Monday, January 4, 2010

Higgins late goal saves Rangers



For more than 50 minutes, they'd outplayed the Bruins and were leading by two. Rare in itself. But if you've followed this team, you know nothing ever comes easy. So, when a sleepwalking Boston club struck for two in 86 seconds tying it with just over four minutes left, it shouldn't have been a great shock. Neither was the fact Matt Hunwick's shorthanded tally started the comeback with our guys standing around and still dazed enough to let the B's tie.

The more stunning aspect was who scored to rescue the Rangers to an actual regulation win on home ice. Oh. And they scored three without Marian Gaborik on the score sheet. The winner actually came off the stick of Chris Higgins, who finally got off the schneid for his first goal in an eternity. Also his first on home ice. Maybe they can now have a freeze frame MSG Chris Higgins profile as a Ranger.Couldn't resist. In all seriousness, he has been busting his ass for the past two months. So, it was nice to see him finally get rewarded off if I may say some nice work by the captain Chris Drury and constant Ryan Callahan.

We played a strong game,” the hero said after ending an 11-goal drought. “We just let up a little bit. … We let them back into the game. But we were confident we were going to win, even when they tied it up.

It allowed them to win a game at MSG and actually jump into a tie with idle Montreal for seventh. They both have 45 points but Les Habitants have played two more games. So technically, we're ahead even though the Habs are playing much better. How bad is the East? Do you even have to ask? The good news if you can actually call it that is that our flawed team is in playoff position. The bad is that if they somehow make it, they'll be easy pickings for the Devils, Caps or Sabres. I fail to see what another gate does for this franchise other than hook up our greedy owner who will screw the fans more than Bret Hart got screwed by Vince McMahon. And that would also mean Slats stays put and again, we're stuck.

All that said, they played solid earning their 20th win in 42 games. Seriously. That's less than half and we're sitting in seventh. For some reason, Boston tried everything to hand us the game, taking four undisciplined minor penalties in a row, including a five-on-three our team blew. But a miracle of sorts took place when there was an Ally Kota-leak sighting. Off a broken play started by Callahan, Dubinsky slid the puck across to Kotalik who blasted a one-timer past Tuukka Rask for his first goal in 22 games. Right away, Versus captured our $3 million mess looking skyward thanking the heavens. Three years. Nine mill with a no-trade.

Up one, the Blueshirts got another man-advantage because Ally's PPG came on a delayed call. In typical fashion, they couldn't build off it allowing the Bruins to win every battle that included a couple of shorthanded bids. Kotalik was also involved in a sloppy change that led to a bench minor for Boston's only PP of the period. The PK did a nice job but Henrik Lundqvist was called upon to make a couple of big saves to keep our team ahead after one.

In the second, a great Mike Del Zotto seam pass found Dubinsky, who one touched it to a cutting Erik Christensen, who broke in from the right side and slipped a one-handed backhand thru Rask's waffle for a two-goal lead at 7:34. Amazingly, the waiver wire pickup has all four of his points over the last three since being moved up by John Tortorella to the top line. Same guy who was getting mysteriously scratched in favor of Brian Boyle. Boyle was in the lineup as was $1.4 M waste of space Donald Brashear, who replaced Aaron Voros for some reason on the fourth line. Boyle actually had a chance but predictably took a weak backhand off a three-on-two that Rask easily ate up. He later did nice PK work on another Bruin power play with Gabby in the box for a bizarre high toss that went into the stands for delay of game.The Blueshirts played really well in front of Lundqvist, allowing him to see all 11 offerings while they sent 17 on Rask and made it more difficult.

"We played really well in all facets of the game,” a pleased Tortorella emphasized of an effort that saw his club block 24 shots, register 11 takeaways and 35 hits.

Distracted by the wrestling chaos, I didn't see a ton of the third but didn't miss much. The B's were still dead when Zdeno Chara went off for interference with under seven minutes to go. They only got five total shots. Unfortunately, the Ranger PP struck the wrong way, allowing the Bruins some life when Gaborik turned it over on the boards, leading to Hunwick's SHG. David Krejci outhustled our guys behind the net and worked it to Blake Wheeler, who then found Hunwick in the slot with his backhand whistling past a screened Lundqvist. Suddenly awaken, the B's took it to us. Even still 5-on-4, the doom and gloom could be felt through the TV. Eventually, Wheeler got the puck and blew one upstairs, stunning only the blatant homers. Somehow, they tied without point leader Patrice Bergeron, who left early in the second after taking a shot off his hand.

Nothing surprises me anymore. So, I didn't have any reaction and figured they'd lose. Only to my startling discovery when I flipped back, I saw Higgins actually smiling as the bench celebrated his first goal as a Ranger on Garden ice. The one time he scores, I miss it. Versus showed the replay after and he wrong footed Rask, who thought pass on a play Higgins snuck a backhand past the gifted Finnish rookie. Drury and Callahan assisted on the late goal with 89 seconds remaining. Claude Julien pulled Rask for an extra but it was obvious that the Rangers wouldn't allow them to tie doing a noble job defensively to earn the two points.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Blake Wheeler, Bos (goal/assist, 2 SOG, +2 in 16:33)
2nd Star-Brandon Dubinsky, NYR (2 assists, game best 5 SOG, 4 hits, takeaway, 2 blocked shots, 6-7 draws in 24:16)
1st Star-Christopher Higgins, NYR (GW w/1:29 left-1st goal on home ice, 3 SOG, takeaway/blocked shot, +1 in 16:34)

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