New York Rangers: Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Canadiens 7, Rangers 4

May, 27, 2014
May 27
11:00
PM ET
MONTREAL -- It was one wild, wild night in Montreal as the Canadiens topped the New York Rangers 7-4 in a crazy, goal-studded affair that kept the Habs’ playoff hopes alive and sent the series back to New York for Game 6.

Rene Bourque scored a hat trick in Game 5 on Tuesday to pull his Habs within a game of the Rangers, 3-2, in the Eastern Conference final series that now just got a lot more interesting.

The Rangers rallied back from a three-goal deficit in the middle frame to knot the game at four goals apiece, but the Habs were not ready for their season to end. After chasing starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from the net, Montreal was lifted by a pair of goals from Bourque, whose eight playoff goals is just one shy of his regular-season total.

Derek Stepan scored twice just four days after undergoing surgery to repair a broken jaw, and Chris Kreider finished the night with a goal and three assists, but the Rangers’ goaltending wasn’t up to snuff.

And you can bet that there will be plenty of people second-guessing coach Alain Vigneault’s decision to stick with backup netminder Cam Talbot in the third period with the Rangers trailing by just one goal.

Buckle up for Game 6 in New York on Thursday.

Stunning second: No lead is safe these playoffs, that much is clear. New York tallied three goals on their first four shots of the period, stunning a Habs squad that saw its 4-1 lead disappear in the mere manner of minutes. It was a unpredictable, wide-open frame that was seemingly devoid of defense and left everyone guessing as far as what was to come in the third period.

Hank yanked: Just when he had put those Bell Centre demons to bed, Lundqvist surrendered four goals on the first 18 shots he faced, forcing coach Alain Vigneault to yank him from the game during the second period. Backup netminder Cam Talbot replaced him in net at 11:02, while Lundqvist took the long skate of shame off the ice as Habs fans taunted him with glee. Talbot recorded his first NHL shutout at the Bell Centre back in November but didn’t have quite the same performance Tuesday night.

Stepan up: Of course it was Stepan who scored the Rangers’ first goal of the night, given his dramatic comeback from a broken jaw. The 23-year-old looked entirely unbothered by the bulky facial protector affixed to his helmet, as he tied the game for the Rangers 1-1 in the second period on a rather innocuous shot from the high slot that beat Tokarski. Before letting in that softy, Tokarski made a pair of sensational stops, first to rob Brad Richards in front on the Rangers’ first shot of the game 5:52, then later getting his stick on a shot from Carl Hagelin with the Blueshirts bearing down on the rush. Stepan notched his second of the night in a nutty second period during which six goals were scored.

Still sloppy: Though the Rangers preached the value of discipline following an uncharacteristic penalty spree in Game 4, the message didn’t seem to resonate. Just 22 seconds into play, Chris Kreider went to the box after being whistled for a tripping penalty. The result? A power-play goal for the Habs, scored on a spectacular, between-the-legs tip by 20-year-old Alex Galchenyuk on P.K. Subban’s blistering shot from the point. The Rangers took a whopping nine penalties in Game 4, seven of which occurred in the offensive zone.

Expect a call: It’s a pretty safe bet to say the only way John Moore will make another appearance this spring is if the Rangers make the Stanley Cup final. The Rangers defenseman was tossed from the game for his nasty hit on Dale Weise that left Weise shaken and disoriented after the play. Considering the two-game ban for Montreal’s Brandon Prust earlier in the series, Moore can expect to face similar discipline when the league’s Department of Player Safety takes a further look at the play. Prust, by the way, is eligible to return for Game 6.

Reaction: Canadiens 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

May, 22, 2014
May 22
11:17
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Well, the Montreal Canadiens weren't going to go away that easy.

The Habs climbed right back into the series with a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, with Alex Galchenyuk notching the winner just 1:12 into overtime.

When veteran center Daniel Briere snapped a 1-1 draw with just 3:02 remaining in regulation, it appeared as if the game was over, but Chris Kreider sent the MSG crowd into a frenzy with his game-tying goal with just 28.1 ticks on the clock remaining.

Kreider's shot banked in off Alexei Emelin's skate and the 23-year-old winger found himself, once again, the catalyst for the Rangers and the scourge of Habs fans everywhere.

Rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski was otherwise fabulous for Montreal in just his second NHL playoff start, making 35 saves throughout the night and largely outplaying Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

Expect a call: Habs tough guy and ex-Ranger Brandon Prust is clearly no longer a fan favorite at MSG. He was taunted during the first period after a questionable open-ice hit that laid out Rangers center Derek Stepan in the opening frame. Prust may get a call from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for the play, which went unpenalized, during which he nailed his former teammate with a blow that the crowd considered both late and high. Stepan was down on the ice for several minutes before he was able to get up and head to the Rangers’ dressing room. He appeared soon after, however, missing only 5:20 of play. On his first shift back, Stepan drilled Montreal’s Alexei Emelin with the type of body check that made it obvious he was not a happy camper.

Carcillo tossed: Rugged winger Daniel Carcillo may be in some hot water as well, after getting tossed by NHL linesman Scott Driscoll later in the first period. With tensions still high and emotions boiling over, Carcillo was slapped with a two-minute charging minor on Prust and then a game misconduct, presumably for the contact he made with Driscoll after the fact. Replays showed Carcillo resisting Driscoll’s attempts to separate him from the action, with Driscoll holding Carcillo’s stick and Carcillo hitting Driscoll with his right elbow. Though the NHL’s Rule 40, Physical Abuse of an Official, has different thresholds that carry automatic suspensions, any punishment for Carcillo will depend heavily on the officials’ discretion, multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com.

Brassard out: Derick Brassard missed his second consecutive game with an undisclosed injury sustained in the series opener Saturday afternoon. Brassard was forced from the game following a hard, open-ice hit from Montreal defenseman Mike Weaver in the first period of Game 1 -- a blow that left him reeling. Though Brassard has skated on consecutive days, coach Alain Vigneault has characterized the 26-year-old pivot as “day-to-day.” Though Dominic Moore has stepped in to center a line with Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello, the Rangers could use Brassard’s dynamic presence down the middle. After a quiet first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, Brassard finished the team’s second-round set against the Pittsburgh Penguins with four goals and five points in seven games.
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.

Rapid Reaction: Penguins 4, Rangers 2

May, 7, 2014
May 7
10:08
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Well, the New York Rangers can't use being tired as an excuse now. Nope, their inexcusable performance in Game 4 runs much deeper than fatigue or the disadvantage of jam-packed scheduling. Their stars didn't show up. Their power-play was atrocious and they let the Pittsburgh Penguins take it to them for a 4-2 win and a two-game series lead.

With the Penguins leading 3-1 in the series, the Rangers find themselves on the brink of elimination when they arrive in Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Friday.

Up 2-1 in the third period, Pittsburgh delivered the back-breaker in the third period when Jussi Jokinen backhanded an innocuous shot at the net that deflected in past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for a two-goal lead. Though Mats Zuccarello pulled the Blueshirts back within a goal later in the frame, New York coughed it right back with a poor defensive play that left Chris Kunitz in front to reclaim a two-goal lead.

Seriously? And just when you think the Rangers’ power-play can’t get any worse, it does. On their third man-up opportunity of the night, the Rangers not only failed to convert, they surrendered a goal on the other end. Brian Gibbons raced in on a short-handed breakaway, losing control of the puck but drawing Lundqvist down regardless. Sutter swooped in to bury it for a 2-1 lead. The Rangers have now been blanked on 36 straight attempts.

Geno’s Game: Loaded up on a line with Crosby and Kunitz, star forward Evgeni Malkin imposed his will during the first period, cutting to the net with ease and putting pressure on the Rangers’ defense. He gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead after a tremendous skill play in which he put a spinning backhander past Lundqvist just 2:31 into play. Malkin, whose game was ignited by a hat trick in the team’s Game 6 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first round, leads the team with 11 postseason points (five goals, six assists). With a 1-0 lead, the Penguins dominated for much of the opening frame until a solid few shifts from the Rangers’ forecheckers allowed New York to push back with about six minutes remaining. Though the Blueshirts had extended offensive zone time, they had nothing to show for it. Rick Nash passed up a wide-open shot during that time, eschewing the best scoring opportunity of the sequence.

