It’s been 10 days since the Rangers earned two points. In that time they have played four games, earning just one point and allowing four goals in all four games. What makes it even worse is that in the four games, the Rangers scored just seven goals with three of them coming in one game (Dec. 7 vs. New Jersey) and to make it even worse than that, all four games were at home and to make it even worse that that, Henrik Lundqvist started all four games. The Rangers’ high-water mark of the season has been one game over .500. They have achieved that six times this season, but have managed to fall back to .500 following each win to bring them over .500 (with the exception of that Dec. 7 shootout loss to the Devils, which made them 15-14-1).
With 33 games gone (40 percent of the season), the Rangers found themselves in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division and 13th place in the Eastern Conference entering Sunday’s game against the Flames at Madison Square Garden. And then 15 minutes into the game against the Flames, they found themselves trailing 2-0, marking the third straight game they trailed by at least two goals before finding the back of the net. But Derek Stepan would score with 4:35 left in the first (his first goal in 10 games) and Carl Hagelin would tie it at 2 at 7:29 of the the second period, which is the way it would stay through the second. And that’s where we pick things up in this Retro Recap.
20:00: The Rangers fought back to tie the game at 2 and now they will try to successfully complete a comeback by winning the third period or winning in overtime or a shootout. It’s been 10 days since the Rangers’ last win, but it feels like it’s been a month. That win came over Buffalo on Dec. 5, which probably shouldn’t even count for two points this season, considering Buffalo has an NHL-worst 17 points.
As they always do, Swedish House Mafia takes us to the opening faceoff of the period with “Save The World,” which asks, “Who’s gonna save the world tonight?” It’s probably going to have to be Henrik Lundqvist and it should be since he hasn’t done anything worthy of a king since signing his extension on Dec. 4, going just 1-3-1 since then.
John Giannone is doing the play-by-play with Sam Rosen in Atlanta today calling the Falcons-Redskins game for FOX. When my girlfriend heard Sam’s voice earlier in the day and put two and two together that it was the same voice she hears during Rangers games, her face lit up as if a light went off in her head and she looked like a little kid seeing and hearing Tim Allen in The Santa Claus and realizing that guy who turns into Santa is also the voice of Buzz Lightyear.
17:32: It’s been a slow two and a half minutes to open the period with not much happening for either team. The puck just hit Derick Brassard in the middle of a line change near the Rangers bench, which drew a whistle, but not a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, which the ref then had to explain to both benches to delay the game. That’s all the action we have seen so far in the third.
16:42: The Rangers lead 19-14 in shots, which isn’t good for Lundqvist’s save percentage. AV has Carl Hagelin playing with Brian Boyle, which completely cancels out Hagelin’s speed. Why would you want Hagelin and Boyle on the same line? You wouldn’t.
15:16: The Flames score. Anton Stralman and Mats Zuccarello both get beat in the corner (with Zuccarello falling down) and then Derick Brassard gets beat to the net by Sean Monahan as Curtis Glencross finds Monahan and he gets one past Lundqvist. Another odd, bad goal scored against Lundqvist and the Rangers will have to come back again.
14:03: Usually these Retro Recaps work. Actually I think they pretty much always work. Whether it’s the Rangers needing a win, the New York Football Giants needing to win the 2011 NFC Championship Game or Phil Hughes needing to pitch a gem, whenever I do a Retro Recap for a game, it turns out to be for the best. Just thought I would throw this fact out there now, while there’s still 14 minutes for the Rangers to tie it.
13:36: Michael Del Zotto rips a shot from the point into some Calgary shin pads the way that only Michael Del Zotto can and the puck comes out of the zone. Just when it looked like Del Zotto was playing his way out of the lineup for good and possibly out of the organization, he had to go and score that goal against Vancouver in his first game back following two consecutive healthy scratches and five of eight healthy scratches.
12:37: Chris Kreider receives a long pass as he streaks down the left side and lets a slap shot go from just inside the blue as the crowd gets up and excited for the first time in the third period. It’s never a good sign when you’re trailing by one goal, not generating any offense and the crowd is creating artificial excitement off a low-percentage shot on a 1-on-1.
10:34: Since I already touched on putting Hagelin and Boyle on the same line, let’s talk about the idea of pairing Del Zotto with Dan Girardi. Is this real life? You’re going to put the worst defenseman on the team with the second-worst defenseman on the team? When I wrote that last sentence/question I meant for Del Zotto to be “the worst defenseman on the team” and for Girardi to be “the second-worst defenseman” on the team, but then I realized they interchangeable and could be classified as either.
We know that Del Zotto serves limited purpose since he isn’t a defensive defenseman and hasn’t evolved in the offensive defenseman we thought he might turn out to be. So he’s now just a defensive liability who doesn’t do enough in his own zone to be worthy of playing time and doesn’t score enough to be worthy of playing time, but he’s still getting playing time and plenty of it. Remember when the supposed strong, young defensive core was the future of the Rangers? (Crickets … crickets … crickets.)
As for Girardi, I hope I don’t hear anyone mention the need to extend him between now and the end of the season. He scored his second goal of the season for the Rangers on Thursday night, but he has a long ways to go to make up for the 15 goals he has scored against Henrik Lundqvist this season.
And the best part about this defensive pair is their inability to hit the net with any shot from the point. They are the opponent’s best breakout strategy.
10:12: Dylan McIlrath gets his stick up on Mike Cammalleri on the way to the corner after Cammalleri initiated contact with McIlrath to position himself in a way that would avoid him getting destroyed along the boards. McIlrath gets called for high-sticking and the Flames have a chance to put this game away.
