HBO cannot be any happier with the material they’ve been provided with from the New York Rangers over the past couple of weeks. There have been ups, there have been downs, there’s been controversy, there’s been adversity, and now there’s what seemed like a scripted finish in tonight’s win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona. The drama that has surrounded this team since HBO began filming is almost unbelievable, and tonight’s events added just another chapter to what’s becoming quite the tale.
It all started at 8:54 of the first period when Marian Gaborik opened the scoring with a powerplay goal. Michael Del Zotto made an excellent pass from the defensive zone to spring Gaborik on a breakaway, and Marian snapped a wrister past goaltender Mike Smith to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead and score what would be his first of two goals on the night.
The Rangers dominated play in the first, but they again allowed a late goal before the end of the period and found themselves in a 1-1 tie going into the intermission. Former Ranger Lauri Korpikoski scored right off the faceoff with nine seconds left on the clock. Credit to Boyd Gordon for the clean win on the draw over Erik Christensen.
For the second time in the game, the Coyotes stuck late, this time getting a goal from Cal O’Reilly on the powerplay at 19:08 of the second period. Marian Gaborik answered back with his second on the night just a minute into the final stanza. Keith Yandle’s turnover floated out to the slot, where Gaborik was originally stopped but buried his own rebound. That goal, by the way, was the 300th of his career.
Remember how I said the Coyotes kept screwing the Rangers over late in the period? Well, the Rangers returned the favor in incredible fashion at the end of the third period. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Ryan Callahan was cut off behind the Phoenix net, leaving the puck unattended to in the corner. Ryan McDonagh, pinching on the play, then swooped in and nudged the puck towards Brad Richards, who spun around and sent a backhander towards the net. That backhander gave Smith trouble, ramped up off his stick, off the post and over the goal line with…..wait for it…… 0.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
The goal was originally waved off, but clearly it was valid upon review. So the Rangers won this one as late as you could possibly win a hockey game.
Up until that point, Brad Richards had a quiet game. In fact, he’s been kept quiet for about three or so games now, but boy, that’s how you go about breaking a slump. They always say to play until you hear the whistle, or in this case the buzzer, and Richards proved why with this goal. Amazing.
Marty Biron didn’t have the most active night in goal tonight, only facing 23 total shots, but he did come up with some big saves for the Rangers when they were needed. Biron is now 5-1-0 on the season in six starts, so he’s done a fantastic job of backing-up Henrik Lundqvist this year.
Brad Richards may have gotten the Broadway Hat tonight, but Marian Gaborik is my choice for player of the game. He was absolutely dominant tonight and looked like the Gabby that we know and love when scoring his two goals. Marian was due for a standout performance tonight and he delivered. That’s all you can ask from your top goal-scorer.
The Rangers played an all-around solid game tonight compared to their previous two losses to the Stars and Blues. They were especially strong on defense, where they stifled the Coyotes all night long. Phoenix pulled some of the momentum their way in the second period, but the Rangers were able to contain them besides the late powerplay goal, and set themselves up for a comeback in the third.
Also, the Blueshirts forechecked much more efficiently. They weren’t a one-and-done team tonight; they actually forced Smith to stop second and third opportunities.
The Rangers are now just three points out of first place in the Eastern Conference with an 18-8-4 record.