A team missing its best offensive player, competing in its third game in four nights — and second in two nights — isn’t supposed to play as well as the Rangers did last night. But three days after a hard-fought win in Toronto, and 24 hours after another one in Boston, the Rangers returned home to win yet another close game, 3-1, against the slumping Devils last night. Go figure.
The Rangers took it to New Jersey over the first two periods, scoring twice in the second on goals by Michal Rozsival (who, for the record, has been playing well lately, even if he’s still hearing boos from the home crowd) and Ryan Callahan (who finally got a goal for his efforts). Then they hung on in the third, thanks in large part to Henrik Lundqvist, after the Devils finally applied some pressure. Ilya Kovalchuk — a surprising healthy scratch for Saturday’s 6-1 loss to Buffalo — scored the lone Devils goal, before Brandon Dubinsky’s empty-netter sealed the win with one second left.
If the Rangers have taught us anything over the past couple of seasons, it’s that we probably shouldn’t evaluate them based on their October performance, After all, last year they opened the season 7-1-0, and the year before, they started 10-2-1. But the last couple of games haven’t felt like a fluke. Rather, the Rangers have gotten solid contributions from the players they’ll need to count on — which wasn’t always the case last year. (Seven different players have scored their eight goals during this three-game winning streak.) And while the Devils are an early-season mess, the Rangers (over the last week, at least) really have appeared to be a team coming together — and sticking up for each other — all while missing three of last year’s top five scorers.