Depleted defense: Speaking of that shift, Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik was caught out on the ice for an exhausting 1:36 shift with the Rangers keeping the Pens’ hemmed into their own end. Orpik, who returned to the lineup after missing the past five games with an undisclosed injury, played only 42 seconds over two shifts after that and subsequently left the game. Orpik never returned to the Penguins bench after the first period, forcing the Penguins to play with just five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

Shutout snapped: After posting back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3, Marc-Andre Fleury had his streak snapped in the second period at 145:30 when Carl Hagelin darted up the ice to rip a shot past for a goal that knotted the teams 1-1. Hagelin’s goal helped spark the Rangers in the second period, which began much better than their opening frame but ended on a sour note on Sutter’s short-handed goal.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Flyers 1

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
9:49
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers haven't made it easy on themselves all series, so there's no reason to think that Game 7 should've been any different. Regardless, the Blueshirts held on to knock off the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden to punch their ticket for a second-round matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Rangers had to white-knuckle their way through a tense third period, in which they were outplayed by the Flyers. Rookie Jason Akeson cut a two-goal lead in half, but New York was able to hold on for the victory. Philly surged in the final frame but couldn't find the equalizer with their season hanging in the balance.

And to think, it wasn’t even Philly’s goaltending that let it down. In fact, Flyers netminder Steve Mason was downright phenomenal in his third start of the series, making 31 saves in a spectacular performance that deserved much, much better. Mason even outplayed Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but Lundqvist left the ice with the only thing that mattered Wednesday night: a win.

A look ahead: The Rangers are likely facing a quick turnaround with the start of their second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly slated for Friday, making it a possibility that they could play five games in eight nights. Meanwhile, the Pens have had some time to rest following a series-ending victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6 on Monday night, and that recovery time might be a blessing for a Pittsburgh team that got quite a scare from the Blue Jackets in an unpredictable and gritty first-round series.

Though Evgeni Malkin came to life for the Penguins with a hat trick in Game 6, superstar captain Sidney Crosby was held without a goal for the entire series as former Rangers Brandon Dubinsky made him work for every inch of ice.

Strong second: After a high-paced, evenly-matched first period that was scoreless after 20 minutes, the Rangers took over the game despite Mason’s heroics in the Flyers’ net. Mason was far and away the Flyers' best player on the ice through two periods, making save after spectacular save, but he didn’t get much help in front as the Rangers built a two-goal lead in the second period.

After Daniel Carcillo’s goal early in the frame, Benoit Pouliot gave the Rangers a 2-0 advantage, converting a deft feed from beneath the goal line for a scoring sequence on which Mason had virtually had no chance.

Earlier in the period, Pouliot went to the penalty box for a questionable goaltender-interference call, making that the fourth offensive-zone penalty he has taken this series. A huge penalty kill, replete with a superior shot-blocking sequence, gave the Rangers a lift, and Pouliot was able to capitalize on the other end.

Grit factor: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would not tip his hand about any potential lineup changes prior to Game 7, but he opted for some physicality and snarl when he inserted Carcillo into the lineup instead of 21-year-old center J.T. Miller, who played in Games 5 and 6. Using Carcillo, who scored a big goal against his former team in Game 3 in Philadelphia, proved to be a wise decision as the master antagonist gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead after notching his second of the series early in the second period. Carcillo cashed in on an excellent backhanded feed from Mats Zuccarello -- laced through two Flyers defenders -- following an impressive pair of saves by Mason earlier in the sequence.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Sabres 1

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
9:38
PM ET
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers want to be playing their best hockey heading into the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs and Thursday night’s feeble effort against the Buffalo Sabres definitely wasn't that. Not even the promise of home-ice advantage, which the Rangers ended up clinching before the night was over, could disguise it.

Rick Nash tallied the game-winning goal with 1:42 left in regulation to help the Blueshirts top the league's worst team 2-1, but it was an otherwise pretty underwhelming way to close out their last regular-season game at Madison Square Garden.

Before Nash's late-game winner, the Rangers were held to a mere two shots in the third. After going 2-for-3 on the power play Tuesday night, the Rangers were blanked on all four opportunities with the man advantage Thursday night.

The Rangers won the game, yes, but a resounding effort it was not. Especially considering the caliber of competition they will be facing soon. Home ice or not, the Blueshirts will have to be better against the Philadelphia Flyers or the Columbus Blue Jackets, whichever team they face in the first round of the post-season.

Netminder Matt Hackett, a 24-year-old and one of five goaltenders listed on the Sabres’ official roster Thursday, made 28 saves in a solid performance for Buffalo, especially considering it was only his seventh game of the season for the Sabres.

