Michael Del Zotto tried the toe drag once earlier this season during the team’s 2-0 win over Philly November 26. Suffice it to say, the coaching staff wasn’t pleased.
The 21-year-old defenseman did it again Monday in the team’s 3-0 win over the Islanders, but any complaints would’ve been hard to come by after his stellar two-assist, plus-3 performance.
“That’s an all-or-nothing play,” said Del Zotto, who donned the Broadway hat after the game. “Fortunately, it worked out.”
The move, which undressed stingy defensive center Frans Nielsen, set up the first of two goals from rookie Carl Hagelin and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 5:14 of the second period.
“Michael, oh my goodness, fantastic. We all know he has that ability. We’ve seen it before, but he just made it happen. He makes big-time plays at big times in the game. He’s really turning into a stud for us. We start expecting it from him on a nightly basis and it’s fun to watch,” center Brian Boyle said. “That toe drag must’ve been six feet long. It was pretty.”
Del Zotto also picked up an assist on Hagelin’s second of the night. The Rangers built a 2-0 lead in the third after Del Zotto dished from behind the goal line to connect with Hagelin in front at 6:32 of the third.
With the assist, Del Zotto tied center Derek Stepan for the team lead with 17 assists. He leads all Rangers defensemen in scoring with four goals and 21 points.
“I’m impressed the way he’s been playing this year. It’s fun to see,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who passed on the team’s sartorial trophy to the young blue-liner despite posting a 28-save shutout himself. “He plays physical and he’s very confident and he’s been outstanding in all areas.”
And for as misleading as plus-minus ratings can be, coach John Tortorella calls Del Zotto’s plus-25, good for second in the league, a “pretty honest” indicator of his play.
“He has really applied himself in the things he needs to do to be a pro,” Tortolla. “He’s been a very important piece to our back end, especially with some of the things going on with it.”