New York Rangers: Derick Brassard

Rapid Reaction: Kings 5, Rangers 4 (2OT)

June, 7, 2014
LOS ANGELES -- Just call them the Comeback Kings.

For the second straight game, the Los Angeles Kings stunned the New York Rangers with a manic and frenzied come-from-behind victory, knocking off the Blueshirts with a 5-4 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead as both clubs head back to New York for Games 3 and 4. The Kings have not led in regulation at any point throughout the first two games of Stanley Cup finals, and yet they won both contests.

Kings captain Dustin Brown scored the winning goal, snapping a 4-4 draw in double overtime to end what was a wildly entertaining playoff match that spanned more than four hours and featured a little bit of everything.

The Rangers, who squandered a 2-0 lead in Game 1 Wednesday night, held another 2-0 lead Saturday, a 3-1 and 4-2 advantage as well, but they couldn’t shut the door on the feisty Kings.

The Kings refused to go quietly despite staring down a 4-2 deficit in the third period, but their third goal did not come without a bit of the controversy.

Dwight King tipped one in for a goal that ignited a plucky Kings squad intent on staging another comeback, but both defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist were livid after the play, arguing with the nearest official about King’s contact with Lundqvist in the crease -- contact that they clearly felt impeded Lundqvist’s ability to make a save.

You could sense the Rangers start to unravel from there, with the Kings buzzing, the crowd getting into it, and the (dreadful) ice tilting in L.A.’s favor. So it was no surprise when leading playoff goal-scorer, and ex-Ranger Marian Gaborik tied the game at 7:36 with his 13th playoff goal this spring.

Rangers forward Chris Kreider has a pair of Grade-A chances in a enthralling overtime period, but couldn't find the back of the net.

Fast and furious: Just as they did in Game 1, the Kings made a big push in the second period. Los Angeles cut the Rangers’ 2-0 lead in half when Jarret Stoll buried the puck into an open net with Lundqvist down on his rear after making an initial save. Martin St. Louis continued his terrific spring, one-timing a shot past Jonathan Quick on the power-play to reclaim a two-goal Rangers lead -- his seventh goal of these playoffs. But when the Kings threatened again, pulling within a goal for the second time on Willie Mitchell’s man-up marker at 14:39, the Rangers made sure to snuff out the surge quickly. The Blueshirts responded in just 11 seconds with a goal from Derick Brassard to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that 11-second span was the quickest between two goals scored in a Stanley Cup finals game in 67 years.

Déjà vu: Stop me if this sounds familiar: Kings look sloppy with the puck (granted, the ice also appeared horrendous) and an opportunistic Rangers squad build a 2-0 first-period lead. The Rangers got on the board with defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s hard slapper from the left point at 10:48 of the first, a goal that was created by hard forechecking pressure that forced Game 1 hero Justin Williams to turn the puck over deep in his own zone. A flubbed pass from defenseman Matt Greene later in the period resulted in a sequence of scoring chances for New York that was capped by Mats Zuccarello’s rebound goal at the right post with 7:17 remaining in the period. The Rangers took a two-goal lead in Game 1, but the Kings came charging back for a 3-2 overtime win.

Surprising scratch: Though Kings coach Darryl Sutter said veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr would “probably play” and the 34-year-old himself admitted he was ready to return to the lineup after missing more than a month with a knee injury, Regehr was scratched for the second straight game this series. Though he took part in the pregame warmups, Greene remained in the starting lineup instead. Meanwhile, John Moore returned to bolster the Rangers’ back end after serving a two-game suspension for his hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise in the Eastern Conference finals.

Meet the Blueshirts: Derick Brassard

June, 3, 2014
Derick BrassardPerry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
Position: C
Number: 16
Age: 26
Born: Hull, Quebec
Height: 6-1
Weight: 202
How Acquired: Acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3, 2013 along with Derek Dorsett, John Moore and a 2014 sixth-round pick in exchange for Marian Gaborik and two minor-league defensemen.

In case you didn’t know ...

• Brassard potted a career-high 18 goals during the regular season and has accumulated nine points in the playoffs.

• The third-line center scored four goals in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins -- including the overtime winner in Game 1.

• He was a former first-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2006 -- No. 6 overall.

Click here for the rest of our series.

Rangers rally around Martin St. Louis

May, 10, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers may not win this series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it won’t be for a lack of heart. At no other point in the season was the team’s loyalty, commitment and compassion on better display than Friday’s emotional 5-1 win in which they rallied behind teammate Martin St. Louis, who played Game 5 only one day after the death of his mother.

