After going into the break on a positive note, winning three of four going into the All-Star game, the Rangers lost their first game of the final stretch in disheartening fashion. Despite outshooting the Devils and Lundqvist being his usual self, they were outplayed by Cory Schneider and blew a third period lead helping New Jersey edge ever closer to a playoff spot.
During the third period Kevin Klein was knocked out of the game and declared out indefinitely with a broken thumb thus adding salt to the wound. Throw in the mix that Rick Nash was still missing in action with his leg injury and it was a night to forget for Rangerstown.
More importantly, this late in the season it raised a lot of question over just how far this team could possibly go. If fans, analysts, coaches or players were told a week ago that Ryan McDonagh would go on to get concussed four days later, they would likely think that panic mode was officially in effect in the big apple. But that isn’t exactly how things have shaped up.
Yes, McDonagh is out and his importance to the team cannot be overstated but everything else is much different than it seemed just a week ago. Playoff teams and later championship teams usually point to a handful of pivotal moments or “turning points” throughout a season. It is as evident as possible with the intangible that we witnessed a turning point 19:47 into the third period this Saturday in the city of brotherly love.
With Lundqvist on the bench Keith Yandle powered a slap shot past Steve Mason to effectively earn the Rangers a much needed point and send the game to overtime against the surging Flyers. There they completed the momentum swing in the shootout. This momentous turn of events was aided by a solid performance the previous game against Minnesota. However, in a matinee against Philly the Rangers came out sluggish. However, as they have in their finest moments under Vigneault, they found a way to win simply by being the better team on the scoreboard.
The importance of those moments was on full display with the Devils coming back across the Hudson on Monday night. What a difference a week made. The Rangers played a complete and dominant sixty minutes. Despite another strong outing from Cory Schneider, who is now amongst the best in the game, they willed the puck past him with sustained pressure and repeated shooting.
When it was all said and done the scoreboard only read 2-1 but anyone watching saw one of the more confident and complete outings from a team that suddenly looks like they are headed in the right direction. With Miller surging and Kreider breaking the seal the last piece needed to be firing on all cylinders would be if Kevin Hayes can find his stroke. That and some better injury luck could have things looking much better than they did a week ago in Rangerstown.