Poor form: Just like Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers got off to a bad start against the Sabres. In a hapless, disjointed first period, the Blueshirts came up short on two separate power plays and got outshot 12-9. There may be that sort of margin for error against non-playoff opponents, but if the Rangers make a habit out of these underwhelming first periods once the postseason begins, they may be primed for an early exit.

Tie game: The middle stanza was a far better effort from a possession standpoint for the Rangers, but even after limiting the Sabres to only one shot in the entire period (a season’s best) they found themselves trailing 1-0 after Drew Stafford’s tip in front at 9:06 of the second. The Rangers pelted Hackett with 17 shots but couldn’t get on the board until Benoit Pouliot’s game-tying goal with 30.4 in the frame. The goal, Pouliot’s 15th of the season, extended his point streak to seven games.

Up next: This does not bode well for the Rangers, considering their previous history. The Blueshirts end the season with a trip to Montreal, which has inarguably been the team’s least favorite destination in recent years. Before their last trip to the city in November, when backup netminder Cam Talbot made 22 saves to record a 1-0 shutout, the Rangers had gone 0-7-1 at the Bell Centre. Coach Alain Vigneault indicated earlier this week that there may be a possibility Talbot gets the start in Montreal again on Saturday.

Rapid Reaction: Senators 3, Rangers 2

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
9:52
PM ET
With only one point needed to clinch a playoff berth, the New York Rangers failed to secure their postseason spot with an 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators in their first game back at Madison Square Garden following a four-game road trip out west.

The Rangers rallied back from a two-goal deficit to pull within a goal of a desperate and feisty Senators squad, but the spirited comeback effort wasn't enough to cement their spot among the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

Similar to Tuesday's game in Vancouver, things got nasty late in the game when Ottawa's Chris Neil crushes Rangers defenseman Marc Staal into the boards with 2:47 to play. Staal went after Neil and a nasty skirmish ensued, which ultimately put the Rangers down a man in the final minutes of the game.

Saturday was also a sobering reminder for the Rangers just how gaping of a hole defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s absence creates. The stud 24-year-old, sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered last Tuesday in a game against the Vancouver Canucks, has proven to be utterly irreplaceable on the blue line, where he averaged almost 25 minutes a game and provides the team a much-needed shutdown presence. Saturday night, the Rangers’ defensive zone coverage was spotty and exposed, particularly in the first period.

According to the team McDonagh’s injury is not serious and simply a “day-to-day” ailment. McDonagh, too, sounded optimistic about his availability for the playoffs.

Boy, the Rangers really have to hope that is true. Because heading into the postseason, it looks like they will need him to survive the first round.

Cool Hand Zuke: The Hobbit strikes again. With the Rangers trailing by two goals heading into the second period, diminutive winger Mats Zuccarello tallied twice to pull the Blueshirts within a goal heading into the final 20 minutes of play. Zuccarello, enjoying his finest NHL season to date, parked himself in front of Senators goaltender Robin Lehner to tip both shots past. Both of Zuccarello’s goals originated from the team’s depleted blue line. First John Moore unleashed a blast, then Marc Staal followed suit later in the period as both players picked up primary assists on their respective plays. Without McDonagh’s offensive acumen -- he leads all defensemen with 14 goals and 43 points -- the Rangers will need this sort of contribution from the blue line to continue.

Boo birds: Just because this was the team’s first game back at MSG since March 26, fans weren’t cutting it any slack after a poor performance in the first 20 minutes of play. The Blueshirts were ushered off the ice with boos after a first period that left them down in a 2-0 hole. Both goals featured defensive lapses with Ottawa’s first goal scored off an odd-man rush, and the second one following a defensive-zone faceoff loss for New York. Now, granted the absence of McDonagh is a significant one, but the Rangers can’t use that as an excuse for breaking down and missing coverage in their own end.

Rapid Reaction: Avs 3, Rangers 2 (SO)

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
12:03
AM ET
The New York Rangers were less than a minute from wrapping up a four-game homestand with a win until a plucky, playoff-bound Colorado Avalanche club tied the score, 2-2, on Tyson Barrie's equalizer with 51.4 seconds left on the clock.

The Avs topped the Rangers 3-2 in the shootout, with Barrie also tallying the winner in the skills competition.

Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was sensational, stopped all three Rangers shooters.

The Rangers left Denver with one point, leaving their magic number to clinch a playoff spot at two points.

They'll now return home to Madison Square Garden for a three-game homestand before ending the regular season with a quick trip to Montreal next Saturday.