After the team charter landed in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon, the 38-year-old veteran found out his mother, France St. Louis, had unexpectedly died at 63 of a heart attack. The Rangers provided St. Louis with the team plane to fetch his family in New York, then procured a private plane to take them all to Montreal, where he joined his father and was able to see his mother one last time before she was taken away. He was told by the team to put family first, take whatever time he needed. But when he spoke with his father Friday morning, the decision was clear.

[+] EnlargeMartin St. Louis, Rob Scuderi, Robert Bortuzzo
Gregory Shamus/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Rangers avoided elimination in Game 5 in Pittsburgh.
“I know, deep down, my mother would -- my mom would want me to play this game. She’d be proud of me coming here and help as much as I can. And the boys have been so supportive, the support I got from the New York Rangers, my teammates, and my friends and family, friends around the league, old friends, has been unbelievable,” said St. Louis in a touching, heartfelt postgame interview after the Rangers avoided elimination.

“She was a great lady, the best human being I’ve ever known in my life. I owed it to her to do it.”

Most of St. Louis’ teammates were unaware of his intentions on game day. Words started to spread at the pregame meal at the team hotel. Some were in utter disbelief that he was coming back. Some, especially those who have known St. Louis for some time, were not surprised at all. But all of his teammates recognized the sacrifice he was making. Here was a teammate in excruciating emotional pain, and he was putting that on hold to play a hockey game because it mattered.

"I think it shows how much he cares about the guys in this room," said defenseman Marc Staal. "He didn’t want to leave us when we needed him most. Shows a lot about a guy. I don’t know if I could do it."

Hockey has always been a sanctuary for St. Louis and it was again Friday night, when the team put forth an inspired, purposeful performance that kept their season afloat. Derick Brassard scored two goals, as did the maligned power play, and the Rangers forced a Game 6 at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s always been like that for me. Once you get on the ice, I’m not going to say I forgot my whole situation -- she was with me the whole way -- but this is probably the most comfortable place that you can be as a hockey player,” St. Louis said.

Those around him did their best to keep his spirits high. There was a brief talk, in which he was thanked for his return, before team meetings just hours before puck drop. During the third period, Brassard gave him a jubilant hug on the bench, tussling his helmet in appreciation. Even Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby made a special stop near the Rangers’ dressing room to pay his condolences to the well-respected veteran before the game began.

After the game, alternate captain Richards talked about the “culture” of hockey players, saying he wasn’t surprised St. Louis played. No one on the team could have grasped the depth of St. Louis’ loss better than Richards, either. The longtime friends, who played together in Tampa, have known each other for years. Their families have grown close. Just 10 days earlier, Richards said, St. Louis’ mom was patting his fiancee’s belly, overjoyed for the impending arrival of his first child.

"It puts a lot of things in perspective about the other night’s hockey game," Richards said.

According to Brassard, the tragedy hit home for pretty much everyone, seeing their teammate go through such a shock.

“If we could’ve all gone to support him, we would have done it,” Brassard told

He thought of his own mother, and how despondent he would have been to receive such news.

“When things like that happen, it makes you realize,” Brassard began, getting emotional. “I wanted to call my mom and tell her I love her.”

The Rangers did the best they could, for St. Louis and for one another. They were able to harness that emotion and channel it. That sort of raw energy allowed them to power past the Pens, a totally different look from the team that was on the ice in Games 3 and 4 looking both ragged and defeated.

Now they will have another chance to prolong their season on Sunday. Fittingly, Game 6 falls on Mother’s Day.

“We get another chance to continue, on Mother’s Day,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “It will be real special for our group.”

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 5, Penguins 1

May, 9, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- Rallying behind Martin St. Louis, who played Friday night after the death of his mother just one day prior, the New York Rangers avoided elimination with a decisive 5-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5.

Derick Brassard tallied two goals, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was razor-sharp, the power-play scored (twice!) and the Rangers played with the type of urgency and desperation that allowed them to force a Game 6 on Sunday back home at Madison Square Garden with the series now at 3-2.

Penguins star Evgeni Malkin did his best to put the team on his shoulders and single-handedly force Pittsburgh back into the game -- he charged right through two Rangers defenders for a highlight-reel goal in the second period -- but the Rangers were able to squash the Penguins' surges at key points throughout the match.
And you can bet the Marc-Andre Fleury questions will resurface after he gave up four goals Friday despite the 29-year-old netminder posting back-to-back shutouts earlier in the series.

Big game for Brassard: Save for an unwise slashing penalty on Malkin at the end of the second period, Brassard delivered a fine performance Friday night with a pair of goals. Backhanding the puck past Fleury in the first frame, Brassard allowed the Rangers to reclaim a two-goal lead in the second period. Production from Brassard’s line, which includes Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello has been huge for the Blueshirts, particularly given the struggles of the team’s star players Rick Nash, Brad Richards and St. Louis.

