After a disappointing, mediocre loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday, all anyone could hope for was a better effort on Monday and the Rangers came through. Granted, they did it by falling back on their previous play-for-the-point philosophy, but it worked.
As has become routine, the Blueshirts clung to one (debatable) goal by Jaromir Jagr as long as they could with team defense before allowing the equalizer and then overtime. But, thankfully, this time the millions of dollars invested in Captain Clutch, Captain America, the Little Leaguer, 7.7 Seconds paid off when Chris Drury won the game with a seeing-eye slap shot through traffic in overtime.
The Rangers lived to fight again and inched closer to securing a spot in the playoffs. More importantly, it took a little pressure off the impending home-and-home with the Islanders, which is sure to be a playoff series in and of itself before the actual postseason begins. The Islanders will come out with all guns blazing because they have nothing to lose and the allure of playing spoiler against the Rangers is golden for the orange and blue.
So what happened tonight, and how may it affect the Rangers going forth? Let's see:
*Sean Avery opened the game by going after Ryan Malone, who he felt had taken a few liberties in the early stages. I may have been one of maybe five people in the building not screaming their lungs out at this one. It was a stupid, selfish move that could not result in anything good. Luckily it didn't result in anything bad - like a busted wrist - but Avery's edge is needed for the playoffs and cannot be tossed away with a meaningless tussle against a nobody like Malone.
*While that bout was infuriating, the one that didn't happen made me just as mad and ended up costing more. When Jagr was checked hard by Brooks Orpik in the third period, Brandon Dubinsky skated over and stepped up to Orpik. Rather than just giving him a dressing down, Dubi should have thrown down his gloves. It would have shown the team spirit that the in-house video system kept touting, would have shown that teams can't take liberties with our 'superstar' and would have stopped the play. Instead play continued and the remaining Rangers got caught scrambling in their own zone and Pittsburgh tied the game at one.
*As for another one of the first-liners, Marty Straka played better today than yesterday, but he still couldn't come through. The new, old experiment with him in Sean Avery's spot needs to come to an end. The change has made two lines more ineffective as Sean hasn't worked nearly as well with Gomez and Shanny.
*Everyone did well to minimize Cindy Crosby's impact on the game. She still managed to cry to the officials, embellish contact and stay involved, but thankfully none of that translated to the scoresheet. Gino Malkin was better, using his size to his advantage to gain the zone and work for space. But even with the lovely couple, the Rangers won their fourth meeting against the flightless birds and that's good enough for me.
*Aside from dealing with Cindy, the defense ... well, Christian Backman was still a liability in the Rangers' end but he also showed promise on the power play moving the puck around. Even more impressive was Paul Mara. Since returning from injury, Mara had his second straight good game, playing solid hockey under pressure while still standing his ground when challenged physically. The same can be said for Fedor Tuytin, who has come back strong after a slump. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal both made some mistakes but all-in-all played strong positional defense.
*As much as this will make some readers cringe, I thought the fourth line was phenomenal, swarming around like bees. They pressed the action and drew penalties. However, with Mitch Fritz's successful return to Hartford from injury this past weekend, he should get a chance to step in to Colton Orr's vacated slot. You can be sure that teams would not feel so free to follow through their checks and hammer Jagr with the 6'8, 260 pound tough guy in the building.
*Before the game the Rangers held a Chalk Talk with Adam Graves which was really interesting and provided good insight into the Blueshirts mindset. But for all of the fun this pregame forums are, the fact that the Rangers are dropping the ball on servicing their fans for the fall Europe trip pretty much leaves them on the credit side of the ledger. How they can not offer any kind of travel package or even promise tickets to those games is outrageous. If a fan is willing to spend his/her own dough to go to another continent to follow their team, the least the team can do is make it easier for them.
*And to close off my ranting about the game, the PHR Three Stars:
3-Ryan Callahan - no points.
2-Hank - 21 saves.
1-Drury - game-winning goal.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars:
3-Drury - to steal a line from Slap Shot, "That's what you're paid for Brayden!!!"
2-Georges Laraque - the goon did a great job in playing physical, intimidating and distracting the Rangers and he even picked up an assist. You noticed him every time he was on the ice.
1-Callahan - in my eyes, he was the best player on the ice on either team. Cally was utterly outstanding working with and without the puck on both sides of the ice. If his linemates had been on the ball, he would have had three assists and a goal instead of walking away pointless. Outstanding effort by the kid and one of my favourite performances this entire season.