Once the alarm went off for the second period at the Bell Centre, the Rangers took off and cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadians on Thursday, improving to 11-2-1 in their past 14 games. The vital road win was the team’s third straight and came on a night where their rivals, the Islanders, Hurricanes, Devils, and Penguins, all lost their respective matches. The Rangers can leapfrog New Jersey for second place in the Metropolitan division if they defeat them at Prudential Center on Saturday. Given how they dominated the Habs, fans should like their chances heading into the upcoming Hudson River clash.
Here are my takeaways from the win:
After putting an end to a slew of Carolina Hurricanes streaks, in Tuesday’s 5-3 win at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts snapped Montreal’s stretch of 38 straight contests without allowing a shorthanded goal, the longest in the league this year.
Correctly reading the Habs power play setup, Chris Kreider intercepted a pass from#1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky, and accelerated for a breakaway opportunity he didn’t miss, beating Jake Allen for his 18th goal of the season to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 7:33 of the second period.
The marker silenced the raucous Habs crowd, who were showering #20 with disdain as they hadn’t forgotten when he slid into Carey Price in game one of the 2014 Eastern Conference final and knocked him out for the rest of the series. As we know, New York would win that series in six and double down by eliminating the Canadians 4-2 in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.
On nights where the stars don’t have it, you need depth scoring, which the Rangers received as their source of offense on Thursday, with two from Filip Chytil and a tally from the always persistent Braden Schneider. Following Kreider’s shorty, Schneider rifled the biscuit from the point off a right-side pass from Artemi Panarin for his fifth even-strength goal this season.
About a minute later, Chytil blasted a one-timer off a feed from Ryan Lindgren, giving the Blueshirts a 3-0 cushion they wouldn’t relinquish. Gerard Gallant said on Tuesday that Chytil “Didn’t have a lot of energy” against the Panthers and Hurricanes because he was under the weather, but he looked rejuvenated in this one. He later would add an empty netter to seal the victory.
HALAK WINS THIRD STRAIGHT:
Jaroslav Halak is finally playing up to standard. He joined broadway on a one-year $1.5 million pact last Summer to be a rock of stability when now all-star starter Igor Shesterkin needed nights off and has been successful in his previous three tries.
It was a relatively light workload for him, which is a testament to the stifling Rangers defense, as he made 17 stops on 18 shots to the tune of a +0.84 Goals Saved Above Expected, but he was there when needed.
The Habs would make things intriguing by getting on the scoreboard when Joel Armia pounced on a net-front rebound for his first tally of the year at 14:46 of the third period. However, New York clamped down defensively by blocking shooting lanes; Halak made a nifty save on Josh Anderson, and Chytil would hit the empty cage off passes from Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller to put the game away.
The defensive wall was led by the first-line pairing of Ryan Lindgren and Fox, who each had an assist, recorded multi-block nights, +/- of 1, and combined for a game score of 4.87, with Fox slightly ahead at 2.56 due to his 3-2 edge in the blocking department.
Chipping in behind them were Miller and Jacob Trouba, as although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, the captain had three blocks on the evening and four shots on goal, overshadowing his two turnovers.
Meanwhile, Miller has learned how to defend while skating forward, and had two blocks in addition to his Apple, threw his body around with two hits, and forced two Montreal turnovers.
However, the third pairing of Schneider and Ben Harpur stole the show, with Schneider scoring to go along with his three blocks. At the same time, Harpur created net front opportunities by handling the blue line and blocked a couple of Habs attempts himself to help out his goalie.
MARV’S 3 STARS:
3 Jaroslav Halak:
The 37-year-old earned the victory “Brodway hat” in the locker room after the game and is now 11 wins shy of 300 for his career. The win was his seventh in 11 tries against the team he played for from 2008-2010.
2 Braden Schneider:
It was @Joe Johns who said the following to me in the comments after the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Panthers on Sunday, and he will get his wish this time;
“Braden Schneider deserves a star in this one. He made two dynamic defensive plays. One to save a goal and punish the opponent in the same play! Then turned that around into an offensive rush, winning the puck battle behind the net to feed Kakko, who fed it to #93 for the goal. In his last NINETEEN games, Schneider has been even or + every contest! ”
That streak was extended to 22, with Schneider’s even zero rating.
1. Filip Chytil;
Chytil’s two goals, 5/10 performance on faceoffs, and his defensive ricochet earned him a team-high 3.05 game score for the contest.
Igor’s an all-star:
During the game, we learned the reigning Vezina-trophy winner would take his rightful place at the all-star game this season after not being selected in 2022. Shesterkin deserves the honor without saying, and I’m excited to see him represent the Metropolitan division in south Florida. With that out of the way, I understand the NHL’s desire to involve every fanbase, meaning at least one player from each team has to go. Still, they’re leaving out many others who are more deserving of the nods themselves, even with the fan vote they have going on for the final three slots in each division. If that weren’t the case, Shesterkin would’ve been in it last year. Overall, we’ve learned that All-star selections don’t give off much when it comes to seeing who has the inside track to winning an individual award at the end of the season. But the festivities will be fun nonetheless.
OTHMAN, CANADA WINS GOLD:
Rangers prospect Brennan Othman and team Canada defeated Czechia 3-2 in overtime to win the U20 World Juniors Gold Medal on Thursday night. Among the silver medalists was Blueshirts prospect Jaroslav Chmelař. At the same time, Noah Laba of the USA scored Bronze as his team rebounded from their 6-2 semifinal loss to Canada with an 8-7 overtime win over Sweden. It’s the 3rd time the Rangers have a prospect on all three medal-winning teams in the WJC.