Slump snapped: The Rangers entered Friday’s action without a goal in their past 36 attempts, when a slump that spanned nine games was halted by Chris Kreider, who buried a rebound for a 1-0 Rangers lead at 9:36 in the first period. Kreider, who returned to the Rangers lineup in Game 4 after missing 19 games with a fractured left hand, showed why his net-front presence was so sorely missed during his absence. Before his goal, he made a nice diving play on the man advantage, a sputtering unit that has at least seemed a lot less stagnant with Kreider in the mix. The Rangers went on to score another man-up marker in the second period, with defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s first goal of the playoffs, a slap shot from the right point. McDonagh has been uncharacteristically disappointing this series but was able to chip in offensively with a big goal Friday night.

Tremendous trio tallies twice in Game 1

May, 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH -- After the New York Rangers’ 3-2 overtime victory to take Game 1 in the team’s second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the impact of the team’s most productive line for much of this season -- the trio of Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello.

Vigneault said they have been the team’s most consistent trio since Christmas, that they have forged a palpable chemistry, that they were strong on the puck, aggressive on the forecheck ...


[+] EnlargeDerick Brassard
Gregory Shamus/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Rangers celebrate after winning Game 1 in overtime.
“And they scored two [goals] in overtime,” Vigneault quipped as a nod to a wacky bang-bang sequence that ended the game.

Indeed, it was Brassard, whose shot that clanged off the crossbar and in (even though play continued), who was rightfully credited with the game winner. But even after signaling to officials that the puck went in, there was no whistle. With a scramble in front of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s crease, Brassard connected with Pouliot for a goal that ended the game and rendered a restless crowd at CONSOL Energy Center silent.

Pouliot didn’t even find out that Brassard was credited with the deciding goal until his postgame television interview, but he wasn’t perturbed in the least. Pouliot had already notched his third goal of the playoffs earlier in the game; he didn’t care who ended up on the score sheet, just as long as the Rangers left the building with a win.

“It’s huge, especially in Pittsburgh. They’re such a great team,” Pouliot said. “You come in Pitt, the crowd’s behind them. You just played 48 hours ago. You never know what’s going to happen, but we scored two goals right away, kind of put them on their heels, then did the job in overtime.”

It was Pouliot’s marker that jump-started a terrific, textbook opening frame. He scored on a rather harmless wrist shot, but it was enough to make Fleury appear unhinged and the Rangers took notice. Later in the period, veteran center Brad Richards capitalized on a defensive miscue, putting one past Fleury while all alone in front.

But the game changed dramatically in the second period, as the Rangers failed to keep pushing and instead allowed the Penguins to climb right back into the match, building some equity with their disgruntled fan base and knotting the score 2-2 heading into the third period.

It might have been a necessary reminder to the Rangers that no lead is safe during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s a lesson of which the Penguins are already keenly aware after blowing a pair of two-goal leads and dropping games as a result in their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It’d be nice not to take a period off, but we’re fortunate that tonight we didn’t get hurt by it,” said defenseman Dan Girardi. “We ended up getting a win, but if we can take our first period and play 60 minutes like that I think we’ll be all right.”

The Rangers have done nothing more than win one game, but they have to take confidence in a few different things from Friday’s game. One, they did not play their best hockey and yet they still beat a Penguins team that boasts two of the league’s resident superstars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Two, they were able to contain both players, holding both without a goal and Crosby off the score sheet entirely (Malkin finished with an assist on James Neal’s game-tying goal in the second period). Crosby finished the game with a minus-3 rating as well Lastly, their regular-season road prowess -- they set a franchise record with 25 wins away from home this year -- was no fluke. They can win games in hostile territory.

“We’re hungry for more wins,” said Brassard, whose winner was his first goal of the 2014 playoffs. “I think it’s going to be good for our confidence, just to show us that we can beat those guys.”

For as much as Brassard’s line has been critical to the team’s well-rounded scoring attack, the second defensive pairing of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman is also emerging as an unsung element key to the Rangers' success.

Though top-pair blueliners Ryan McDonagh and Girardi usually shoulder the yeoman’s work against opponents’ top lines, Staal and Stralman were vital in helping containing the likes of both the Crosby and the Malkin lines as well.

For his stout performance in 26:03 of ice time Friday night, Staal was awarded with the team’s MVP trophy hat.

“Just the way he keeps the game so simple,” Pouliot mused. “It’s something we talk about all the time. Marc will have that big block when we need a block or make that pass. He’s always going to be in position to help us. He’s got the longest stick on the team. It’s a pain to the opponent and he does a great job with that. I had to go with Marc because sometimes you don’t recognize that kind of play but us, us we do.”

