The Rangers fought their way, and themselves, through another game. We all know Cam Ward and Carolina have always seemed to have our number. Carolina has a habit of giving us fits. They always manage to beat us at the most inconvenient times. That's why in this game, it was so refreshing to see the Rangers get out to an early 1-0 first period lead resulting from some nifty work by Sean Avery and a goal by Brandon Prust. We gave back the goal for a first period tie, but Ryan Callahan put us back in front just in time for the second intermission with a Power Play goal. Yes, you heard correctly. I said a Power Play goal.
The third period turned into the Jussi Jokenin Show for Carolina. He beat Henrik Lundqvist for two goals and there went the Rangers' lead. So much more could have been lost right then. The Hurricanes held a 3-2 edge and seemingly had a hand around the Ranger season's neck. The resulting choke would have been money in the bank, even right up until last season. But that's why these guys are a little different that past editions of Blueshirts. We no longer sit around waiting for the other shoe to fall off. We no longer wait around for third periods where the Rangers built a reputation for collapsing like a circus tent at the end of another bad show. We now hang in there and fight because it's what we do best.
Regulation expired as did over-time and the Rangers were still no better off than they were 65 minutes earlier. The Rangers last chance to put at least another point of distance between them and Carolina; teams Seven and Eight in the Conference standings, would be decided in a shoot-out.
Wojtek Wolski stepped up for the Rangers again and delivered the only puck to get past a Goalie in the over-over-time. The diminutive forward scored the biggest goal of his short Rangers' career since the biggest goal he scored way back..... in the third period! Hey, even Super Heroes have to work overtime once in a while.
But this game turned out to be a reminder why we shouldn't be such a knee-jerk bunch when reacting to so many things about the Rangers; and namely the lack of scoring and a not so spectacular Henrik lately. I personally am having a hard time taking frustrations out on the players. They work too damn hard for that.
There are periphery issues with some players, but none that trump the aggravation I'm sure most of us share due to Glen Sather. But the players? No; - They are a good bunch worthy of supporting.
Thus far, those were two of the most important points the Rangers earned this season. There are three points between us and the Carolina Hurricanes now. The Rangers must continue to use Carolina as a buffer to protect against Buffalo, Atlanta, Toronto, Florida, and the hard charging Devils. We can not taste Eighth place!
NEW YORK RANGERS
32-26-4 68 Points
7th Place, Eastern Conference
32-19-10 74 points
5th Place, Eastern Conference
Two points against Washington tonight gets us into the 70 point club. All the Eastern Conference teams that matter have games in hand over us. Any loss now by the Rangers shortens our season by a game on the back-end. We'll have to play tonight's game without Marc Staal who got drubbed by his own brother during the Carolina game. He'll be sitting out with a twisted knee and maybe even concussion issues. This comes on the heals of losing Marian Gaborik to concussion symptoms. Marian's return is still undetermined. The Rangers have had to deal with a myriad of injuries to their forward lines. Injury has now found our Defenses. Marc Staal is the single-most player the Rangers can not afford to skate without. We will see who Coach Torts will have out on the ice defending against Ovechkin's line. But should Marc Staal miss any substantial time, I'll finally say we are in big trouble. I've fought against feeling that way this long. They've earned that from us.
The playoffs have started early for the Rangers. It's time to start growing those beards. Playing with a sense of desperation is needed to carry us through to April. There are exactly 20 games left on the schedule. The battle to extend their season started Tuesday. They need to dig deep within themselves now.
**The Trade Dead-Line looms and there's no sign of life coming out of Sather's office. That may not be a bad thing. I'm in no rush to start giving away any of our new young Blueshirts. I'd rather see a cheap rental and more purging of the dead weight plaguing this roster.
** Ruslan Fedotenko returns to action tonight.
LET'S GO RANGERS !!