The New York Rangers enter the Christmas break on a 4 game win streak after taking care of the Flyers 4-2 tonight at MSG. Showing no signs of fatigue after beating the Islanders just 24 hours earlier, New York outworked a well rested Flyers team to take over first place in the Atlantic division and second overall in the conference.
In a Winter Classic preview, fans got treated to one of those rare early season games that had a playoff atmosphere. Both teams brought the intensity early and we saw good efforts by both in all areas of the ice. The Flyer offense pressed early but the Ranger defense proved to be up to the challenge. When there was a breakdown, King Henrik showed the world why he wears the crown in New York. Throwing up a shutout until midway through the 3rd period when Andrej Meszaros beat him with a slapshot from the point on the powerplay while the goalie was screened. James van Riemsdyk made the 4-2 game look closer than it actually was, but make no mistake, Henrik Lundqvist was in control the whole way.
The play was physical from the start with both teams doling out open ice checks and gritty board work. The grit gave way to two fights, neither of which got ugly, with Marc-Andre Bourdon and his visor taking on Brandon Prust in the first period. In the second period Brian Boyle and Tom Sestito tangled without landing to many shots. A good, clean physical game played by both sides from start to finish.
On the offensive front, Marian Gaborik remains hot, scoring his team and league leading 21st goal of the season. Gaborik was sprung by a nice outlet from Anton Strahlman as the Ranger defense continues to help spark the offense. Defensemen Stu Bickel and Michael Del Zotto each had a pair of assists tonight and Strahlman and Dan Girardi each chipped in with an assist. Ruslan Fedetenko got off a 10 game goal scoring drought with a tip in goal, and Ryan Callahan scored a put away powperplay goal late in the 3rd. Saving the best for first was definitely Derek Stepan, who opened the games scoring on a beautiful redirection in the second period. Stepan got enough of a rising shot by Bickel going wide to steer it just inside the post and past a reaching Ilya Bryzgalov. Not only was it a pretty goal, it let the Rangers’ know that Bryzgalov was beatable tonight helping inspire the offensive effort.
An all around complete effort by the Blueshirts tonight sends a message to the league that they are for real. The goal this season isn’t to make the playoff, they want something more.
- Anton Strahlman, Tim Erixon and Stu Bickel continue to play well in the absence of Marc Staal, Michael Sauer, Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka.
- Jaromir Jagr returned to MSG for the first time since leaving for the Russian KHL in 2008 and was booed when he first touched the puck. I was hoping he would receive a warmer reception.
- The Rangers’ resume play on Monday, Dec. 26th against the Islanders at MSG.
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