Rangers Pull out Huge Win in Game Three

Home was where the goals were for the parent New York Rangers last night, as a Ranger team that had scored all of one goal in the first two games of its series with Washington broke out for four, in a possibly season-saving 4-3 victory at Madison Square Garden.

It was hardly a dominating performance, as during the parts of the game I had a chance to see the Rangers spent a ton of time in their own zone, and they killed off a late third-period Capital power play by the skin of their teeth as time ran out.  They did get timely scoring, though, outhit Washington 33-22 and were strong in one of their calling-card areas, blocked shots, with 19.

staal_02

Marc Staal during his first pro experience, a 12-game stint with the Wolf Pack in the 2006 playoffs.

It had been widely speculated that Ryane Clowe might make his first playoff appearance with the Rangers in Game Three, and that did not happen, but what did is the return of Marc Staal, who hadn’t played since sustaining a serious eye injury March 5.  Thinking about the game beforehand, you figured that getting Clowe back might have been a big help for the struggling offense, and you’re not expecting Staal, even if he did play, to have a significant impact in that area.  As it turned out, though, the intangible effect of seeing a player like Staal, who is such a major part of the fabric of the club, finally back from such a scary injury seemed to have helped lift the whole team.

“It helps the room. He’s so respected in the room,” is how Ranger head coach John Tortorella explained it to the media after the game.  “This is two major injuries he’s come back from. Even before we step on the ice, I think that really helps your room. He’s just so well-liked.”

The winning goal came off the stick of Ranger regular season points leader Derek Stepan, who had been held off the scoresheet in the first two games.  That tally came at the 13:35 mark of the third period, after Washington had come back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to tie, and the play was started by a bit of a riverboat gamble by Stepan’s fellow former University of Wisconsin Badger, Ryan McDonagh.  He had the puck at the left point and instead of throwing it in deep, he dangled away from Alex Ovechkin, before working the puck to Mats Zuccarello in the corner.  Zuccarello then fed it to the opposite side to Rick Nash, who found Stepan in front for the finish.

If Ovechkin pokes the puck away there, he is likely gone the other way, and McDonagh’s boldness with the puck in that dangerous area had me just about screaming at the TV screen, “What are you doing?!”  It turned out to be a great play, though, and what a show of confidence by McDonagh, who was in the penalty box for delay of game when Mike Green scored in overtime to win Game Two for the Caps.  Shows you what I know, and shows you that McDonagh has the kind of moxie that great players have.  Not many guys would have the cojones to make that play, knowing that the coach is going to blow his top on them if it goes wrong, but McDonagh, whose career is still awfully young, did, and it led to the biggest goal so far of the Rangers’ season.

Stepan’s marker was one of two hard-battling Ranger scores in the third.  The other was rung up by Arron Asham, who ironically was the player rumored to be the prime candidate to be scratched if Clowe was able to play.  That might have brought up an interesting quandary for the Ranger coaching staff if Clowe was good to go for Game Four tomorrow night…whom would you take out of the lineup after such a big win?  Sounds like that is not going to be an issue, however, as Darroll Powe did not return to last night’s game after coming together with Washington’s Joel Ward in the first period, and the consensus among the media following the Rangers today was that he was likely out for Game Four.

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