The Rangers played a 60 minute hockey game last night for the first time in a pretty long time. Facing off against a Buffalo Sabre team that is mired in their own slump, the Rangers came away with a much needed two points.
It was a solid effort up and down the lineup last night. Henrik Lundqvist had to be sharp and was for most of the night, Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan looked like their injuries are close be being fully healed and the defense looked sharp again, even Marek Malik.
The top line has really clicked since Martin Straka returned. While they were held off the scoresheet, they created some decent chances and really moved and controlled the puck well for most of the game. The second line looked good behind a determined looking Sean Avery also. All of the offense came from the third line, though. Brandon Dubinsky scored the first goal from Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes on a nice passing play, and the Prucha added a deflection goal off Paul Mara's shot and Dubinsky's faceoff win. Jason Pominville was the only Sabre to put one past Lundqvist.
With chemistry finally looking like it is kicking in, the Rangers' goal of 96 points should be easily attainable. They sit in last place in the Atlantic Division with 49 points, but are only a three game winning streak out of first. With 35 games to play, 24 wins isn't out of the question.
One thing of note to watch today is if the league does anything about a late third period cross check by Shanahan. He cross checked Clarke McArthur into the goal post in the closing minute, which resulted in an injury to McArthur and a public tirade by Lindy Ruff. The check was unnecessary and reckless, as Shanahan himself has said, but in his long, illustrious career Shanahan has never attempted to purposely injure another player. A fine if anything is all he should get, as the league is reviewing it today.
The Rangers are off now until a weekend home and home against the Bruins. I'll keep you updated on anything that happens between now and then.