In the fourth and final meeting of the season between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, the Blueshirts finally were able to break through with a victory and end a drought against the Habs that extended back to last season. Tonight’s game featured the exact hockey one would expect in a game down the stretch, between two teams fighting for a playoff berth. There was aggression, intensity, and goal scoring, and the Rangers would ultimately walk away with a 6-3 win after a hard fought 60 minutes.
- First period: The game got off to a hot start rather early, when just one second in, Brandon Prust squared off with Travis Moen in what would be a fairly lengthy bout. About five and a half minutes in, Artem Anisimov would get the Rangers on the board with an unassisted breakaway goal, but less than two minutes later, the Canadiens would rally to tie it on a slap shot goal by P.K Subban in the slot, this coming before he and Prust would serve minors after Subban yanked Prust to the ice when he made contact with goaltender Carey Price. But the most disheartening aspect about the Canadiens’ goal was the “Ole Ole” chant in the building, offered up by the sea of opposing fans that made their way into the Garden tonight. I have no problem with fans of other teams traveling distances to show their support, but it is unfortunate that the Rangers fans would let that noise happen. I remember a time when it was dangerous for an opposing fan to even wear a jersey, let alone chant, in our home building, but times have changed, and the Dolan’s are getting what they want: an arena packed with corporate suits. Anyway, the Rangers would very shortly shut up the Canadiens’ fans with a barrage of goals. Near the midway point, Dan Girardi would score on assists from Christensen and Zuccarello, and then with less than three minutes remaining, Ryan Callahan would score the oddest goal of the season—with a tangle of players in front of the net, Callahan swiped at a bouncing puck which sent it upwards off the helmet of defenseman James Wisniewski, then higher into the air, when it would fall straight down and cross the goal line in mid-air. However, the backspin on the puck caused it to not land in the net, but a lengthy review would prove that the entire puck crossed the line. With the Canadiens tased, Gaborik scored 32 seconds after that, and then Brian Boyle added a fifth goal 37 seconds later, for a total of three goals in just 1:07. Price would then be yanked and replaced with Ranger-killer Alex Auld. The Rangers would leave the period with a 5-1 lead, perhaps the most exciting and well-played period of the season.
- Second period: At first, the middle frame seemed relatively calm compared to the first. Aside from an early goal by Wisniewski, to get the Canadiens within three, nothing major happened until the end. Both Lundqvist and Auld were solid, but then with exactly three minutes to go, Subban would knock down Lundqvist and cause Michael Sauer to chase him halfway across the rink to challenge him to a fight. Sauer wanted to drop the gloves immediately, but the Canadiens’ brute defenseman ran away like the fraud he is. Magnetic personality be damned, Subban is nothing more than a glorified thug, who already slew-footed Dubinsky earlier in the season (a play that went uncalled) while being in the center of other questionable plays around the league. He’s a fine offensive defenseman, but the edge he walks is very dangerous, and I was hoping that someone would knock him down onto the ice by the time the game was over (maybe he would have been if the refs didn’t jump in to stop the fight). The Rangers would still be up 5-2 heading into the third.
- Third period: Once again, the Canadiens would strike, with a powerplay goal under a minute in from Brian Gionta. Flashbacks from two years ago when the Rangers blew a 5-0 lead were beginning to creep in my head, but thankfully the Rangers would hunker down and not let this one get away. After Lundqvist was ran yet again, this time accidentally, the Rangers would capitalize on the powerplay when Vinny Prospal deflected a hard Girardi pass to beat Auld. The Rangers would go on to win 6-3, but there is some concern for Lundqvist, who remained down on the ice for a few minutes after being hit. When the game ended, rather than celebrate, he pushed his teammates away so they would not tap him on the head, showing an apparent neck injury. We can only hope it is not serious.
The Rangers really stepped up in another big home game tonight to beat a team where wins against them have seemed elusive. The team should be happy about the win, but Lundqvist is injured and that may really effect the team in the long run, if it is not a hyper-extended muscle, and something more serious. Hopefully we will know by later tonight or tomorrow if he will start against the Penguins on Sunday. Lundqvist also continued to set a record he already owns, by winning 30 games in a season six times in a row, a record he set last season with five.
It was also good to see Rangers fans answer back with some “Ole” chants of their own late in the game. Tonight’s game had a very good intensity, that was only escalated by the presence of so many opposing fans. If every game could be this loud, it would be a real treat.
This game also proved that the Rangers do not need Sean Avery any longer. Not that Wolski did anything that stood out, but I did not once think tonight that Avery could have been useful in any of the situations that unfolded. He is clearly out of his element, and with the way he played in the game prior against the Islanders, I do not see how he fits in the rest of the way.
Finally, I was really hoping the Rangers would score at least one goal on Alex Auld, the perennial backup who always seems to kill the Rangers. He really was excellent yet again, keeping his team in it, but the Rangers got him for one at the end. I don’t know if it is just coincidence, but he always plays exceptionally well on Broadway. The Rangers will now head to Pittsburgh for one of those annoying 12:30 afternoon starts on Sunday. I am already prepared for the broadcast bias that follows every nationally televised Rangers game, the same bias that led Pierre McGuire on TSN to say tonight how Subban isn’t afraid of a fight…which is why he ran for dear life when Sauer chased after him.