A full third of the Rangers’ skaters who suited up on Opening Night missed last night’s game due to injuries. After two periods, that depleted Rangers team trailed the Capitals — a team that employs one of the most dangerous scorers on the planet — by a goal. And somehow, it’s as if the Rangers had the Capitals right where they wanted them. Once again last night, the Rangers won a game during which they trailed after two periods; just as they did on the road Saturday night, they’d tie the game in the third, eventually force a shoot-out, and steal two points. It’s another hard-fought win from a team that’s making a habit of collecting hard-fought wins. We’re not the first to say it, but this is an awfully likable team, isn’t it?
Some standouts from last night: With his defense partner, Dan Girardi, out of the lineup, Marc Staal turned in a heroic effort, logging 29:09 of ice time and, matched up with Washington’s top line, keeping Alexander Ovechkin off the score-sheet. Martin Biron gave John Tortorella another reason to trust him, turning away 22 of 23 shots. (That last night’s defensive corps — which featured two rookies and two second-year players — could hold the Caps to 23 shots is a feat in and of itself.) And Marian Gaborik, somehow, scored the game-tying goal with less than seven minutes left by creating traffic in front of Braden Holtby.
Then there’s Mats Zuccarello, who continued his mastery of the shoot-out (and, bizarrely, got in a plug for Sean Avery’s bar during his post-game interview on Versus). And, for the first time all season, someone not named Zuccarello or Christensen scored during a shoot-out, with Wojtek Wolski faking out Holtby for the first goal, and Artem Anisimov securing the 2-1 win with the last.
That’s the seventh game the Rangers have won this year when trailing after two periods (the most in the league), and the sixteenth and seventeenth points they’ve earned in such games. It’s their seventeenth road win of the year, tied for the most in the NHL. And it’s their third win out of four to start a brutal stretch in which they play five games in seven nights — all of them after learning that they’d be losing Brandon Dubinsky for as long as a month. That stretch ends tonight against Florida, and then, mercifully, they’re off until next Tuesday. It’s a chance to rest, and more importantly, a chance to heal.