The New York Rangers came to the Lone Star State on Monday, December 29 to play the Dallas Stars and try to extend their current winning streak. The Rangers winning streak sat at eight games, which was good enough to tie for the third longest in team history (two other Rangers teams had notched ten-game streaks, most recently during the 1972-73 season). The streak began on December 8, when Kevin Klein scored the game-winner in overtime after losing part of his ear to a high stick. The Blueshirts then swept their 4-game trip to Western Canada, survived a home-and-home series with the Carolina Hurricanes, and beat the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils at MSG.
For a team that had struggled with inconsistency through the start of the season, the streak could not have come at a better time. Before it started, the Blueshirts had just lost back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings. Their record in November was only fair (6-4-4), but they had started playing better late in the month. Still, they were out of playoff position–and other teams were gaining ground. The streak brought them back above the line and in much better position–as they still have at least two games in hand on all teams ahead of them in the standings.
A Rangers Winning Streak Ends
If there was a defining moment in the game against Dallas, it would probably have to be the Stars second goal. This goal put Dallas in the lead 2-1, and the way it was scored seemed to take the wind out of the Rangers’ sails. After a period of extended Dallas pressure, the Rangers appeared to be regaining possession of the puck. But Kevin Hayes work along the boards went for nothing as the puck popped off his stick, sailed past Tanner Glass, and right back to a waiting Dallas player (Jason Demers) at the right point. Demers worked the puck down low to Ales Hemsky below the goal line. Hemsky spun and flung the puck towards the front of the net, but it bounced off the foot of Henrik Lundqvist’s pad and into the net.
While not the game-winner, it was a tough goal to swallow. Kevin Hayes evened up the score a minute later, but the Stars went ahead for good at the beginning of the third period. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who has had some rough games lately, stood tall and turned aside all ten Rangers shots in the third period to hold on to the win and end the Rangers historic streak.
Can the Rangers Start Another Streak?
There were some mistakes against Dallas that led to Stars goals, but this was definitely a winnable game for the Rangers. There’s no reason to believe that the Rangers can’t continue their winning ways. Mistakes are fixable–but the Rangers still need more consistency in their game. While they outshot the Stars 30-27, there were several stretches where the Rangers could not maintain control of the puck. They turned the puck over too many times, and it cost them.
That trend cannot continue if they hope to get back to winning in their next game against the Florida Panthers on New Year’s Eve. The Panthers have also been a strong team lately (7-3-2 in the month of December so far), so the Blueshirts will have their work cut out for them. If the turnovers continue against the young, fast Panthers, then the Rangers will have to wait until 2015 to start another streak. Call it a New Year’s Resolution.
Kevin has been covering the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers for The Hockey Writers since the 2013-14 season. Before that, he has written about, played, and coached hockey at all levels. He grew up a Rangers fan in the Southern Tier of New York State, but now lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and two sons. You can reach him on Twitter as @kmizTHW , or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).