‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
Ordinary men fail. The current generation of New York Rangers are an extraordinary group of men determined to never wilt — even under the most intense pressure.
Braden Holtby formed a brick wall in front of the Capitals’ net after a preventable error on Anton Stralman’s opening goal in the first period. Holtby’s misplay only fueled his fire as he used every bit of his massive 6’1″, 202 pound frame to brush aside chance after chance as the Rangers peppered him with demanding efforts on goal.
Joel Ward may have lost his cool by taking an undisciplined 4-minute high-sticking penalty, but Holtby appeared capable of steering the Capitals to victory as the third period clock ticked down to 21.3 seconds.
Holtby soon learned the word ‘quit’ is missing from the Rangers’ dictionary.
There isn’t an ‘off-switch’ on Ryan Callahan who chipped away furiously, trying to lift a puck past Holtby’s right pad as precious seconds expired. Brad Richards took hold of the loose puck and fired it past Holtby with 6.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.
Richards has ice water in his veins. He’s never fazed by any situation and his composure is second to none. Richards has scored a number of vital goals over the course of his first year in a Rangers’ sweater but none compared to his series-changing goal in Game 5.
As I chatted with Brian Boyle after the game, he summed up Richards’ mentality perfectly.
“He’s a cool customer, man. He’s a competitor and he was a big difference for us tonight,” Boyle stated.
Shortly into overtime, Marc Staal unleashed a shot that acted like a guided missile, going past all the traffic in front of the net and over Holtby’s glove hand.
Not had Staal lifted the roof off Madison Square Garden by delivering the overtime winner, but he made Richards’ moment and his own decisive goal possible by breaking up a 3-on-1 opportunity earlier in the third period.
Staal and Dan Girardi made two crucial interventions that kept the Rangers within a goal. Had the Capitals scored on either chance, a two-goal deceit would’ve been a difficult hill to climb. I asked Ryan Callahan for his thoughts on their contributions.
“Toward the end there, we were pressing. We gave up a 3-on-1, Staal makes a great play on that. Gave up a 2-on-1, Girardi makes another good play. Without those plays, we don’t have a chance to tie it up,” Callahan replied.
Hear Captain Cally’s thoughts on Game 5:
I spoke with Henrik Lundqvist, who shared his perspective on the efforts Girardi and Staal made in front of him.
“They made some really big plays in the third (period). At the time, you don’t realize how important those plays are but looking back at it now, every little play we made in the third made a difference in the end,” Lundqvist explained.
There’s a fortitude inside these Rangers that doesn’t allow them to lose their cool on either end of the ice. Even when the pressure is unbearable for most hockey clubs. They believe in their game-plan. Most importantly, they believe in themselves.
“One thing you can say about these guys, they never give up, they keep working really hard. It’s a great feeling to get rewarded after 60 minutes of really good hockey from our side. We just kept coming,” Lundqvist said.
This isn’t an ordinary hockey club by any means.
How special was the Rangers’ Game 5 overtime victory? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.