the early reports indicate, then Marc Staal should be ready for that game.