Good sign: The Rangers were without top defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the lineup, but the 24-year-old blue-liner painted an optimistic picture of his availability for the postseason. McDonagh told reporters during the first intermission that he was "pretty confident" he'd be ready to go come playoff time. McDonagh also revealed he sustained no structural damage in his left shoulder after a hit from Vancouver Canucks' forward Alex Burrows in the final minute of Tuesday's 3-1 win. McDonagh is still dealing with a limited range of motion and some discomfort, however, and won't return until he's fully comfortable that he can play and contribute at an optimal level.

Stepping up: Even with McDonagh's glaring absence, a void that seemed particularly conspicuous during the second period, the Rangers got a big boost from their blue line when defenseman John Moore gave the team a 1-0 lead just 2:10 into play. Moore returned to the lineup after his own absence, when he was sidelined for six games because of a concussion.

Around the East: The Rangers got some help from a fellow Metropolitan Division opponent, when the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. The Flyers now trail the Rangers by four points in the standings, though they have two games in hand. As of now, home-ice advantage is up for grabs between the two bitter rivals who are battling for the second spot in the division.

Rapid Reaction: Flames 4, Rangers 3

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
11:41
PM ET
The Calgary Flames are no longer in playoff contention, but they still gave the New York Rangers plenty of trouble Friday night. The hard-working Flames snapped the Rangers’ five-game winning streak -- despite a three-goal second period for the Blueshirts -- edging New York 4-3.

It wasn’t a pretty start to the Rangers’ four-game road trip that features stops in Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado. Only one of those teams appears poised to play in the postseason, but the Rangers can’t take any opponents lightly at this point.

Cringe-worthy: The Rangers looked lax in their own end on two plays in particular: Mark Giordano’s first-period marker, in which the captain was given ample space to rip a wrist shot from the slot, and Mike Cammalleri’s go-ahead goal with less than eight seconds remaining in the second period. The Rangers have to tighten up in their defensive zone if they want to lock up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Fourth-line grind: The Rangers’ fourth line has emerged as one of the team’s secret weapons over the past week, as the trio of Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett has been as effective as any for the Blueshirts. Boyle sparked a three-goal second period with his fifth of the season. Dorsett find the back of the net himself but created some good chances to put pressure on Flames netminder Karri Ramo throughout the game. Scoring depth will be critical for the Rangers if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. This fourth line is looking promising to that end and was one of the silver linings of an otherwise forgettable game for the Rangers.

Just his luck: Man, things really are not going Martin St. Louis’ way since he arrived in New York at the trade deadline. The 38-year-old has still not scored his first goal as a New York Ranger despite a promising attempt in the first period Friday night. St. Louis thought he scored to tie the game when a puck glanced off his skate for a goal, but it was ultimately called off after a video-review ruling that he made a distinct kicking motion to direct the puck.

Around the East: The Philadelphia Flyers, who entered Friday’s action trailing the Rangers by three points, handed the Toronto Maple Leafs their seventh straight loss and in doing so pulled within a point of the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Columbus Blue Jackets squandered a prime opportunity to gain some ground with a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who clinched a playoff spot with the win.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Flyers 1

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
10:47
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Well, it wasn't the bloodbath many anticipated. It wasn't even a close game, really. But the New York Rangers rattled off their fifth straight win with a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, a team that could very well be the Blueshirts' first-round foe when the playoffs begin next month.

Fourth-liners Derek Dorsett and Dominic Moore both scored, as did defenseman Ryan McDonagh while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist held off the Flyers, making 30 saves to neutralize one of the team's most hated rivals. He was less than two minutes away from recording his 51st career shutout, when Jakub Voracek spoiled his bid with 1:53 to play in regulation.

With the win, the Rangers created a bit more breathing room in the Metropolitan Division standings, where they sit in second place three points ahead of the Flyers. Philly has two games in hand, however, so don't be surprised to see a battle for home-ice advantage to go down to the wire in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Adding offense: The Rangers have received key contributions from their blue line lately, particularly in the last pair of games. Veteran defenseman Dan Girardi notched the game-tying goal against Phoenix on Monday, with his defensive partner McDonagh tallying the game-winner in overtime. McDonagh extended his point streak to five games Wednesday night with his 14th goal of the season to give the Rangers an important 2-0 lead heading into the third period.

