When Nik Zherdev released yet another seemingly harmless shot with less than 10 seconds left Saturday night, I thought nothing of it. The Rangers had at least four shots just like it earlier in the period on the opposite wing. Come across the blue line, throw it towards the net the second a defender came near and try to recover the rebound. So when Zherdev did it, I didn't blink. And when it amazingly found it's way to the back of the net, I still didn't blink but this time it was out of shock. The Garden went ballistic and I stood frozen; I couldn't believe my friggin' eyes.
What a fantastic way to steal a point from a team that clearly outplayed them for the majority of the night? And when Freddie Sjostrom repeated his shootout move from the Toronto game? We had it in the bag! Cindy Crosby can go cry to the refs every time he gets hit, but all of his complaining amounted to nothing on this evening as the Rangers skated away with a 3-2 shootout victory. Simply amazing!
*What was also amazing was Chris Drury's complete inability to put the puck in the net. Drury had chance after chance and blew each and every one. The assist he recorded was a simple short pass to Scott Gomez, who found Markus Naslund for the Rangers first goal of the game. You have to admire Renney's loyalty to his captain but seeing him out there for overtime and the 5-on-3 power play late in the second period was just aggravating. Maybe he is gripping the stick too much, maybe that C is weighing him down, I don't know, but he has to net a few soon before the jinx becomes too big of a monkey on his back.
*Where was Aaron Voros? His big body certainly could have helped that two man advantage, which was anemic to say the least. Voros somehow walked out with a -2 after less than 13 minutes of ice time and I honestly didn't notice him out there even that much.
*Colton Orr was the opposite. Orr played the least of all of the Rangers - 6:26 - and didn't record an official shot. The stat line belied the fact that the bruiser had the best scoring chance of all of the Blueshirts over the first half of the night. Orr also challenged Eric Godard when the Rangers needed a pick-up but Godard turned him down. To his credit, he didn't keep with it and take a dumb penalty. He really has become a real hockey player and has earned more ice time. Renney would be wise to give it to him ...
*He also would be wise to have Sather call up Corey Potter to replace Dmitri
*I just watched Rangers in 60 and apparently MSG had Dave Maloney on to add colour ice-side. I think Joe Micheletti would do well to watch his back. Maloney provided unobtrusive, solid commentary that complimented Sam well and was much, much less shrill.
*Markus Naslund showed flashes of his pre-lockout Vancouver form tonight. Naslund scored the first Ranger goal and was a pretty constant offensive threat.
*Pundits around the NHL can talk about the Rangers defensive mentality but Pittsburgh outright played the trap tonight after getting the first goal of the game. For all of their offensive talent, they played some boring hockey and, despite the astounding 42 saves Marc-Andre Fleury made, they allowed maybe three or four legitimate scoring chances.
*That being said, the Ranger system finally managed to restrict Gina Malkin. Malkin usually stars in the Garden and he barely had an impact on this evening.
*Interesting number for you: New York went 23-24 on faceoffs but Blair Betts went 5-0. The struggling Drury went 4-9.
*Another interesting digit was 9 - the number of shots Scott Gomez had that were registered. Everyone is noticing how Drury is struggling (and he is) but Gomez hasn't scored in five games despite throwing the puck at the net 25 times ...
*Ryan Callahan seems to be falling into the Little Ball of Hate role on the Rangers, looking like Pat Verbeek by forechecking, backchecking and causing chaos. It is so fun to watch!
*PHW Three Stars
3-Marc-Andre Fleury - 42 saves.
2-Freddy Sjostrom - game-winning shootout goal.
1-Henrik Lundqvist - 27 saves.
Scotty Hockey Three Stars
3-Ruslan Fedotenko - The former Islander has always found success against the Rangers and he was a solid player in this one. Every time I looked, No. 26 was pressing the action and disrupting the Rangers' flow.
2-Zherdev - Chris Drury may have to hand over his clutch title to his Ukrainian teammate. One night after scoring one of the goals of the year to give the Rangers a win, he forced overtime with a goal in the last 10 seconds to earn his team at least a point in what looked like a sure loss.
1-Hank - I was impressed by his play in the Garden, but upon further review on MSG, I am blown away. Lundqvist truly is the most pivotal player on the team and without him, the Rangers would have lost 5-1.