In another must-win situation for the Blueshirts (let’s face it, every game is must-win from here on out), Henrik Lundqvist had one of his best performances of the season and “Captain Clutch” Chris Drury scored what might have been his biggest goal as a member of the Rangers, leading the team to a huge come from behind shootout victory over the Devils tonight in Newark. A botched line change by the Rangers late in the third period led to a turnover and a Jamie Langenbrunner tally that gave the Devils a 3-2 lead with under 8 minutes left in the contest but the Rangers never quit and Chris Drury beat Martin Brodeur with the equalizer off a brilliant feed from Erik Christensen with 0:17 on the clock to force OT. After an overtime period which saw both Brandon Dubinsky and Illya Kovalchuk have golden opportunities turned away on spectacular saves by both netminders, Erik Christensen once again came up huge and scored the only goal of the shootout, beating Brodeur with a nifty deke and shot off the post and in, giving the Rangers the victory and two huge points in the standings.
Thumbs Up- Dan Girardi, who has been a target of many fans this season, had one of his best games of the year and should quiet any of the critics who think the Rangers shouldn’t try to lock him up long term over the summer when he is an RFA. Marc Staal, like Girardi, was tremendous tonight and helped keep Zach Parise in check all game. Brandon Prust continues to impress and was all over the ice tonight. If Prust could find a way to finish, he could really do some damage considering the opportunities he has been able to create so far. Erik Christensen had another solid performance. I know he will never live up to the hype that was heaped upon him entering the league but this kid has shown tons of heart and while I don’t think he’ll ever be great, he is a very GOOD player and should be a priority for Glen Sather come season’s end. Who’s tougher than Ryan Callahan? Anybody?
Thumbs Down- Wade Redden was responsible for the first NJ goal when he missed the backcheck on Kovalchuk and once again was just plain tough to watch on the ice tonight. Olli Jokinen, who got less than ten minutes ice time, is in no uncertain terms, simply terrible, and looks like a shell of the player he once was. Did anybody notice Vinny Prospal tonight? Or Matt Gilroy…other than when he took that delay of game penalty?
Three Stars- 3- Artem Anisimov- I scratched my head earlier today when I heard that the kid admitted he was “more comfortable playing in the bottom six than the top six forwards” but I guess if being comfortable is gonna bring more performances like tonight than so be it. The fourth line centered by Anisimov, along with linemates Prust and Jody Shelley, was the Blueshirts best line tonight and were a huge component in the comeback win. Anisimov’s patience on his goal to make it 2-2 showed that the young man is not only gaining confidence in his offensive game but may be ready to start next season in a more important role (comfort not withstanding).
2- Chris Drury- The much maligned captain was once again a penalty killing standout and source of energy tonight for a team that truly needed to build off the momentum of last night’s shutout over the Islanders. Drury’s HUGE goal in the final seconds was possibly his finest moment on Broadway and could turn out to an all time highlight should the Rangers somehow slip into the playoffs.
1- Henrik Lundqvist- Let’s face it, The Rangers don’t win this game without Henrik standing on his head over and over again and turning back Illya Kovalchuk, from point blank range off a wicked carom off the end boards, in overtime. The “King” then stoned Parise, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac in the shootout to secure the victory. On a night where Lundqvist had to be the best player on the ice for New York to escape with two points, he was just that.
The Rangers try to keep the playoff push alive when they travel to Toronto the face the Maple Leafs on Saturday.