Staal's and Stralman’s game has been so strong that it has enabled Vigneault to deploy his defensive pairings with confidence that the top four can compete against anything their opponents can throw at them.

“We’ve got two pretty good duos that we’re not afraid to match up against any line,” Vigneault said. “So it makes it easier on the road to get the match-ups you’re looking for.”

That bodes well for the Rangers, as does the fact that some of their top performers still have yet to reach optimal levels during the playoffs. Rick Nash has not scored yet. His entire line is capable of providing more Even goaltender Henrik Lundqvist hasn’t stolen a game.

But Lundqvist finished the night with 34 saves and made some superb stops to preserve the tie en route to recording his 35th playoff victory.

It doesn't matter who gets the credit. As long as the Rangers are winning, that's good enough.
PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers survived a second-period letdown and a major scare from the Pittsburgh Penguins after Derick Brassard's game winner in OT gave the Blueshirts a 3-2 win and 1-0 series lead.

The Penguins learned in Round 1 the danger of a two-goal lead, and the Rangers got their lesson in the second period when they surrendered a pair of goals to find themselves tied 2-2 heading into the third. The Penguins blew two separate two-goal leads against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in Games 2 and 4 and erased two-goal deficits of their own in Games 1 and 3 during the wildly entertaining six-game set. After a poor first period, the Penguins returned after the intermission a different team, tilting the ice and outshooting the Rangers 15-4 during the middle frame. As focused as they appeared in the first period, the Rangers looked hapless in the second period as they allowed the Pens to dictate the tempo and get the crowd back into the game.

But the Rangers recovered in the third and carried strong play into the overtime period, where a wild sequence ended the game 3:06 into play when Brassard notched his first goal of the playoffa to help the Rangers jump out to an early series lead.

Controversial call: Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was absolutely livid after the Penguins’ tying goal at 13:28 of the second and argued heatedly with the nearest official after James Neal was credited with the equalizer. Lundqvist got a piece of Neal’s shot, but the puck fluttered up an over him with Evgeni Malkin wreaking havoc in front. Whether Lundqvist felt he was interfered with or that Malkin high-sticked the puck in was not immediately clear, but the original call on the ice was upheld. All in all, it was not a great night for the officiating crew (how many times have we said that this season?), as they made an incorrect hand pass call earlier in the game and missed a few blatant penalties as well.

Early lead: It did not take long for the Penguins fans at CONSOL Energy to get on the home team, after an unpleasant first period for Pittsburgh. The Penguins surrendered the game’s first goal on what was a rather benign shot from Benoit Pouliot just 5:04 into play. That didn’t seem to help Marc-Andre Fleury’s confidence, as the embattled Penguins netminder looked disjointed and rattled throughout the first frame. He’d give up another before period’s end, when veteran center Brad Richards was left all alone in front, though he didn’t get much help, either. For all the questions heading into Friday’s action about the Rangers' energy levels after coming off three games in four nights, they looked by far the more energetic, sharper squad.

Power outage: And as much as Alain Vigneault attempted before the game to claim it was a new series for the team’s maligned power play, the unit struggled again in Pittsburgh. The Rangers failed to cash in on four power-play opportunities Friday night, extending their slump to 0-for-25 with the man-advantage. They are an abysmal 3-for-33 during the postseason.

Depleted defense: The Penguins were again without defenseman Brooks Orpik, who was scratched with an undisclosed injury. Orpik, who had one goal and one assist in the first four games of the playoffs, has missed the past three games for the Penguins. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has declined to discuss Orpik’s or his timetable for return.

Derick Brassard will play Game 1

April, 16, 2014
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers center Derick Brassard left practice early for the second consecutive day, though he insists he will be ready to play Game 1 of the team’s first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Brassard left Tuesday’s practice with an apparent back issue and did not partake in the latter portion of Wednesday’s session. Recently recalled prospect J.T. Miller filled Brassard’s absence, centering Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello during line rushes at the end of practice.

Brassard said he could’ve remained on the ice but wanted to play it safe.

“I could’ve skated the whole practice It was just a precaution for tomorrow,” Brassard said. “I feel 100 percent for tomorrow."

The 26-year-old Brassard, who centers one of the team’s most effective forward lines, said there is no doubt he will be ready to go Thursday.

“There’s no question in mind,” Brassard said. “It’s just a precaution. I think the day off I kinda had yesterday, to get off the ice, I think it really helped me to be 100 percent. I'm gonna try to help the team win some games.”

Asked if the issue was caused by one particular play, Brassard said it was rather one of the lingering ailments that just about every player deals with throughout the course of a grueling 82-game season.