Missing something: The Rangers were lacking Chris Kreider’s big body down low and his speed streaking down the left wing Wednesday night with the 22-year-old winger sidelined indefinitely with a hand injury. That may be something the Rangers have to get used to as Kreider will miss the team’s upcoming road trip to Western Canada and may need to undergo surgery. Coach Alain Vigneault did not rule out that possibility when asked about Kreider’s status Wednesday morning, and though the Rangers are still weighing the “best course of action” to take with the top-six forward, it does not look good. Kreider, who was replaced with Martin St. Louis on a line with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash Wednesday, has 17 goals and 37 points this season for the Rangers.

Star turn? Kreider was the unexpected, breakout star for the Rangers in the 2012 playoffs. Could we be in store for a similar phenomena from 21-year-old prospect J.T. Miller? Miller was recalled after an impressive stretch in the minors to replace Kreider in the Rangers lineup. After bouncing back and forth between New York and Hartford all season, this may be his best opportunity yet to prove he belongs with the big boys.

Net presence: Should the Rangers meet the Flyers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, as many suspect they will, the Blueshirts can find comfort in the fact that they enjoy the edge in the goaltending department. While Lundqvist has been stellar as of late, there remain some question marks about Steve Mason. Mason has played well through stretches this season, even earning an extension from the Flyers in the process, though he has no playoff success to lean on. Mason let in a soft one in the third period Wednesday night with Moore’s tip that skittered through Mason’s pads for a 3-0 lead. Those aren’t the type of goals he can afford to be giving up if the Flyers want to advance past the first round.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 2, Devils 0

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
9:41
PM ET
NEWARK, N.J. -- Make that three straight wins for the New York Rangers, as the Blueshirts toppled their Hudson River rival New Jersey Devils 2-0 Saturday night at Prudential Center.

Avoiding what could’ve been an easy emotional letdown after the team’s pivotal win in Columbus, Ohio, just one night prior, the Rangers brought the same type of tenacity into New Jersey.

Rick Nash built on his banner performance against his former team and tallied his third goal in three games after beating veteran Martin Brodeur.

Brodeur was fantastic in what might be his last head-to-head battle with Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but Nash caught him distracted midway through the second period for the game’s first goal.

Meanwhile, Lundqvist passed Eddie Giacomin to become the Rangers’ all-time shutout leader with the 50th of his career.

The Rangers now return home to for a two-game set at Madison Square Garden, hosting the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday and division rival Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, after which they will embark on a four-game road trip.

Sparks fly: There appeared to be an emotional carryover from the Rangers’ fiery performance in Columbus one night prior, as the chippiness between the Blueshirts and Devils escalated quickly in the first period. Multiple scuffles had to be diffused throughout the first frame, including a shoving match between Daniel Carcillo and Devils captain Bryce Salvador and a tussle between Mats Zuccarello and Patrik Elias. The Rangers entered Saturday’s action just one night after a heated battle against the Blue Jackets, a huge win for New York to swap spots with Columbus and reclaim the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Down and out: Rocked by a hit from Columbus’ Blake Comeau, defenseman John Moore did not play Saturday because of concussion-like symptoms. It is not immediately clear how long he will be missing, though his injury cleared the way for trade-deadline acquisition Raphael Diaz to make his debut.

Nursing some wounds: There are a few mystery players on the Rangers roster that are nursing some "bumps and bruises," according to coach Alain Vigneault. Both newly signed college free agent Ryan Haggerty and depth defenseman Justin Faulk took warmups, though the two players were ultimately scratched. Keep an eye in the coming days, though. Whoever needs a "maintenance" day at practice in the upcoming week might be a bit more hampered than they appear.

Last-minute change: Interesting item to note: Vigneault discussed at length the need to use Diaz on the left side with defensive partner Kevin Klein (a fellow right-hander), though Diaz played on the right side during his Rangers debut with Klein skating on the left instead. Prior to Klein’s acquisition, the Rangers were desperate for righties to achieve some balance on the blue line. Now, they are swiveling spots to make way for yet another.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Blue Jackets 1

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
9:38
PM ET
Would it be too much to ask to see a first-round playoff series between the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets?

With so many familiar faces on both sides of what is turning out to be an unexpected but captivating rivalry, Friday night’s 3-1 Rangers win was an emotional, fireworks-filled slugfest between two teams clawing and scratching to remain in the playoff race.

Rick Nash was held off the score sheet in his long-awaited return to Columbus, but he provided plenty of action by engaging Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky in one particularly heated scuffle and then dropping the gloves against Matt Calvert to start the third period in perhaps his most fiery performance as a Ranger.

