Rangers-Penguins: New York Rallies Late, Looks To Carry Momentum Against Isles

JKlau Sportz BroCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2008

Sidney Crosby had control of the puck as he moved through the neutral zone.

There were just 20 seconds left, and the Rangers had an empty net. He sent the puck towards the Rangers goal.

I was in Section 96, right behind the Rangers empty net, and I was ready to scream something I can't write on here. The puck came down, and went wide.

"ONE LAST SHOT!" I screamed, as the Rangers moved through the neutral zone. I silently thought to myself, "Please boys, do it". Dubinsky passed the puck up to Naslund, who skated with it, then made a nice pass to Nikolai Zherdev. Redden moved towards the net, and Zherdev fired. Time seemed to stop for just a moment.

My view of the play was not very good from my seat—but I could see the shot, and I saw the fans behind the net jump up. Without thought, I jumped up onto my seat in the last row of the section, screaming, giving high fives, and hugging my friends.

Rangers forward Fredrik Sjostrom would later win it for New York, scoring the only goal in an exciting shoot-out, after an overtime that almost killed me. Henrik Lundqvist saved the day with an amazing glove save during the OT period. Even Penguins fans near me had to give me a high-five (the ones that were not trying to fight), because they were so amazed by it.

It was a game that not even a Penguins fan could be mad at. No matter which side you rooted for, or what you paid for your seat, you got your money's worth. It was one of the most exciting games I have ever had the pleasure of attending.

The Rangers entered the third period down 2-0, in what was a pretty even and exciting game. However, the fans were upset after the Rangers failed to capitalize on a two-minute five on three. Something needed to be done, and quick. Just over five minutes into the third period, Naslund delivered with a power-play goal.

The Rangers would go on to control the rest of the period, dominating the Penguins and out-shooting them 18-2, for a game total of 44-29. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was named the third star, played a great game. He made 42 saves—but it was one save too little, as the Rangers would take it 3-2.

This win against Pittsburgh may turn out to be a great rallying point for the now 8-2-1 Rangers—but it will mean nothing if they cannot carry this play to their game on Monday against their cross-town rival, the New York Islanders.

The Islanders are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Islanders outshot the Canes 60-28. Cam Ward made 57 saves, while Rick Dipietro made 10 saves on 12 shots before being pulled at the start of the second period. It is believed he re-injured himself, and he may not play against the Rangers on Monday.

The struggle that the Islanders faced in their last game is one that the Rangers have tended to have a problem with as well—outplaying, and greatly outshooting their opponent, but not scoring enough. The main difference may be that the Rangers have still found ways to win those games, like the 1-0 win against Toronto or last night's win against Pittsburgh (both in a SO), while the Islanders have not.

The Rangers will look towards two players who will play in this rivalry for the first time. Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund need to keep producing points, and if they do, the Rangers might have the upper hand against the Islanders on Monday. Zherdev, who went four games without a point, has responded well—scoring four points in his last two games, including a three-point-night against his former team on Friday.

Naslund also has five points in his past two games, getting two points in each game and the Rangers' lone goal against Dallas three games ago. Dubinsky currently leads the team with 11 points in 11 games—but it is the first-line center that hasn't been scoring, which is surprising everyone.

Chris Drury definitely needs to step it up against the Islanders on Monday. The new captain has yet to record a goal this year. He is 0-3-3 and has a minus-three rating that is starting to show.

Now, to be fair to Chris, he hasn't played badly. He does more than play offense, and he has been a very good leader—doing everything from getting it into the offensive zone to playing on the PK.

But if he doesn't score soon, this slump may continue for a long time. He is averaging just under three shots per game, so the puck should go in soon. But sometimes, when a player is snake-bitten, nothing seems to work (see Petr Prucha) until you actually get that one goal.

He definitely needs to step it up soon—but in the meantime, it shouldn't be a huge deal if the other forwards like Naslund, Dubinsky, Zherdev, and Voros continue to step up and cover for him the way they have.

The Rangers will also look towards Henrik Lundqvist to lead the charge again. The NHL's current win leader (yes, it is early) has had a very good 1.99 GAA and a .927 save percentage. He will look to continue that play against the Islanders, who have not been able to get the kind of goaltending they were hoping for out of their top two.

So far this year, the not-100-percent Rick Dipietro has just an 0-2 record, playing in just three of the Islanders games and posting only a 3.91 GAA and a .883 save percentage. MacDonald has also struggled in getting both of the 2-5 Isles' wins this year, with a 3.43 GAA and a .887 savepercentage. If the Islanders do not want to be basement dwellers this year (maybe they DO want to draft Tavares/Hedman), then they need to step up in the goaltending department.

Although both teams are at opposite ends of the standings right now, it will still be quite an exciting game. One of the best rivalries in all of sports is ready to be renewed for the first time in the '08-09 Season, as the Rangers take on the Islanders this Monday night, in a game you won't want to miss.


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