Had the New York Rangers closed their eyes, perhaps they might have thought that they were in the friendly confines of their home arena, Madison Square Garden—early on in the game there was a “Let’s Go Rangers” chant, near the end of the game there were a few scattered “Hen-Rik” chants, and finally, a loud applause when the final buzzer sounded in Sunrise, with the Rangers skating to a 3-0 victory over the Florida Panthers. More important than the win, though, would be Henrik Lundqvist responding with a shutout after losing three games in a row, and giving up 11 goals during that time. Despite the three goals scored, the Rangers’ offense put up even less shots than they did in Tampa Bay Wednesday night, which was their worst game of the season. However, luck was on their side tonight, as shots seemed to find the back of the net.
- First period: Derek Stepan (6) opened the scoring for the Rangers at the midway point of the period, on an assist from Sean Avery, who had just exited from the penalty box. Stepan’s scoring streak is now at six games, and he has three goals and four assists in that span. The goal would come after an early fight between Brandon Prust and Darcy Hordichuk, who was able to knock Prust’s helmet off and edge him in the fight. The Rangers would leave the period ahead by one.
- Second period: There would be no scoring by either team in the middle frame, though the Panthers heavily outplayed the Rangers. The Blueshirt’s offensive effort was reminiscent of their last game, in the fact that they could not muster up any offense, and the Panthers were taking it to them. Lundqvist would keep them in the game, with 24 saves through two periods.
- Third period: Five minutes in, with the Rangers on the powerplay, Erik Christensen would set up Ryan Callahan (6) in the slot for a deflection goal, expanding the Rangers lead to two. Steve Eminger would record a secondary assist on the play. The Panthers also continued to press on offense, but Lundqvist was solid, and no goals would be allowed. The Rangers would then get another special-teams goal, when Brandon Prust (1) scored shorthanded with just over five minutes remaining in the game. He came in two-on-one with Stepan, and elected to shoot—a well deserved goal for one of this season’s unsung heroes. Later in the period, it would appear that the Panthers scored a goal, when the puck trickled over the line and sent former-Ranger, Chris Higgins, into a celebration. However, it was revealed on replay that Stephen Weiss batted the puck down with his hand, before it reached Higgins’ stick, and it was quickly waved off. With just over three minutes remaining, the Panthers would pull the goalie in an attempt to create offense, but it would be to no avail, and the Rangers themselves could not get control of the puck to score an empty netter.
This was a very big win for the Rangers, bouncing back from a horrible loss in the game prior. Hopefully this shutout will straighten out Lundqvist’s head and propel him to get back into the form we all know and love. The defense was less sloppy tonight, but still, allowed 40 shots to get through, a number that needs to be cut down.
Also, for the second straight game, the Rangers would fail to get more than 20 shots on goal. They still have scored six goals, on a total of 39 shots in two games, which is a very good number. If they shot the puck more, who knows how good this team can be. Marian Gaborik is also in a bit of a funk, as aside from his third-period breakaway, he was unnoticeable. The same can be said for Alex Frolov, who has gone into another one of his disappearing acts.
Again it is worthy to mention the efforts of Brian “Killer” Boyle, and Prust, who continue to work hard, show toughness, and now, chip in goals. The Rangers will need this offense from their supporting cast, especially for when the big guns go silent. The Rangers will now travel to Nashville for an 8pm start against the Predators tomorrow night. Since he is coming off a shutout, I would fully expect Lundqvist to be in net.