I must say, the environment at Nassau Coliseum was electric tonight, so it was only fitting that the game was decided in dramatic fashion late in the third period. Each team had swings of momentum, but it was the Rangers who had the final say in this one to grab their seventh straight win and earn their tenth win of the season. And like I said in the pregame; what better team to get lucky number seven against than the rival Islanders in their building?
The Rangers dominated play for majority of the first period, but it wasn't until 14:43 that Sean Avery was able to beat Evgeny Nabakov to give the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead and score his second goal in two games. The play originally formed when Brian Boyle perfectly hit Sean's stick for a redirected shot on net, which Nabakov kicked right back into the slot where Avery buried the rebound. I said before the game that this was Avery's chance to make a statement while playing on a line other than the fourth, and he did that with this tally.
That lead did not last very long, though, as Frans Nielsen would end up tying the game for the Islanders before the buzzer sounded to end the period. The frustrating part about it was that the shot was one goaltender Henrik Lundqvist absolutely should've stopped, and he knew that based on his reaction after the puck dribbled into the net. Hank got a huge chunk out of it, but not enough, and as the old football saying goes, if you get a hand on it, you have to catch it.
And this wasn't Lundqvist's only blunder in the period, either, as he nearly cost the team a goal earlier when he left the net to chase down a loose puck rolling into the zone and came awfully close to getting caught.
After Avery amped the game up to open the second period by fighting Mike Mottau at center ice, the Rangers regained the lead at 6:07 of the middle stanza. Ryan Callahan made a beautiful cross-ice pass to a wide-open Steve Eminger at the opposite circle, and Emmy was able to sneak a quick wrister through the legs of Nabakov to make it 2-1.
The Rangers had plenty of opportunities to open this game up at the end of the second when they were given three consecutive powerplays, however they were unable to convert on any of them and, again, that was a result of the refusal to move around the zone. This would come back to bite them six minutes into the third period when the Isles struck on the powerplay to lock the game up yet again, at two. Matt Moulson would get credit for the tap-in goal, but John Tavares was the one who made a terrific pass to set-up the play.
The game remained tied for quite some time, but that all changed late in the third when Josh Bailey failed to clear the zone on his backhand. Dubinsky stopped the clear attempt with his glove, dished the puck off to Brad Richards, and Richie lasered a slapshot to the top corner of the net, which turned out to be the game-winner. Ryan Callahan added salt to the wound with an empty-netter with just .5 seconds remaining in regulation.
Although Lundqvist had a first period to forget, his overall performance was solid tonight, and he should be acknowledged as one of the top players in this game. He finished the night having stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced, and at times in the second and third periods, he had to be really good. The save that sticks out in my mind was the sprawling blocker stop on P.A. Parenteau in the second period. I think that one was good enough that it made up for the garbage goal he allowed earlier in the first.
I liked Brad Richards' game tonight, and I am happy he was chosen to wear the Broadway Hat after the game. He was re-united with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan after starting the tilt skating with Avery and Fedotenko, and it was the right move to make because that's where he's been his best. Clutch goals like the ones he scored tonight give you reason to smile when thinking about having him under contract for the next nine years. That was some shot to say the least.
This certainly wasn't the best game of the winning streak, but it was enough to get the job done and that's what matters most right now. The Rangers have now improved to 10-3-3 on the season and maintained their position in the fourth place slot in the Eastern Conference. They are still just two points behind the first place Pittsburgh Penguins, who they will face-off against next week. Consistent winning feels so nice, doesn't it?