In what could be considered one of the most exciting games of the season so far, the Penguins-Rangers game on Saturday night had everything; including one of the most bizarre endings to a game in history. After supposedly winning the shootout 2-1 on a goal by Dan Boyle, the play was reviewed as both teams exited the ice and fans headed towards the exits. The war room in Toronto ultimately determined that the goal was scored off of a rebound, and the shootout needed to be continued.
Upon returning to the ice, Brandon Sutter beat Lundqvist through the five-hole and Marc-Andre Fleury robbed Rick Nash on a forehand-backhand move thus completing one of the most unusual comeback wins in the history of the game.
“Half the guys were undressed and we kind of heard them beeping the horn and we weren’t sure what was going on, [I} just stuck my head out and they said it was no goal so we were kind of just panicking getting our stuff back together and that’s kind of an unfortunate way to lose”, Dan Girardi admitted after the game.
In the section of the rulebook that covers penalty shots, the shootout ruling was clearly justified. “No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind (an exception being the puck off the goal post or crossbar, then the goalkeeper and then directly into the goal), and any time the puck crosses the goal line or comes to a complete stop, the shot shall be considered complete.”
Had the puck hit the post and then bounced off of Marc-Andre Fleury’s equipment and then into the net, the goal would have counted, the Rangers would have earned the extra point, and would now maintain sole possession of third place in the division behind the Penguins and Islanders. As fate would have it, the Rangers now find themselves technically out of a playoff spot, considering that both Detroit (21 points) and Ottawa (20 points) would sneak into the wild-card spots.
Stay Calm, Rangers Fans
A few major events get lost in the media cacophony following the bizarre events in the shootout. The most important of which includes the return of Dan Girardi after a monstrous hit delivered by Evgeni Malkin midway through the third period.
With the blue-line as thin as it has been this season, the last thing the Rangers could afford would be to lose arguably their best remaining defenseman. Girardi did not see action the rest of the third period, but was on the ice in overtime for the 4-on-3 power play, which allows assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson to breathe a sigh of relief.
Special Teams Rebounds
This season the Rangers power play ranks 21st in the league at 14.9% and has given up three goals against while on the man advantage. The lack of performance may possibly be attributed to the injuries to power play quarterback Dan Boyle and the loss of Derek Stepan early in training camp. With the return of both players to the lineup this past week, the Rangers power play has drastically improved. Prior to the 5-0 win on Tuesday, the Penguins had gone 39 consecutive penalty-kills without allowing a goal, and held the leagues second-best penalty kill. Derek Brassard’s 2nd period snipe over Fleury’s glove ended that streak, and entering Saturday night’s contest, the Pens were 45 of 46 on the pk before the Rangers struck again in the first period.
The Rangers power play seems to be rounding into form with the return of Dan Boyle quarterbacking the unit. In addition to scoring in both games against Pittsburgh this week, the Rangers also came close to scoring a power play goal Thursday night against Colorado, as Dan Girardi’s second-period goal came just seconds after the power play had expired.
Pittsburgh’s dominance on the power play this season has been well documented and they sit atop the league in power play percentage at 32.8%. During the two games this week, the Rangers held the Pens scoreless on the man advantage and Rick Nash scored a shorthanded goal Tuesday night. Being able to outperform one of the league’s best on special teams twice in on week will surely be a confidence builder for a Rangers team still finding their way without penalty killing expert Brian Boyle or power play quarterback Brad Richards.
Injured Defense Delivering
Last, but certainly not least, what gets lost in the loss Saturday night is the fact that the Rangers took three of four possible points against the division-leading Penguins. The Pens came into Saturday’s game third in the league with an average of 3.62 goals per game, and their leading scorer Sidney Crosby second in scoring with 25 points in 16 games . During the two games this week, the Rangers held the Penguins to two even-strength goals, and held Sidney Crosby pointless in both contests. This is even more impressive when considering the injury to top defenseman and captain Ryan McDonagh and the fact that the Rangers were without Dan Boyle on Tuesday.
The Rangers have also been getting offensive contributions from their blue line. Kevin Klein leads the back-end with three goals including a tally on Tuesday against the Penguins, and a game-winning overtime goal against the Devils earlier this year. Matt Hunwick has been a pleasant surprise this season as he leads all defensemen on the team with six assists and has gotten rewarded with some power play time on the second unit. Dan Girardi has also picked up his offensive game with the increased minutes he’s been receiving scoring first goal of the season Thursday against Colorado, and is tied with Hunwick for the team lead on defense with six points.
When all is said and done, the point lost on Saturday night may become increasingly important. In 2009-2010, the Rangers missed the playoffs by a single point, losing to Philadelphia in a shootout in the final game of the regular season.
Should the Rangers miss out on a spot by a single point again, many fans will surely look back to this game and shake their heads, whether or not the right call was made. Despite the loss of the extra point, however, the Rangers look to be trending in the right direction, and look poised to find their groove as they continue to get players back from injury.