“Not at all. You go through a season and you battle injuries. Everyone does around the league. It’s a long season, and I think that's why we got those two days off,” Brassard said. “Three days ago I was not 100 percent, but the past two days I think I’m 100 percent and that's what counts. I want to be ready to help the team tomorrow.”

While the Rangers seemingly avoided what could’ve been a very costly loss -- they are already without top-six forward Chris Kreider, who is sidelined indefinitely with an injured left hand -- the Flyers were not as lucky.

Starting goaltender Steve Mason has been ruled out with an upper-body injury. Backup netminder Ray Emery will start for Philadelphia on Thursday.

“Honestly, for us it doesn’t really matter if it's Mason or Emery. They’re both really good goaltenders,” said Brassard, who played with Mason while the two players were with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. “Steve had a really good season, and I think Emery is a goalie that has shown in the past that he can play in the playoffs, so for us, we focus on how we want to play. We want to play our game and it doesn’t really matter who is in net for them.”

Rangers' Brassard exits practice with injury

April, 15, 2014
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The New York Rangers can breathe easy knowing they will have defenseman Ryan McDonagh back in the lineup when their first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers begins. But the first day of practice leading up to Game 1 finished with questions about one of the team’s key forwards.

Top-six center Derick Brassard left the ice Tuesday in apparent pain while the team was doing special-teams work at its practice facility and did not return. Coach Alain Vigneault did not provide an update on the 26-year-old’s status.

[+] EnlargeDerick Brassard
Perry Nelson/USA TODAY SportsDerick Brassard appeared to hurt himself during Tuesday's practice.
He did seem optimistic, however, that Brassard will be available when the puck drops to begin the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

“I would say yes,” Vigneault said.

Brassard has been a critical component of one of the Rangers’ most productive lines, a trio that also includes Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello. The three players have combined for nine points in the last four games heading into the postseason. The Rangers are already without one of their top-six forwards with Chris Kreider sidelined indefinitely with a left hand injury.

Balance up front will be absolutely vital against a Flyers team heralded for its forward depth. Philadelphia boasts one of the most dangerous top lines in the NHL with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell, and also has the likes of Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Vincent Lecavalier. The Flyers have seven players with 20 or more goals.

But Philadelphia has an injury concern of its own, with starting goaltender Steve Mason's status for Game 1 unknown. Mason left the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday with an upper-body injury after a second-period collision and did not return to the game. Though Flyers head coach Craig Berube sounded confident immediately afterward that Mason would be ready to go by Thursday, that optimism has waned in recent days.

Mason did spend a limited amount of time on the ice with the Flyers on Tuesday but did not speak to the media. Berube told reporters in Philadelphia that he's not sure if Mason will play.

With the Rangers already enjoying an overwhelming edge in the goaltending department with former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist in net, Mason’s potential absence could have significant ramifications. However, backup Ray Emery has done quite well against the Blueshirts in the past, with a 7-2-0 record and two shutouts in 10 career appearances against New York.

Regardless of who is in the lineup for both teams, this series is guaranteed to deliver the type of saltiness and snarl that makes playoff hockey so compelling.

The Rangers and Flyers split their four games in the regular season. And given the teams' prior history -- no playoff meetings since 1997, but an abundance of high-intensity, hate-filled regular-season games -- that will only make the intensity more palpable.

“A team you don’t see all that often, sometimes it takes a little longer to build the animosity,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. “We’re very familiar with each other. I don’t think we need to build any of that up. It should be a good start.”

The Flyers possess one of the better power plays in the league, a unit that ranks first in the NHL with a 25.2 percent success rate. So no matter how often frustrations escalate, the Rangers must focus on trying to keep their reactions in check.

“I think discipline is going to be key, because they have a really good power play,” said veteran center Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. “I think our power play can be dangerous also, so I think both teams are going to want to keep those power plays on the bench.

“After that, it’s a matter of how high you want to raise your level with every game,” Richards said. “We’ve learned that in the past here, and for guys that have been to the playoffs, they know that. Every game gets faster. Every game gets harder. Hopefully we can ride that momentum and get better as the series goes on.”

Rapid Reaction: Oilers 2, Rangers 1

February, 6, 2014
NEW YORK -- Edmonton's Nail Yakupov snapped a 1-1 tie with just 1:38 left in regulation to end the Rangers' four-game winning streak and give the Oilers a 2-1 win at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.

The former first overall pick fired from the high slot and beat backup netminder Cam Talbot for the game-winner as the Oilers recorded their fifth win in the last six games.

The Rangers have a tough test ahead before they wrap up for the Olympic break, facing the Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday.

No goal: The Oilers can't be happy about what would've been a go-ahead power-play goal that was nullified with a quick whistle at 10:57 of the second period. According to the NHL's situation room, the play was not reviewable because the official blew his whistle to stop play before the puck crossed the goal line.

