The Rangers got a glimpse tonight at how hard it is to win a game in the NHL when you play undisciplined hockey and take way too many penalties against a team that can make you pay. Although the Rangers still came away with the victory, their sixth straight, Coach Torts will have plenty of things to talk to his team about before Saturday’s rematch against the Leafs.
The Kings came out this evening and matched the Rangers intensity and forecheck (something their most recent opponents had been unable to accomplish) but were ultimately undone by early penalties. Vinny Prospal took advantage on the first power play deflecting a shot from the point past Kings netminder Erik Ersberg to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Before you could blink, Los Angeles tied the score 1-1 when both Marc Staal and Dan Girardi left veteran Ryan Smyth (who has made his career by standing in front of the net) alone in the crease to redirect a shot past Henrik Lundqvist. After the Kings took two more penalties, The Rangers crashed the net on a 5-on-3 advantage and Prospal cashed in his second goal of the contest.
The second period was once again a horror show for the Blueshirts as they were thoroughly outplayed by the Kings on both ends. Brian Boyle, playing against his former club for the first time, gave the Rangers their only highlight of the period when he scored his first goal of the season at the 2:17 mark. From then on, it was up to Henrik Lundqvist to keep the Rangers ahead as the Kings outshot them 14-11 but had many more quality chances including Michal Handzus goal on the power play that pulled them within one at 7:18 of the period. John Tortorella took a timeout late to remind his team that they needed to wake up and bring the work ethic or this game could slip away very quickly.
The third period began with the Kings carrying play as they did in the second. The Rangers were outshot in the third 10-1. Fortunately for the Rangers, the one shot was off the blade of Marian Gaborik and beat Ersberg to give the Rangers a 2 goal cushion at 4:22 that they would hold on to despite a relentless Kings attack throughout the period.
The Rangers definitely did not have their “A” game tonight versus a very good opponent but they pulled out a victory. They really need to get back to their even strength game that helped them to impressive victories over the Ducks and Maple Leafs earlier this week. I’m sure Torts will get the message through before their next game.
Thumbs Up- Brian Boyle scoring his first goal as a Ranger against his old club was a nice moment and came at a time when the Rangers needed a shot of momentum. Ryan Callahan was all over the ice again and came close to scoring on the PP before Prospal cashed in his rebound. Michael Del Zotto had another strong performance and has all but secured his place on the roster for the remainder of the season.
Thumbs Down- Dan Girardi followed up two great performances with a miserable one in which he was outmuscled by Ryan Smyth leading to a bad penalty, took another bad penalty late and was out of position a few times, including on the first goal by Smyth. Marc Staal didn’t fare much better as he took a couple of bad penalties and wasn’t much of a factor physically. Artem Anisimov and Enver Lisin (who were praised by Torts yesterday) were invisible tonight and need to work harder to make an impact.
Three Stars- 3- Marian Gaborik- Once again, Gaborik scored exactly when the Rangers needed it most and once again, he made it look easy. He extended his point scoring streak to seven games with his sixth goal of the season and with each game becomes more and more of a danger for opposing defenses.He also was a factor on the penalty kill.
2- Vinny Prospal- Prospal scored his 200th and 201st career goals in this game and gave the Rangers an early push in this hotly contested matchup. Prospal has been a perfect fit so far with the Blueshirts and should be a leading candidate for the second alternate captain spot once Torts decides to bestow the honor on someone.
1- Henrik Lundqvist- Henrik had to endure many quality chances and tough shots (not to mention being run two more times in what is becoming a recurring theme that should concern the organization) and was outstanding. His two saves early on Dustin Brown set the tone and his stellar play and positioning late helped carry the team to the victory.
The Rangers go for seven straight on Saturday when they travel to Toronto to face a Leafs team that will be looking to avenge the 7-2 beating at the hands of the Blueshirts earlier this week.