Throughout the summer, The Hockey Writers will count down the ten best regular season games, and the five best playoff games from the New York Rangers 2011-12 season. The Rangers won 51 games and recorded 109 points in 2011-12, and won the Atlantic Division for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
The 9th best game of the Rangers’ 2011-12 season took place on November 11th, 2011, when the Rangers played the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers were in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season. After starting the season with a seven-game road trip, the Rangers returned to New York for a six-game home stand. The Broadway Blueshirts won the last four games of the home stand, and then beat the Senators in Ottawa to extend their winning streak to five games.
One of the reasons that the Rangers had won their previous five games, and were successful throughout most the season, was due in large part to getting contributions from different players on the roster. The game against the Hurricanes in early November was no exception.
One of the contributors early in the game was Sean Avery. After spending the first month of the season in the AHL, Avery was recalled by the Rangers in early November, and the game against the Hurricanes was his fourth of the season with the Blueshirts.
Just before the midway point of the first period, a clearing attempt by Rangers’ defenseman Jeff Woywitka went out of the zone and hopped over the stick of Hurricanes’ defenseman Bryan Allen. Avery picked up the loose puck, and on the ensuing breakaway, Avery roofed a wrist shot over Cam Ward to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
While Avery provided the early offense, Henrik Lundqvist was solid in goal for the Rangers. The Blueshirts were outshot 14-8 in the first period, but Lundqvist was able to keep the score at 1-0 after twenty minutes of hockey.
In the second period, Ward stopped all 15 shots that the Rangers sent his way, and the Hurricanes tied the game late in the period. With a tired Rangers unit out on the ice, Jamie McBain’s long pass was able to spring Alexei Ponikarovsky for a breakaway. The Hurricanes’ forward wasted no time beating Lundqvist with a wrist shot through the five hole.
Midway through the third period, the Rangers cashed in on an abbreviated power play. A series of tape-to-tape passes worked the puck around until Brad Richards made a no-look pass to Dan Girardi at the bottom of the right circle, and the defenseman’s wrist shot gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
With the Garden still buzzing from the go-ahead goal, the Rangers quickly added an insurance goal. After the puck was dropped following Girardi’s goal, the Rangers were able to storm into the Hurricanes zone. Ryan Callahan’s shot from the right circle was stopped by Ward, but the rebound landed right on the stick of Brandon Dubinsky, who buried the shot into a vacant net. The goal was Dubinsky’s 1st of the season, and came nine seconds after Girardi gave the Rangers the lead.
“It’s certainly a good weight off your shoulders,” Dubinsky said about scoring his 1st goal of the year. “You can’t hope for a better gift than a wide open net with the puck on your stick.”
Following the two quick goals, the Rangers proceeded to blow the game open. With 6:13 remaining in the 3rd, Callahan poked a loose puck by Ward for his 7th goal of the season. Then, with 1:34 left to play in regulation, Ward mishandled the puck behind the net, and Richards was able to take the puck away from the Hurricanes’ goalie and stuff it into the empty net.
In the 5-1 victory, the Rangers had five different goal scorers, and got points from nine different players. The victory was the Rangers’ sixth consecutive win in what would turn out to be a seven-game winning streak.