Shutout streak snapped: Oilers netminder Ben Scrivens had his shutout streak at Madison Square Garden this season snapped at 80 minutes 22 seconds after Derick Brassard notched the equalizer on a one-timer from the right circle 22 seconds into play. Scrivens blanked the Rangers 1-0 earlier this season while still playing for the Kings in November.

Quick start: The Oilers jumped out to a quick lead with Ryan Smyth's goal just 2:56 into play. After Brian Boyle lost the puck in the Rangers' zone, David Perron ripped a shot high off Talbot, who lost track of the puck as Smyth swooped in to bang it home.

Clock is ticking: With less than a day until the Olympic roster freeze goes into effect, it does not appear the Ryan Callahan situation will have any resolution before the 28-year-old winger heads off to Sochi. Multiple sources told Thursday evening that the situation was status quo and that nothing appeared imminent. Further evidence to that end? Callahan was not held out of the lineup, a precautionary move teams opt to make to protect their asset when a deal is close.

Rangers seize Stadium Series sweep

January, 30, 2014
NEW YORK -- Wednesday night's game in the Bronx was a starkly different game from Sunday's rout of the New Jersey Devils -- an offensive onslaught that saw two teams combine for 10 goals -- but the New York Rangers won this one, too, dispatching the Islanders 2-1 to complete a Stadium Series sweep.

There wasn't much room on the ice, the temperature was a bit more frigid and both teams had to battle with a bouncing puck all night long. But despite a desperate Islanders club that came with a furious flurry in the third period while trying to avoid its fourth straight loss, the Rangers held on for the second consecutive win at Yankee Stadium.

[+] EnlargeLundqvist
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesHenrik Lundqvist said the Yankee Stadium experience was "awesome."
Again, the place was packed, with 50,027 in attendance.

"It's a great stadium, but you need the fans to make it special," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished the night with 30 saves. "It was awesome. Again."

Give credit to the Rangers for keeping a tight focus. Never once amidst the pageantry surrounding the pair of outdoor games did the Blueshirts fail to grasp the importance. Two bitter division rivals. Four points at stake. The Rangers didn't squander the opportunity despite the ample distraction.

With five wins in their past seven games, the Rangers improved to 29-23-3, tied in points (61) with fifth-place Montreal in the Eastern Conference and firmly entrenched in second within the Metropolitan Division.

"You take it all in the day before, but when it comes to the game, you really bear down and focus," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said.

A tight-checking game that was scoreless through almost the first two periods saw the Rangers surrender the game's first goal to rookie forward Brock Nelson with 1:27 remaining in the second. The Rangers answered back almost immediately, though, tying the game just 40 seconds later on Benoit Pouliot's equalizer with 47 seconds remaining in the frame.

It was a goal that changed the game, one that was set up by Derick Brassard as he tried to bank the puck off the backside of Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.

"We knew that Nabokov was coming really hard out of his crease and ... I tried to bank it off his back to go in and I missed both times. The last time I thought I hit [Pouliot] right in the chin and it went in," Brassard explained. "It was not pretty."

Fourth-line forward Daniel Carcillo added what would stand up as the game winner 4:36 into the third period, banging home a rebound on a 4-on-2 rush.

The Rangers held on the rest of the way, despite some quality chances from the Islanders' top line. The win allowed them to savor the experience that much more.

"That's like the highlight of my career so far," Brassard said of the two games. "Just to play here. I think when both teams come out of the tunnel, I think that's when you realize that it's awesome. You share the passion of the game with so many people. The game meant something."

Defenseman Marc Staal, who also played in the Winter Classic against the Philadelphia Flyers back in 2012, gave a similar endorsement.

"These are a ton of fun to play in. I could play in 50 of these a year," said Staal, who was awarded the MVP Broadway Hat. "It's a lot of fun being out in that atmosphere."

Seeing his charges gut out a win in such challenging weather conditions afforded coach Alain Vigneault a new perspective on his club.

Granted, he cringed a bit when seeing guys block shots, but was impressed with both the sacrifice and commitment on display, nonetheless.

"It takes a lot of courage to do those things on a night like this," Vigneault said. "Our guys did it and we've got to keep doing it if we're going to win and get into the playoffs."

This is looking now like a team that is beginning to come together. A team that may actually be capable of doing some damage come playoff time.

Both Vigneault and Lundqvist have seen a change in the past few months. They hope it continues.

"We're starting to grow together as a team," Lundqvist said. "Now's the time to do it."

Brassard could make big difference

January, 13, 2014
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Derick Brassard doesn’t really care how he scores, as long as he does and his team is winning.

