The Rangers and Islanders returned to the ice after the Christmas break. Each had very exciting wins in front of their home supporters.
Losers of three straight and fading with a 2-6-2 skid entering last night's challenge against Southeast leader Carolina, the Rangers were up to the challenge scoring three times in the third period to post a come from behind 4-2 victory before Lindsay Lohan and Garden friends.
The last time they faced Peter Laviolette's club, the Blueshirts got their asses handed to them in an ugly Dec.3 4-0 defeat which began their slump.
Tom Renney's team came out much sharper outshooting the Canes 13-5 in the opening stanza. But 2006 Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward was up to the challenge keeping the contest scoreless.
For the fourth straight game, the Rangers scored first when struggling team captain Jaromir Jagr found a loose Marc Staal rebound to convert at the doorstep off a three-on-two snapping a 10-game goal drought- his longest since 1998. The goal was setup by Scott Gomez (two assists) who was flying all game and extended his point streak to 10 matching a career best.
But the lead only lasted 2:10 when the Canes' Scott Walker tallied shorthanded off a nifty setup from ex-Ranger Matt Cullen.
Before Carolina went ahead, Colton Orr caught Cullen with his head down nailing him with a high shoulder hit which saw the pivot laid out for a couple of minutes before teammates helped their groggy teammate off the ice.
Maybe due to the injury, the officials decided to assess Orr a five-minute interference major and game misconduct as part of a new rule instituted by the league for this season.
Was it legit? Probably not. Cullen had just released the puck when he hot caught. It actually could've been worse because from several replays, it appeared the two forwards who were coming in opposite paths were going to have a scary collision similar to the one Brendan Shanahan and Mike Knuble had last February resulting in Shanny's concussion and Knuble missing time for a broken orbital bone.
The Ranger enforcer appeared to lift his right hand to brace himself. Not surprisingly after the impact, Carolina defenseman Mike Commodore came to the defense of his fallen teammate and lost a decision to Orr.
To their credit, the Rangers killed off the major and seemed to have momentum. However, a lazy Michal Rozsival high sticking minor gave a good opponent another chance. The Canes cashed it in when the older brother of Marc, Eric Staal redirected a Dennis Seidenberg point shot past Henrik Lundqvist for Carolina's first lead.
The Rangers were awarded a man-advantage on a Tim Gleason interference with three seconds left in the second drawn by Shanahan. All night, their special teams had been a nightmare making fans wondering if they'd ever get it righted. The final 20 proved to be different as they tallied not one but two PP goals in less than a six minute span to go ahead.
First, a routine Shanahan shot from the right circle was deflected home by recent invisible man Chris Drury, who actually played a solid game. Dan Girardi got into the act for his sixth when his right circle shot beat Ward. Drury and Shanahan picked up the assists.
Up one against a more aggressive foe who will take chances, the Rangers did the wise thing getting some insurance from a suddenly resurgent Jagr, who took a Gomez pass and quickly one-timed it off the backhand for his ninth for a 4-2 lead with 10:05 left.
The play was once again all the team's leading scorer. There was some discussion that the ex-Devil didn't play hard in all ends. Well, that hasn't been the case on Broadway. For two months, the playmaker has been his team's best forward. This time, he victimized Trevor Letowski stealing the puck and dishing for No.68 who finished the NHL version of a lay-up.
It did get interesting in the final 60 seconds when Carolina had a six-on-three advantage with Ward pulled for an extra attacker but Lundqvist made an incredible save, somehow reaching out with his pad to rob a stunned Ray Whitney of a sure PPG which would've put the outcome in doubt.
It's certain to be on the highlight reels. So check it out.
King Henrik finished with 20 saves but some were of high quality because the Canes are good even if they don't have Justin Williams the rest of the season.
This was a good win for a desperate team which needed it to get back on track. I could say more but maybe another entry or Lenny fills in and gives us more analysis.
The Rangers weren't the only local team to have an exciting victory. That's exactly what transpired over by the Coliseum where Ted Nolan's gritty club fought tooth and nail with the Leafs to pull out a 4-3 overtime victory- their third win in a row and pulling into third ahead of idle Pittsburgh due to fewer games played.
Due to the half hour difference, I wasn't able to catch a ton of this game but from the looks of it, it was extremely up and down with plenty of entertainment. And I don't mean Hillary Duff cheering on her bf Mike Comrie's two markers including the OT winner with nine seconds left.
Btw...I must say she looked very nice with the hat on. She dressed better than Lohan.
So, how wild was this one? The Islanders and Leafs combined for five first period goals.
Alex Steen got it started when he was left unchecked to tap-in a Matt Stajan feed at 6:13. But Andy Hilbert came right back only 51 seconds later when he stuffed in a Chris Campoli wide shot which caromed right to him for his third in four.
After Mark Bell again put the Leafs in front, Comrie struck for his first of the night when the playmaking pivot took a Richard Park feed and then beat Andrew Raycroft on a breakaway going to the backhand.
Islander captain Bill Guerin was the beneficiary of some more grunt work by Park putting home his own rebound for No.10 to give the Isles a 3-2 lead with 48 seconds left.
There was no scoring in the second as the teams combined for just 11 shots with Toronto getting seven. However, the Islanders had a new man in net as backup Wade Dubielewicz was forced into duty due to a knee injury Rick DiPietro suffered.
With his team on a power play in the third, the Isles' backup gave up the tying goal courtesy of a laser of a Steen wrist shot shorthanded off an odd-man rush 1:15 in. It was Steen's second of the game.
The rest of the period saw each team taking chances to try to go ahead but each netminder was up to the task forcing OT. It was probably one of the best periods of overtime I've seen. Somehow, the refs awarded the Leafs a power play on a cheesy call.
With a four-on-three, they opted to pass around and look for the best setup instead of firing from all cylinders. The strategy nearly paid dividends when a Mats Sundin one-timer went off the post. That's when a great sequence occured.
With Dubielewicz sprawled out, somehow he robbed Tomas Kaberle and made a couple of more big saves (five in OT).
Former Islander Jason Blake was back and had been booed all night even though he was a very good Fishstick. Silly fans. On one late shift in the third, he nearly setup the winner. But it just wasn't his night. With not much time remaining, No.55 tried to make a play at the Islander blueline but instead Park stripped him of the puck forcing a turnover which proved costly.
Then, Park came two-on-one with Comrie. His deflected shot rebounded out to Comrie who stuffed it home for the thrilling OT winner with just nine ticks left as all the Islanders poured off the bench to congratulate their teammates.
They certainly deserved to win and even I admired it even though it was a bitter rival.
In relief of DiPietro, Dubielewicz finished with 22 saves earning 2nd Star while Comrie (10th and 11th goals) was the No.1.
If you love hockey, then this was a lot of fun to watch. So do yourselves a favor and check out the highlights.
It is late and I sorta need to sleep cause I have work tomorrow.
So if we were handing out three stars for the locals, it would be:
See ya'll later!