Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Minny Mac: McDonagh delivers

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There should be more homecomings like this one. Well, at least for Ryan McDonagh, who continued his outstanding play in a big 3-2 win over the Wild earlier tonight. In front of family and friends, Minny Mac delivered offensively and defensively as the Rangers steadied late to edge Minnesota in St. Paul. Coupled with a Penguin 5-3 loss to the Islanders, the Blueshirts now hold a three-point lead with six to go for the East's top spot.

They wouldn't have gotten it without McDonagh, who notched two assists, including a breathtaking set up on Ruslan Fedotenko's winner that was more than enough to give Henrik Lundqvist his 36th win of the season. After an unbelievable play that allowed Fedotenko to score his ninth, McDonagh and partner Dan Girardi were stellar as the Rangers shutdown the neutral zone, limiting the Wild's chances. Combine that with a tremendous effort from the trio of Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust and there were enough positives despite not the greatest game from our club.

Dubinsky was solid in all facets after again earning the wrath of John Tortorella in a recent win over Toronto. His presence in front following a faceoff allowed Boyle to deposit his eighth and second in three games. A good sign. Dubinsky picked up a primary helper on the play that steered the Rangers in front early on. He was defensively responsible along with Boyle and Prust with each physical. That kind of attention to detail is what's been missing from our team's game for quite some time. Lundqvist saw a couple of routine shots which he stopped and the defense did the rest. King Henrik also was sharp stoning Devin Setoguchi following a Mikko Koivu rebound with the game tied.

The problem for the Rangers was they fell asleep in the second, allowing an opportunistic Wild club to get back into it. Lazy penalties led to a pair of Minnesota power play goals, which allowed them to hang in after two periods. Kyle Brodziak steered home a Cal Clutterbuck rebound for his career best 20th that knotted it 1-1. However, former Wild star Marian Gaborik restored order thanks to a great feed from Brad Richards, beating Josh Harding with his club best 38th four and a half minutes later. McDonagh drew an assist.

A Marc Staal penalty allowed the Minny hosts to tie it again when this time a great passing play saw Dany Heatley make a sweet dish for Koivu for a gimme. A play like that reminds you just how skilled Heatley is, who was drafted just before Gaborik in 2000. It's a mystery how he's went from elite status to second tier. Good thing Slats got Gabby and didn't ante up for Heater. His 21 goals and 27 assists for 48 points are a far cry from Marian's 38-31-69. Plus he's played all three zones this season, making it by far his most complete as a Blueshirt. Part of it's the club Heatley's on but it's still sad to see.

For too much of the third, the Wild played well with some chances to go ahead. Something which MSG radio analyst Dave Maloney noted while pointing out on my drive back home that someone needed to make a play. As I walked in the door, that someone turned out to be McDonagh, who turned a harmless Girardi pass across into a goal by skating past Wild defenders and then centering a seeing eye pass for Fedotenko, who didn't miss.

Dad gushed how it was remarkable as did Sam and Joe. Considering that he celebrated a birthday Saturday, it was nice to see our team win two in a row even if they weren't pretty. At this time of year, they don't have to be.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (24 saves, including a big one on Setoguchi)
2nd Star-Brian Boyle, NYR (8th of season-2nd in 3 games, 5 hits, 10-5 on draws, +2 in 17:10)
1st Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (2 assists incl. great set up on GW, 3 blocked shots, +2 in 21:46)

Notes: With his 36th victory, Lundqvist is two shy of his career high 38 set in '08-09. He did that in 70 games. This year, the 36 have come over 57. It was the sixth consecutive start for King Henrik, who allowed two or less for the fourth time during that stretch. He previously permitted seven in the last two starts against Buffalo and Toronto. ... In defeat, Harding turned aside 29 of 32. ... Erik Christensen was scoreless with one shot and three faceoff wins in his first appearance since being traded. ... Jed Ortmeyer also saw limited action. ... Fedotenko's goal snapped a nine-game drought. ... With an assist, Dubinsky has five points over the last five. ... Derek Stepan was held to one shot and has no points over four. ... Since returning, Mike Del Zotto has one assist over six. ... In place of Tim Erixon, Anton Stralman saw 21 shifts (19:45) while picking up a helper, going plus-one and blocking a team high four shots. ... Rangers visit Winnipeg tomorrow. Figure Martin Biron to get the call.

                  GP    ROW  PTS   Games Remaining
1.Rangers  76      44       103    3/28 @ Wpg 3/30 vs Mtl 4/1 vs Bos  4/3 @ Phi 4/5 @ Pit 4/7 vs Wsh
2.Penguins 76      38       100    3/29 @ NYI 3/30 @ Buf 4/1 vs Phi 4/3 @ Bos 4/5 vs NYR 4/7 vs Phi

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