In a game that at times resembled a parade to the penalty box, the Rangers overcame a late one goal deficit to edge the Capitals 4-3 in D.C. earlier tonight. Marian Gaborik scored two late goals after Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps ahead with his second tally of the contest. Henrik Lundqvist had an uneven performance, allowing a soft goal on a dump in attempt from Backstrom from center ice but also made key saves throughout to keep the Rangers close and earn his third victory of the year.
Thumbs Up- Ryan Callahan, who was injured in practice and almost didn’t play tonight, was the team’s best forward (and the catalyst of the team’s impressive forechecking) through the first two periods and his goal on a breakaway as time expired on a penalty kill was huge in giving the Rangers momentum early on. Ales Kotalik, who scored two minutes after Callahan to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead had another strong performance on both ends of the ice. Artem Anisimov, who set up the Kotalik goal, looked comfortable and confident for the first time this season and had a strong game. The Rangers penalty kill was awesome tonight and reminded of last season’s stellar play by the unit. Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle, Marc Staal and the aforementioned Callahan and Gaborik all had key plays during the Rangers’ two 5-on-3 disadvantages and were probably the biggest reason for the victory tonight.
Thumbs Down- Michal Roszival was once again a non factor and his inability to get the puck deep and subsequent turnover led to the Caps first goal. Aaron Voros and Donald Brashear both committed stupid penalties late in the third and Voros heard it from Tortorella after returning to the bench after his gaffe allowed Backstrom to give the Caps a 3-2 lead on the power play. Christopher Higgins is working hard and had some bright moments while killing penalties but still has yet to find his touch offensively and may be suffering from a case of nerves playing for his hometown team. He should break out soon but the situation bears watching as long as he keeps finding glove instead of net on his many chances so far this season.
Three Stars- 3- Brandon Dubinsky had another strong outing with his heads up play and aggressive on the puck style. He did not score tonight but was all over the ice and had one shift early on where he he took the body 3-4 times and really set the pace for the game physically.
2- Ryan Callahan- The heart of the Rangers was on full display again tonight. From his tremendous effort blocking a shot and leading a rush on the PK to stealing the puck from Alex Ovechkin and racing in untouched to beat Jose Theodore on the very next play, Callahan showed once again that he is a force to be reckoned with every night.
1- Marian Gaborik- What else can be said about Gaborik? He took the game over with the Rangers seemingly crushed emotionally after Backstrom’s PP goal and tied the score only :18 seconds later. He then scored the game winner off a beautiful entry pass from rookie Michael Del Zotto. Gaborik showed tonight that while he may not be the “superstar” that team’s game plan for like Ovechkin or Crosby, he can be just as dangerous any time the puck reaches his stick in the offensive zone.
The Rangers next game is Sunday at 5 PM against the Anaheim Ducks at the Garden.