Not that his eighth goal of the season Sunday night was a fluke. No, the sizzling slap shot from the left circle was executed just as he intended, but it was a bit out of the norm.

[+] EnlargeDerick Brassard
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports Derick Brassard has given the Rangers' power play a big boost.
Brassard has managed ample production on the New York Rangers’ sixth-ranked power-play -- he is tied for the team lead with five man-up markers -- even though his even-strength numbers still leave something to be desired.

His first-period goal in Sunday’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers was only his third of the season at even strength. Of the 17 assists he has registered in 45 games this season, more than half (nine in total) have come on the man-advantage.

“I think my overall game in the past few weeks has been good, but 5-on-5 I know I can try to chip in a little bit more,” Brassard said after practice Monday.

It isn’t for lack of scoring chances, as he’s had plenty playing on a line with Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot, a trio that has capitalized on speed, skill and creativity. Brassard has 16 shots on goal in the past four games, including a season-high seven against his former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, on Jan. 6.

But Sunday’s goal was his first in more than two months at even strength. Prior to that, Brassard had not scored 5-on-5 since Nov. 6.

“I think when he’s on the right side of the opposition and the right side of the puck defensively, it leads to great opportunities offensively,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “We need to see more of that from him. He’s been real effective on the power play, but we need him to be real effective 5-on-5.”

Brassard is aware of that expectation, and that’s partly because of his strong play down the stretch last season. He had five goals and 11 points in 13 regular season games for the Blueshirts after being traded at the deadline from Columbus. He went on to produce at a point-per-game pace in the postseason, with two goals and 10 assists in 12 playoff games.

If the Rangers are going to make it back to the playoffs, they need Brassard to step it up and again be a top contributor, in all on-ice situations. Brassard hopes his power-play prowess starts carrying over soon.

“Sometimes, when we score on the power play I can find myself and my team and my linemates, that we have another energy in our game, that we want to go back on the ice right away. It gives yourself the confidence to make plays,” Brassard said. “I’m not really worrying about it right now because we’re winning.”

Spark not enough for Blueshirts vs. Pens

December, 19, 2013
NEW YORK -- Though the New York Rangers showed some spark against the Pittsburgh Penguins -- erasing a two-goal deficit to push the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins to overtime -- the Blueshirts still surrendered their fifth loss in the past six games Wednesday night, falling 4-3 in the shootout at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers whittled a 3-1 deficit in the third period to secure a point but lost as Pittsburgh's Brandon Sutter notched the game winner in the fifth round of the shootout. It was the second straight game that went to the skills competition for the Blueshirts.

Both Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard notched a goal in the final frame, but the injury-plagued Penguins rattled off their fifth straight win and 10th victory in the past 11 games despite a battered blue line comprised with youngsters and AHL call-ups.

It's hard to take a completely rose-tinted view of the comeback, especially when the Penguins are limping along without five of their top six defensemen and 10 regular roster players missing from Wednesday's lineup.

No one sees them searching for the silver lining.

"It was a huge third period for us after what happened. We would've liked the two points," veteran center Brad Richards said. "You can't judge your team on shootout wins and losses sometimes. It's great when you win them, but when you lose them you've got to move past it and realize the good things you did."

Chris Kunitz finished with a goal and an assist, and league-leading scorer Sidney Crosby picked up a pair of helpers as he extended his season-high point streak to eight games -- a span in which he has six goals and seven assists.

The Rangers fumbled on a critical 4-on-3 power-play opportunity in overtime -- when Kunitz plowed into Henrik Lundqvist 14 seconds into play -- but were nonetheless heartened by the life shown in the third period.

The most positive takeaway from the game may have been that Lundqvist appeared to escape unscathed.

The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner, who made his season-high seventh straight start Wednesday, was face down on the ice for extended time after the collision. After several minutes being attended to by head trainer Jim Ramsay, Lundqvist decided to remain in the game.

He didn't feel great afterward but did not indicate that anything was seriously amiss.

"Stiff neck. I expect it to be pretty sore and stiff tomorrow, but I'm just happy that it wasn't worse than that," Lundqvist said.

With Kunitz charging to the net on the first shift of overtime, Lundqvist was caught seemingly unaware as he slid to his left. He was knocked to the ice by Kunitz, igniting a heated scrum behind the Rangers net.

"I didn't see him coming at all," Lundqvist said.

Lundqvist was not immediately sold on staying in his game, he explained, but after several minutes, he returned to the crease, where he stayed for the remainder of the game.

"At first I wasn't sure. It was hard to focus," he said. "Personally, I had to regroup a little bit."

Alain Vigneault seemed please with his club, who played what he said was a "real strong first period, our best period in a long time." He was also happy with the response he saw from his team in the third. The team also mounted a late-game comeback Sunday in their 4-3 shootout win over the Calgary Flames.