His fellow former Blue Jackets took care of the rest. Derick Brassard followed up a two-goal performance in Ottawa Tuesday with a go-ahead goal in the third period while Anton Stralman chipped in with two assists.

With their second consecutive win, the Rangers swapped spots with the Blue Jackets to take third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Rough stuff: Sparks were flying practically from the time the puck was dropped and the first-period enmity carried over into a chippy second period that culminated with a 5-on-5 fracas after Nash collided with Bobrovsky on a scoring attempt that was ultimately waived off because of incidental goaltender interference. After the play, Bobrovsky swatted Nash’s stick aside and Nash wasn’t too happy with the gesture, delivering a swift crosscheck to Bobrovsky’s throat as teammates from both sides jumped into the fray. Part of the emotional outburst may have been frustration on the Rangers’ part; the Blueshirts dominated the middle frame but couldn’t solve Bobrovsky, despite outshooting the Jackets by a 12-6 margin.

Tough loss: The Rangers were forced to play with five defensemen with John Moore missing the third period. Moore was rocked by a big hit from former Islander Blake Comeau in the first period, and though he returned after the blow, he did not appear after the second period. Good thing for the Rangers that they have depth defenseman Raphael Diaz waiting in the wings. The Rangers acquired the 28-year-old Diaz at the trade deadline from the Vancouver Canucks. The Rangers are Diaz’s third team this season.

Up next: There won’t be any time for rest or reflection as the Rangers enter hostile territory for a bitter divisional clash with their Hudson River rivals, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils are coming off an emotional 4-3 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild Thursday night in what was former captain Zach Parise’s first visit back to New Jersey since signing with his hometown club as an unrestricted free agent in July of 2012. According to Sportsclubstats.com, the Devils have only a 21.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, but they’re aiming to keep their postseason hopes alive with a win against the Rangers.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Senators 4

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
10:07
PM ET
Following a frustrating shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks Sunday afternoon, the New York Rangers found the offensive spark they had been missing with a season-high eight goals in an 8-4 win over the struggling Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.

Both Derick Brassard and Rick Nash finished with two goals apiece and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 302nd NHL win, which makes him the franchise’s all-time wins leader.

Lundqvist passed legendary Mike Richter for the milestone victory. He is one of only six active goaltenders in the National Hockey League with more than 300 wins.

More important than personal accolades, however, is that the Rangers made a move up the standings, climbing back into the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division standings.

Getting help: The Rangers had to like what they saw on the scoreboards elsewhere around the league Tuesday night, considering two close Metropolitan Division opponents -- New Jersey and Columbus -- both lost in regulation.

Floodgates open: Energized by Brassard’s game-tying goal midway through the second period, the Rangers turned an inspired performance in the middle frame into a 5-2 lead. Though New York tallied four times on Robin Lehner in the middle frame, snakebitten Martin St. Louis was not among the goal scorers. The 38-year-old veteran almost got his first goal as a Ranger, with his stick just a few inches from getting a piece on Ryan McDonagh’s blast that wrapped up the team’s offensive outburst with less than 16 seconds left in the period.

Late change: Former Islanders prospect Nathan Lawson replaced Lehner in the third period after Lehner’s ugly second period, but Lehner had to come back into the game late in the third after an apparent injury to Lawson. Goaltending hasn’t exactly been a strength of Ottawa’s this season. With starter Craig Anderson out with an upper-body injury, Lehner was 7-12-5 entering Tuesday’s action with a .910 save percentage and 3.13 goals-against average.

Chipping in: When quizzed about his scoring slump earlier this week, Nash said he’d have to find other ways to contribute if he wasn’t scoring goals, citing his penalty-killing efforts as a way of helping the team. Turns out he killed two birds with one stone Tuesday night when he tallied the team’s fourth short-handed goal in the past eight games, snapping a five-game goal drought of his own in the process. The Rangers’ seventh-ranked penalty kill has been terrific of late; until Mika Zibanejad’s goal that made it 2-1 in the first period, the Rangers had not surrendered a power-play goal in eight consecutive games.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 4, Jets 2

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
10:38
PM ET
The New York Rangers snapped a two-game skid with a solid, character win against the Winnipeg Jets, erasing a 2-1 first-period deficit to knock off the home team 4-2.

