By Brian Monzo
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It doesn’t always have to be pretty, but two points will always suffice.
It took three periods, plus a few minutes of overtime, before the Rangers were able to find a way to come up with a gutsy win, and a hard-earned two points over a talented Tampa Bay Lightning team. As I watched this game, I jotted down things I hated about their game last night.
For starters, whether it be Brian Boyle or Derek Stepan, they could not win an offensive-zone faceoff. Ryan McDonagh and Artem Anisimov could not hit the net with a shot if their lives depended on it. Marty Biron, giving a break to Henrik Lundqvist, looked asleep throughout the game. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman was all over the place.
After a back-and-forth first two periods, the Rangers found themselves trailing 3-2 headed into the third. It took what it has taken all season for the Rangers to get back into the game. After a ton of grinding, forechecking and battling, Boyle was able to snap a redirected puck past Lightning net minder Mathieu Garon midway through the third period.
It was Brad Richards and his seventh game-winning goal this season that pushed the Rangers past the Lightning. Richards mentioned in the postgame show that his struggles are made easier when the team is winning.
One of the many things I’ve learned about this team — but fail to get accustomed to — is that this is exactly how they are going to win games down the stretch. 5-0 beatdown games will be few and far between. It may cause chest pain, but fans are going to have to get used to late ties and tight-scoring games as the season plays out — and especially in playoff games.
It’s no secret the Rangers are not the most talented team in the NHL. They have a great goalie, and a ton of hard working players. It’s how they get it done, and it’s a formula that has them first in the Eastern Conference in February. After 52 games, everyone on the team seems to have a role. It may be a role they haven’t played in the past, but it has the Rangers at 34-13-5 right now.
Going back to last night, I thought Del Zotto, Stepan and Anisimov were the Rangers’ best players. Del Zotto seems to be getting better by the game is almost creating something good every time he is on the ice. If the Rangers’ power play ever finds a way to get it going, he will be a major factor in doing so. Stepan played his best game since returning from the All-Star break. He had a lot of extra jump in his step. Anisimov has been invisible for the good part of a month now, if not longer. He showed some glimpses of getting out of his funk a few games back and last night he could have scored two goals if he was able to hit the net. The good news is that he was getting himself in position to make plays.
The Rangers now have a hell of a week to deal with. They play the Flyers and Capitals on Saturday and Sunday, followed by the Bruins on Tuesday and the Blackhawks on Thursday. If they play really well, 3-1 in that stretch would be something else though I think most fans would sign for 2-2. As great as it sounds, I think 4-0 is unrealistic. That said, with this team, anything is possible — as we have seen all season.
Ladies and gentleman, start your engines…
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