Derek Stepan finished the night with three points (two goals and an assist) – and linemates Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik chipped in a goal and an assist each – to lead the New York Rangers to a 6-1 blowout of the Florida Panthers. With four points in the standings this weekend, the Blueshirts surpass the Penguins in the Atlantic division and move to within one point of the conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers.
Four goals in the second period – and two power goals in the first – clinched the game for the Rangers as they were helped out by a steady, 20-save performance from Henrik Lundqvist. Both Steve Eminger – who tallied his 2nd goal in 25 games – and Michael Del Zotto finished the game with a +/- of +4. Anton Stralman notched his first assist as a New York Ranger while Erik Christensen – subbing in for Sean Avery – scored an assist in his return to the lineup.
Join me after the jump for the full post-game report.
- The early penalty kills sort of took the Florida Panthers off their game and gave the Rangers confidence as they ended the night 7-for-7 on the PK.
- Brad Richards capitalized on the failure of the Panthers to clear the puck on a penalty kill and scored his 11th of the season by faking out Jose Theodore. Richards continue to validate his contract by bringing a multitude of positives to the Rangers.
- Derek Stepan had a remarkable game, headlined by his end-to-end rush complete with a nifty deke. His sophomore season has been exciting to watch mainly due to his continued development and exceptional offensive play. Stepan has shown he can be a playmaker, but he also possesses a scoring touch; its makes him a special player.
- Michael Del Zotto has turned a corner. With Sauer out, both he and Steve Eminger have stepped up to make a solid 2nd defense pairing, logging tough minutes and making plays. As Del Zotto continues to work defensively, you’re seeing his offense creep back in. If he can find a good mixture of both offense and defense, then Del Zotto will be on his way to stardom.
- Anton Stralman had his best game as a Ranger. He played well in his own end, but what stood out was his skating. He was up the ice, joining the play when possible and adding to the offense – his strength. It’s still a work in progress with Stralman, but tonight’s performance is a building block.
- With his goal tonight, Marian Gaborik moves into a tie for 7th in the league with 15 goals. It’s nice reading that once again, isn’t it?
- Erik Christensen made Tortorella look like a genius, slotting in for Sean Avery and, at times, playing well and notching an assist in his 12:54 of ice time. If you look at the box score, no forward had less than 11 minutes of ice-time. Did it really take removing Avery from the lineup to force Tortorella to roll four lines?
- A blowout means a breather for Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, who didn’t have to play 45 minutes tonight to win a hockey game.
- Most of the credit belongs to the Rangers defense, who kept most of the Panthers chances to the outside. However, at times, it looked like Florida was standing around and grew disinterested in the game.
Broadway Hat Recipient: Marian Gabork