|NYR 5, FLA 2
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Confidence can be an enigma and often appears to come and go at will. Unsurprisingly, the vastly different aesthetics of confident and struggling hockey clubs can change from game to game. That was on full display as the Rangers (86 points), coming off of a 1-0 overtime slugfest against the Lightning, came out in the second half of the back-to-back with great jump and routed the slumping Panthers (69 points) by a score of 5-2.
New York, while tough on Monday night, never seemed to have much confidence with the puck and played with little pace or cohesion. But confidence can can arrive in a single moment, as it did with Mika Zibanejad’s OT game winner. With renewed spirits, the optics improved and while it would have been easy, if not expected, for the Rangers to be sluggish, they showed no signs of heavy legs and had jump immediately.
Of course, playing a floundering team like the Panthers, who were 1-4-1 in their last six and hadn’t scored an even-strength goal in eight periods, helps as well.
The first period was fast-paced and, appropriately, a period of firsts. Steven Kampfer, the former Panther, has looked more comfortable in the last two games than in his first appearance this year and got his first point as a Ranger when Chris Kreider deflected his point shot for a 1-0 lead. Tanner Glass also banged home his first goal of the season the period ended with the Blueshirts holding a 2-0 edge.
It was nice to see the bench reaction to Glass’ goal, but give J.T. Miller a nod and most of the credit on the goal for making a fantastic play to set it up.
In the second period, the Blueshirts added another pair of goals. Nick Holden’s tally chased Florida goalie James Reimer out of the net and Kevin Hayes scored the prettiest goal of the night to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead and put a dent in Papa John’s bulging pockets.
Not to be outdone by Antti Raanta’s 38-save shutout against Tampa, Henrik Lundqvist was sterling in his 43-save performance. He’s now the first goalie in NHL history to win 30 or more games in 11 of his first 12 seasons. On the flip side, Reimer, who owned a 1.88 goals against average and a .941 save percentage in his previous ten games, played well enough and made three breakaway saves but fell victim to sloppy defending.
It’s worth noting that, for the second game in a row, Marc Staal played on the first pair with Ryan McDonagh. The two have shut down the top lines of Tampa Bay and Florida on back-to-back nights, so it will be interesting to see if Alain Vigneault wants to keep them together at all when Dan Girardi returns.
Confidence and, in turn, speed and skill, carried the Rangers to the win against Florida. Against Tampa, it was grit. One of the two performances is what the Blueshirts should try to build on heading into the playoffs, and it didn’t involve anyone dropping the gloves.
The Blueshirts will look to win their third straight on Thursday night at Carolina.
Assorted Musings: Tanner Glass’ last two goals have come against the Panthers; Vanek’s goal was his first point with Florida; Oscar Lindberg had two assists for the second time this year; Florida outshot the Rangers 40-26; New York was 0-4 on the power play and is 0-26 over its last ten games; New York leads the NHL with 24 road wins and has won five in a row.