Carl Hagelin scored a hat trick and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was stellar in the latter two periods to record a milestone victory that solidifies his place in franchise history.

The 32-year-old netminder, who finished with 30 saves, is now tied with Rangers icon Mike Richter for the franchise record with 301 wins.

What it means: Following a disappointing performance in their past two games, the Rangers proved they can excel against a big, strong Winnipeg team that is desperate to keep its playoff hopes alive. With the win, the Blueshirts reclaimed second place in the Metropolitan Division, passing the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were idle on Friday night. The Rangers face a tough test ahead, though, as they return home to New York to host a scorching-hot San Jose Sharks team that is 9-1-1 in their past 11 games.

Speed kills: When the Rangers are playing well, they are a team that utilizes both their skill and speed. They did that against the Jets in the second period with two goals that resulted from heads-up plays from the team’s quickest forwards.

Chris Kreider, playing with so much confidence of late, showed both his patience and trademark speed in burying a lead pass from Derek Stepan to knot the score at two in the middle of the second period. Hagelin, who had only one goal in the past 13 games entering Friday’s action, gave the Rangers the lead with less than eight seconds left on the frame, racing down for a 2-on-2 goal, his second of the game, as veteran forward Martin St. Louis emerged from the penalty box.

Staying steady: Though it was a wide-open game in which both teams traded chances, Lundqvist came up big in the second period. The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner stood tall despite a flurry of Jets chances in the middle frame; he even came out past the faceoff circle in an aggressive move to poke-check the puck and thwart a chance by Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd.

Down and out: Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec suffered a lower-body injury, as ex-Islander and former first-round Rangers draft pick Al Montoya took over between the pipes in the second period. Pavelec has had a rough season with Winnipeg with a 20-24-6 record, 2.95 goals against average and .903 save percentage.

Rapid Reaction: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 1

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
9:40
PM ET
Following a decisive shutout win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, the New York Rangers laid an egg in Carolina with a 3-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

It was a head-scratching, uninspired effort for the Rangers, who did little to test Canes netminder Cam Ward and did plenty to allow Carolina some quality chances in their own end.

Both Jiri Tlusty and Jordan Staal recorded a goal and an assist apiece, while Ward picked up his first win since Dec. 31.

Tuesday’s defeat is one the Blueshirts will be eager to forget as they enter a back-to-back set against Minnesota and Winnipeg beginning Thursday.

Meanwhile, Lundqvist’s quest to tie Mike Richter’s franchise record of 301 wins will have to wait, as he was saddled with the loss amidst the team’s abysmal performance.

What it means: New York is one of those teams that is still puzzling people heading into the last month of the season. Is it one that could potentially play spoiler in the postseason against Eastern Conference titans such as the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Boston Bruins? Or are they simply just another one of the many mediocre, inconsistent teams jockeying for position among the middle of the pack in the standings? Tuesday night, they certainly looked to be the latter, with a dreadful effort against the Canes.

Family reunion: With defenseman Marc Staal facing his brothers Eric and Jordan on Tuesday night, it begs the question: Will he consider heading to Carolina to play alongside his siblings down the road? The 27-year-old defenseman, who has bounced back after being hampered by injuries the previous two seasons, will be an unrestricted free agent in July 2015. That is, if he makes it that far. If he wishes to remain in the Big Apple, the Rangers will want to avoid the type of protracted contract negotiations with the team’s pending UFAs from this season: Lundqvist, defenseman Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan, who was ultimately traded at the deadline last week. If Staal has a desire to play alongside his brothers (and really, who could blame him for that?) the Rangers will need to consider the possibility of a trade with Carolina.

Understated move: For as much buzz that the Rangers’ shocking deadline trade garnered -- fans are still processing the swap of Ryan Callahan for Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis -- one earlier deal has gone largely unnoticed. But just because general manager Glen Sather’s move to acquire veteran defenseman Kevin Klein wasn’t nearly as big as a splash doesn’t mean it wasn’t a shrewd one. In fact, Klein, who recorded his first goal as a Ranger on Tuesday night, is proving himself to be a very valuable asset. The 29-year-old Klein has been steady on the backhand and has provided the Rangers with some much-needed depth on the back end. It also helps that he has four years left on a five-year, $14.5 million deal, especially if the Rangers are unable to get pending unrestricted free agent Anton Stralman under contract before July 1. The New York Post reported this weekend that the fellow right-handed defenseman recently spurned a three-year contract offer from the club.

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