The Rangers and Canadiens played a highly-entertaining contest at MSG on Tuesday with Montreal winning 3-2 in the shootout. Each goalie took turns standing on their head during the game, so it was almost a shame to end a game like this with the skills competition but that's how the league works.
It was mano-a-mano from about 185 feet as Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price played a game of whatever you can do, I can do better. Each goalie made their share of spectacular saves, capped by Price's thievery on J.T. Miller as the overtime wound down. Previously in overtime, Lundqvist stoned Max Pacioretty twice and then benefitted from Tomas Plekanec hitting the post after getting past Miller. That play occurred just before Price's save on Miller witha few ticks left in the game. I guess you could argue Miller should have lifted the puck a bit more, but that detracts from the phenomenal save Price made.
The best news from this game is Lundqvist was sharp throughout, continuing his fine play for the play month or so. He was aggressive when needed and patient when warranted. Lundqvist appears to have the right balance between the pipes, which had deserted him earlier in the year. on the first goal, he was caught slightly out of position following Shea Weber's miss from the point. But that whole play had a ton of ugliness, from the inability to clear the zone and Nick Holden failing to mark Andrew Shaw, resulting in the wraparound goal. On the second, Weber beat Lundqvist plain and simple. silly penalty by Holden created the PP chance. Then Weber one-timed a howitzer just under Lundqvist's right arm between the blocker and body, so maybe he could have stopped it, but tip your hat to Weber. Other than that shot, Lundqvist was a stalwart between the pipes.
Pavel Buchnevich-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast were strong while on the ice. Coach Alain Vigneault showed faith in using them in key moments, though their playing time was less than it should have been. Buch had only three shifts the first 30 minutes but finished with 11:23 in ice time. Fast played 10:53 and Lindberg 7:41, but those two hooked up on the first goal of the game for New York. Great zone exit by Lindberg, who got the puck to Fast in the neutral zone. Fast came down the right side and while falling down, whipped a play to the front of the net past the d-man onto Lindberg's stick for the easy tap-in goal.
Rick Nash was all over the place. He still is the whipping boy due to his $7.8 mil salary and lack of production to match that salary. But he was over the place yesterday, as he has been a lot lately. I get everything else that Nash does won't move the needle on unless he scores, but keep this in mind when/if he is gone and we wonder why all those little things that was done on the ice is missing. After getting stoned by Price on a breakaway, Nash got revenge in the second, beating Price to tie the game.
Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei were solid. Skjei has taken his game to another level recently. Dan Girardi was strong on the PK while Nick Holden had another so-so game, something we have said a lot lately. The test of the forwards besides the fourth line and Nash were somewhat invisible, especially Kreider and Zibanejad. The team needs Zib to re-find his game. I though he made strides Sunday but regressed yesterday.
Biggest concern is the PP, which was 0-for-4 tonight. Larry Brooks noted that this run of futility with the man-advantage has reached 1-for-18 over the last seven games in which the Rangers have manufactured 18 shots in 29:29 with the man-advantage. The Rangers are 3-for-39 over their last 14 games and now in a 5-for-50 funk in 17 games since they returned from their bye week on Jan. 13. Fixing this has to be priority #1, possibly above and beyond trade deadline additions.
One proposed solution has been to insert Michael Grabner on the PP. Grabner's speed through the neutral zone is blunted a bit due to the way penalty killers set up. But it's worth a chance to see if he can resolve which has been a huge problem, zone entries. I am tired of the back pass to the d-man hoping he can use speed to enter the zone, as it never seems to work. Then when they finally gain the zone, the set up and structure on the PP has been lacking. New York has point men in McDonagh and Skjei but the other eight players need to be shuffled to find groupings that work. Try Grabner, use Kreider as a net front presence, same with Hayes or Nash. Mix and match the units without worrying about keeping the even-strength lines together as a way to create chances.