Entering last week, things looked bleak for the New York Rangers. They made quick work of the Eastern Conference cellar Ottawa Senators 4-1 on March 4, but found themselves with three consecutive games against three top-tier teams, including conference-leading and division-rival Philadelphia Flyers at home.
Losing all three was not out of the question, but the Rangers surprised everyone, taking two of three matchups.
Sun. March 6: Rangers 7, Philadelphia Flyers 0
Behind Ryan Callahan's four-goal performance, the Rangers routed the Flyers to everyone's astonishment. If you saw a 7-0 win from the Blueshirts – who wore their away white's for at the Garden for the first time in years – then you should be a bookie.
The Rangers dominated the Flyers, who were without Jeff Carter, at all facets of the game. Along with Callahan, rookie Mats Zuccarello scored his first multi-goal game of his young NHL career, and is beginning to find the net more regularly outside of the shootout skills competition. If he can keep that up, the Rangers have a definite secondary scoring threat on their hands, something they've been starved of for the last few seasons.
Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in picking up his league leading ninth shutout of the year, making several big stops along the way. It was a total team effort, and a big win for the Rangers, who for the second straight season have been mediocre on home ice.
Weds. March 9: Rangers 2, Anaheim Ducks 5
The Rangers often find themselves falling behind early in games and playing catch up the rest of the way. That wasn't the case Wednesday in Anaheim, as Brandon Dubinsky finally ended his dry spell when he opened the scoring off a great feed from Ryan Callahan. His shot beat Dan Ellis glove side to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead.
It was all Anaheim the rest of the way. The Ducks scored three consecutive goals on deflections off Rangers' sticks, erasing any momentum the Rangers had made scoring early.
Down 3-1 early in the third period, Dubinsky missed an empty net that would have cut the deficit to just one. The Ducks turned the other way as Corey Perry fed Bobby Ryan for the goal to make it 4-1. Talk about a two-goal swing. The line of Perry, Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf combined for eight points on the night.
The Rangers scored minutes later on a powerplay goal by Marian Gaborik, but it was too little too late.
Sat. March 12: Rangers 3, San Jose Sharks 2 Shootout
The Rangers concluded their West coast trip with a stop at the Shark Tank in San Jose with a meeting against the Sharks.
The story was the same for the Rangers in San Jose, as the Sharks opened the game with a goal by Ryan Clowe, whose shot deflected off Marc Staal and past Lundqvist. Staal was shaken up on the play after taking a high stick to the face that wasn't called.
Erik Christensen started in place of Sean Avery, who was scratched for the first time this season. Christensen made the most of it, cashing in to open the scoring for the Rangers late in the first period off a pass by Vinny Prospal from behind the net for his 10th goal of the year to tie the game at 1.
The Rangers took the lead early in the second period on a goal by Mike Sauer in the slot. The Sharks tied the game late in the second period on a goal by Ben Eager.
The Sharks dominated the third period, but the Rangers escaped and forced overtime, eventually leading to a shootout. Both Christensen and Zuccarello, who have been money all season, were denied in the shootout. Woltek Wolski beat Ellis with the Rangers down a goal. Lundqvist stopped the rest of the Sharks' shooters, and Dubinsky beat Antti Niemi between the pads for the win in the sixth round of the shootout.
Ranger fans have come to realize that the Blueshirts often follow up a dominating goal performance with a dud, and that's what happened in Anaheim. Lundqvist said after the game that he was happy with the way he played, and that the Rangers just found themselves getting some unlucky bounces. All part of the game.
They followed the loss up with a strong performance in San Jose, reverting back to their hardwork and forechecking style of play that has been successful since the start of the season. At times, especially in the third period, the Sharks dominated, but the Rangers were able to escape.
The Rangers received some help on Saturday with losses by the Carolina Hurricanes and Buffalo Sabres, both of whom New York is trying to fight off, making the win against the Sharks all the more important.
Callahan's four goals were huge for his confidence, as he's now broken 20 goals for the second time in his career. Zuccarello has shown he has huge offensive upside, and he will be needed in the final stretch of the season.
Gaborik continues to be inconsistent. Many feel he is playing hurt, and that could be the case, but he really has to step up. This team has trouble scoring goals, and it doesn't help when their star scorer appears lost offensively.
Finally, Sauer has quietly been one of the best defenseman on this team all season. He plays a physical, in your face style game, and shows he has some offensive upside. I'm excited to see this kid develop.
Check back next week for another Rangers Week in Review