The Rangers are finally over .500 for the first time this season. Riding a 6-1 stretch, the Rangers held on against the Florida Panthers for a 4-3 win. The Rangers played well this game, but so did the Panthers, who gave the Rangers fits through the first two periods. It wasn’t until a costly turnover and a converted 5-on-3 that the Rangers were finally able to pull away.
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to pinpoint players that have had a poor game, and tonight was no different. Everyone did their job, and the Rangers got goals from a variety of sources. On a day where the Rangers gave up more than two goals for the first time in ten games, they were able to outscore their opponent to keep rolling. It’s also worth noting how different this team looks when they score on the powerplay, especially when those goals are timely.
On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Panthers 0
This goal was an absolute beauty. First, Chris Kreider forced a neutral zone turnover, and J.T. Miller picked up the puck and gained the offensive zone. Miller did a good job delaying and drawing three Cats to him before dishing to Ryan McDonagh at the blue line. McDonagh toe dragged around Krys Barch, completely undressing him in the process, and fired a pass to Kreider at the weak side face off dot. The pass was in Kreider’s skates, so Kreider simply kicked the puck to his stick, and passed across to Miller who cut to the net after dishing the puck to McDonagh. Tic. Tac. Toe. Goal.
Panthers 1, Rangers 1
There was no real coverage fail on this powerplay goal by Florida. They just simply outnumbered the Rangers down low and capitalized. Following the face off win, the puck worked itself to Aleksander Barkov on the near side boards. He made a great pass to Tom Gilbert across the ice for a shot on net, which Henrik Lundqvist stopped. At this point, the Panthers had three guys in front. Anton Stralman was tied up with Scottie Upshall, and McDonagh had to split his attention between Barkov (far right) and Kris Versteeg (slot). Versteeg’s rebound attempt was stopped, but Barkov banged home the second rebound.
I say there is no real coverage fail, but I can see the argument for McDonagh putting a body on Versteeg instead of trying to cover two guys. Versteeg was in the more dangerous area, and thus required more attention. I can also see the argument for the forwards, specifically Derek Stepan, collapsing a bit to help with the fact they were outnumbered. In that regard, I think it was just a bang-bang play and they didn’t have much time to really drop down low. Plus, there’s a risk of the point men becoming wide open. When the puck is that low, that’s a risk you’re willing to take.
Panthers 2, Rangers 1
This was just an unlucky goal. After Tim Thomas stopped a good Rangers chance, the Panthers brought the puck into the offensive zone and did a good job maintaining puck possession. The puck eventually worked its way to Brian Campbell at the point. Miller was a bit too low on the coverage of Campbell, which allowed him to walk the puck from the point to the top of the circle and rip a slap shot. The shot was going wide, but it appeared to deflect off Derick Brassard, off the post, off Hanks, and into the net. Just unlucky.
Rangers 2, Panthers 2
More hard work behind the net by Derek Dorsett and Brian Boyle, more goals for the Rangers. This time around, Boyle gained the zone and got the puck behind the net before outworking Campbell in an effort to get the puck to Dorsett (also behind the net). Dorsett overpowered Gilbert for his first attempt, and managed to get the puck away from Versteeg –who tried to take the puck away for a transition rush instead of playing defense– for his second chance. Both were stopped, but his third whack at the puck was successful, getting it through Thomas’ legs for the goal.
There is an argument that can be made for Campbell going over to help Gilbert and Versteeg, but that leaves Boyle open, and three guys on the puck for the Cats.
Rangers 3, Panthers 2
Rangers 4, Panthers 2
Another powerplay goal for the Rangers, and another goal with a two-man advantage. McDonagh made a good play off a face off loss to keep the zone and set up the powerplay. The puck eventually worked itself to Derek Stepan down low, back to Richards at the point, and then across to Mats Zuccarello at the off-wing. Zuccarello put a one-timer on net that Thomas only got a piece of. Ryan Callahan was in front wreaking havoc again.
Panthers 3, Rangers 4
The Rangers weren’t able to clear the defensive zone, and it came back to bite them. Campbell wound up with the puck at the far point, and made a nice spin move to elude Miller. With the open ice, Campbell moved to the high slot and wristed a shot on net that was stopped by Hank. Brassard didn’t put a body on Campbell, who was able to chase down his own rebound to make the game interesting.
This is the first game where the Rangers didn’t have to weather an early storm to stay in the game. These two teams were even most of the game in generating shot attempts until the third period, when the Rangers gained a tremendous advantage. This is when the Rangers were able to break a 2-2 tie with a pair of goals. The Panthers were able to get back into it from a CF% standpoint at the end of the game as they pushed to tie, but the Rangers wound up finishing the game with the 53.2% CF% advantage.
The Rangers are red-hot right now, winning six of seven and improving to 9-8 after a 3-7 start. Not only are they winning, but they are dominating the puck possession game and looking like a team that has no signs of slowing down. These were games that the Rangers needed to win, and they have done just that.