The New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators by a score of 4-3 at MSG. For a box score, click here.
Raise your hand if you thought it was going to be another one of those nights just over three minutes into the game. Anyone who doesn’t have their hand raised is lying. Two goals on two shots and it absolutely looked like the Rangers were still on break for the holidays.
But then we had a young guy from Minnesota with a letter on his jersey stand up and say “enough is enough”. And after screaming at his teammates, he put his money where his mouth was and played every shift like it was the most important shift of the season. No I’m not talking about captain Ryan McDonagh, but alternate captain Derek Stepan. I was pretty vocal when it came time to pick a new captain that I thought Stepan was the better option. Nights like tonight is the reason why. Stepan has no problem calling out his teammates when their play isn’t acceptable. I have no idea what McDonagh does in the room but I’ve never seen him do that on the bench.
That’s not to say McDonagh didn’t do what he does, which is let his play lead the way. The captain had three assists, although I know he was off the ice for one and pretty sure he was leaving the ice for the second. While there was discussion earlier about the captain and his defense partner, that pair once again looked fine shutting down the Senators top players.
But other than the assists, McDonagh and Girardi did their part quietly while Nick Holden let his presence be known. How do you know you’re playing against a backup goaltender? When Holden is able to score the two goals that he did. First was a sharp angle shot from below the circles, second was a wrap around that somehow went through Condon’s five hole. Simply put, neither of those should have hit the back of the net. But good teams find a way to take advantage of a backup goalie and Holden definitely did tonight.
While Holden got the Rangers first and last goals, Stepan did the work in-between. First, he found a loose puck right as a power play ended to make it 3-2 early in the second period. Twelve minutes later, it took the Rangers five seconds from the start of their third power play for the puck to hit the back of the net. Stepan won the faceoff clean (words I rarely type) and then went to the slot to tip home the shot from Zuccarello to tie the game.
Speaking of Zuccarello, everyone said if he had been on the ice when Lundqvist had been run in Dallas, there would have been a response. Tonight, he was on the ice as Chris Neil shoved Brady Skjei. I completely understand why it may have looked worse in real time but on replay, it was nothing more than a shove. Zuccarello saw it and immediately went after Neil. Necessary? In that situation probably not. Appreciated by his teammates? Absolutely. And this is why I laugh when people say the Rangers need more “tough guys”. They have guys who will take care of this stuff when necessary. Unfortunately it isn’t all of them so sometimes they just aren’t on the ice when needed.
Although I guess some are still learning…
Yes that is Jimmy Vesey in his first NHL fight. I wouldn’t exactly call it a barn burner but the rookie did at least get a punch or two in. Fortunately Mark Stone isn’t exactly a fighter either.
Add Raanta quickly getting over his bad start and you have what looked like it would be another bad loss instead becoming a comeback win. Hopefully the team can use this as a stepping stone in the right direction as they head on the road for the remainder of 2016. First up is a trip to Arizona on Thursday night, where the players will be bringing their siblings. I’ve heard both Staal and Hayes have brothers. Wonder if they’ll be on the trip.
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)