"We haven't come back in very many situations this year, and in the third, we came back from a two-goal deficit," Vigneault said.

The Rangers might actually gain some ground in the standings, though, if they could establish leads rather than forcing themselves to fight their way back each game.

Said defenseman Dan Girardi:

"It'd be nice to grab a lead and play with a lead."

Poor play costs Rangers points against Jets

December, 2, 2013
NEW YORK -- For as hard as the Rangers fought to shed an awful 3-7-0 start to the season and climb back to .500, they haven't done much to move beyond that since.

A middling Blueshirts squad has a record (14-14-0) befitting its play as the Rangers dropped Monday's match against the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 at Madison Square Garden.

"Is this a .500 hockey club right now?" coach Alain Vigneault asked rhetorically after the game. "We're certainly playing like one right now."

Sloppy play, poor execution and an overall lack of urgency were the culprits as the Rangers let another two points slip past. The team remains in eighth place, perhaps only by virtue of the fact that the entire Eastern Conference is suffering from a widespread case of mediocrity. The Rangers have flip-flopped with wins and losses the past six games and have only one winning streak of more than two games this season.

With a jam-packed December ahead and nine games at home, the Rangers must do better if they want to hold some of the other challenging teams in the East at bay.

".500 hockey's not gonna cut it," goaltender Cam Talbot said of the message inside the team's dressing room after the game. "We've got to be better or we're going to be on the outside looking in."

Talbot surrendered four goals, two to ex-Ranger Olli Jokinen, though he could hardly be saddled with the loss. The Rangers, who have played so well in front of him lately, did not Monday night. It was the first time in his eight NHL starts that he gave up more than two goals.

This after Talbot was awarded his second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist, fanning the flames of a potential goalie controversy.

"We certainly made his life more challenging tonight with the way we played in front of him," Vigneault said.

The Rangers were just plain lucky to escape a horrid second period with the score tied 2-2. Derick Brassard made a boneheaded pass that led to the Jets' second goal of the night -- a play that earned him a demotion to the fourth line -- and the team played with little gumption the entire frame.

Instead of regrouping in the third and correcting the mistakes, the Rangers did little to improve the situation in the third.

"It's unacceptable," alternate captain Marc Staal said, "and it's something we have to correct in a hurry."

Vigneault would not reveal his goaltender for Thursday, though it seems inconceivable that he will not return to Lundqvist against Buffalo. To gain some ground in the standings, the Rangers desperately need to pick up two points against the last-place Sabres before they return for a nine-game homestand.

Stringing wins together is a must for the Rangers, especially considering the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers are within two points of them in the laughably weak Metropolitan Division.

Trading off wins and losses is not good enough.

"Good teams don't hover around .500 all season," said Rick Nash, who was held off the score sheet for the first time in four games. "They put winning streaks together and we can't find that streak right now. We need to do a better job. We'll figure it out."

Rapid Reaction: Jets 5, Rangers 2

December, 2, 2013
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers let a 1-0 first-period lead evaporate as the Winnipeg Jets rallied from behind to knock off a sloppy Rangers squad 5-2 Monday at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts were lucky to escape from the second period tied 2-2, but they failed to recover in the third as ex-Ranger Olli Jokinen's pair of goals sealed the game and dropped New York back to .500 at 14-14-0.

It was the first time that 26-year-old backup Cam Talbot, who was given his second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist, gave up more than two goals in his first eight NHL starts.

No call: The MSG crowd was livid after Derek Stepan was chopped down on a semi-break by Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom in the third period. Though fans were hoping for a penalty shot, the Rangers didn't even get a power-play after the failed sequence.

Demotion: Punished for his second-period giveaway that led to Winnipeg's second goal of the night, Derick Brassard was dropped from the first to the fourth line for the remainder of the period. With Benoit Pouliot replacing him on that line, Ryan Callahan made a great hustle play to jam through Brad Richards' rebound to tie the game at 2-2, his first goal in nine games. Pouliot, who picked up an assist on the play, halted an 11-game pointless skid.

Opportunistic on offense: When the Rangers are playing well, they are a team that capitalizes on opponents' mistakes. That's exactly what happened for the Blueshirts' first goal of the night as Mats Zuccarello tipped in a blue-line slapshot for an early 1-0 lead 2:49 into play. The puck bounced back to McDonagh's stick after Jets defenseman Keaton Ellerby failed to clear the zone. Sound familiar? Former coach John Tortorella appeared to lose his mind on the bench during the Rangers' 5-2 win over the Canucks on Saturday after a similar mistake, this one by Vancouver's Alex Edler, ended up in the back of the net.