9:45: A whistle on the power play and we’re reminded that coming up is the “Foxwoods Final Five,” which is when Foxwoods sponsors the final five minutes of the game. In December, the Rangers have played six games and have lost five of them and have been trailing by at least two goals for the final five minutes of the five losses. Is anyone even watching the final five minutes of Rangers games? Wouldn’t Foxwoods be better off sponsoring the first five minutes of the game?
8:12: The Rangers kill off McIlrath’s penalty as the Flames aren’t able to put together or set up anything in the Rangers’ zone. It looked like what I imagine the Rangers’ power play against the Rangers’ penalty kill looks like at practice.
8:02: With just three shots so far in the period, Joe Micheletti says, “The Rangers need shots.” Thank you, Joe. Here I was thinking there would be another way for them to tie this game.
7:53: The Rangers score! Derek Stepan makes a nice move near the bottom of the left circle and gets the puck to the front of the net where Kreider is to put it home. And how exactly did the Rangers score? With a shot on net, of course. Joe Micheletti, you genius you!
4:58: There was a TV timeout with 6:44 left and since then it’s been all Calgary as the Rangers are having a tough time clearing the zone and getting a chance. It feels like a Flames goal is coming any second now and probably will before I finish writing this.
4:33: And the puck is finally out of the zone.
3:56: Cammalleri gets called for roughing, which is some nice payback after he drew the penalty earlier against McIlrath.
3:16: Rick Nash makes a nice move along the goal line and with the puck in the air headed toward Karri Ramo, Ramo paddles it out of the air and it goes over the glass for a delay of game penalty. It’s going to be a 5-on-3 for the Rangers for 1:20. Flames head coach Bob Hartley looks like he just got back to his car in the parking lot of a grocery store only to find a note on it that says, “Sorry, I hit your car. I picked up your bumper and put it on top of your trunk. I was in a hurry and had to go and you weren’t around. Here’s my number.”
2:44: The power play unit is Nash, Stepan, Kreider, Brad Richards and Ryan McDonagh. In other words: only people that should be playing on the power play.
1:56: Kreider gets called for high-sticking in front of the net on the power play and it’s going to be a double minor. What a terrible turn of events. From a 5-on-4 to a 5-on-3 to now 4-4 to then being down 5-on-4 for the rest of the third and then 4-on-3 in overtime.
Guns N’ Roses’ “Nighttrain” is now playing at the Garden, so maybe everything will be fine.
0:00: That will do it for the third. We’re headed to overtime. One point for the Rangers, but getting one point once every four games isn’t going to cut it.
5:00: The Flames start overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage and the Rangers have Boyle, Girardi and McDonagh on the ice. Over/under 45 seconds until this game is over? If you want to use Boyle to kill penalties during regulation, I get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. But when you’re using him in overtime to kill penalties and to kill a 4-on-3, well that’s just irresponsible. He is no way the best forward on the team suited for this role
4:23: A huge save by Lundqvist in front on Glencross, which momentarily saves the game for the Rangers. 30 big save on glen
3:26: Dominic Moore is now on the ice as the lone forward in the 4-on-3 and McDonagh is still on the ice, having played all of overtime so far.
2:56: Kreider’s penaty is killed off and I lost that under bet from earlier too.
2:16: Del Zotto sends a nice, long flip pass across the ice to lead Kreider, but it’s too hard to handle for Kreider to turn into a breakaway and he gets stopped. “Sandstorm” now blaring at MSG. With this soundtrack, how can the Rangers lose?
:40: Kreider and Del Zotto have a 2-on-1 chance, but with the puck bouncing on the ice, Kreider can’t handle it and the play is broken up.
0:00: That will do it for overtime. We’re headed for a shootout.
Rangers: Mats Zuccarello starts things off by fooling everyone in the world. Instead of his patented move that has led him to a 50 perecent career success rate in shootouts, he comes down the right side and cuts into the middle moving slowly like usual, but then just snaps a shot off top tit on Ramo. 1-0 Rangers.
Flames: Former Bruin and lanky fourth-liner Joe Colborne comes down and somehow dekes Lundqvist to tie the shootout at 1.
Rangers: Nash makes a nice moves, but at the end when he tries to slide it in just inside the post on his forehand, Ramo’s right pad is there to stop it. If Nash had lifted the puck, it’s an easy goal.
Flames: Jiri Hudler gets stoned by Lundqvist
Rangers: Stepan can’t score.
Flames: Lundqvist stops Monahan.
Rangers: Richards comes flying down and wrists one medium tit or maybe three-quarters tit on Ramo. 2-1 Rangers and with a Lundqvist save, it’s over.
Flames: Lee Stempniak loses the puck and regains it in time to backhand one on the ice through Lundqvist’s legs as he moves right to left. We’re tied again.
Rangers: Brassard gets stopped.
Flames: I thought Cammalleri would end it, but he can’t.
Rangers: Dominic Moore rips one from the slot to the left side to give the Rangers a 3-2 shootout lead and a chance for Lundqvist to close it out again.
Flames: Lundqvist wants to see how long this Retro Recap can be as Paul Byron scores on him to tie it again.
Rangers: Benoit Pouliot goes to Nash’s one-hand move and gets the puck past Ramo with ease. Out of all the times I have seen the move done, never before has it pulled a goalie so far to one side, leaving basically an entire half of the net for Pouliot to slide it in. Come on, Lundqvist.
Flames: Lundqvist closes it out by stopping Mikael Backlund and looks tired and worn out doing so after raising his arms to the Garden rafters in triumph.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t against a good team, but a win’s a win. After 65 minutes of play and seven shootout rounds, the Rangers have their two points. They earned them.