The New York Rangers handed the Washington Capitals their first regulation loss last night after completing an impressive comeback.For two teams facing off in October, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals played at an April pace for a good portion of last night’s game.
The former President Trophy winner Capitals entered last night’s game undefeated in regulation, and the scoreboard reflected that success through the first period.
The Caps lead 2-0 after the first frame, thanks to goals by Lars Eller and Alex Ovechkin, but that script would change in the second.
Successful teams have that one player who can emerge from the woodwork at some point in the season to produce for their respective teams.
Justin Williams was that player for the Los Angeles Kings in 2014 and ironically played the very same role last year for Washington.
The Rangers haven’t had a player like Williams in the past couple of seasons, but it seems like they just may have one in Pirri this year.
Pirri has become somewhat of a dark horse for this Rangers’ team. He was a sensation in the preseason and opened the scoring for the Blueshirts last night.
Pirri used Washington’s defense as a screen and former Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby never saw the puck. It was a perfectly placed shot by Pirri.
That’s when the Jimmy Vesey show started.
Many Ranger rookies have had their share of success early in the season(Chris Kreider, Oscar Lindberg, J.T. Miller), but none of those players scored key goals against one of the stronger teams in the league.
Vesey just may be the real thing.
Sure, it’s very early in the season, but Vesey has consistently showed that he has a strong hockey IQ and some serious strength.
There is also a simplicity to his game which makes Vesey even more effective.
This concept was on full display when he showed that bad things rarely happen when you just go to the net. It was also a heads up play by Rick Nash to feed Vesey the puck.
If Vesey’s first goal was routine, then his second of the night was anything but routine.
At the beginning of the season I questioned whether or not Vesey would be able to handle the physicality of the NHL.
Well, it looks like I may have to eat some crow (I’d be happy to in this case) because Vesey muscled his way around Washington’s defenders and faked Holtby out of his pads to put the Rangers up 3-2.
It took Henrik Lundqvist a whole two periods to settle into last night’s game. He was fighting the puck early, lost sight of it often, and was out of position on a number of plays.
But we would forget his sloppy play when he made this huge stop on Ovechkin late in the second period.
A goal late in the second period would have revitalized what was a very quiet Washington crowd and given the Caps life going into the third period.
Hank had other plans.
This also was the first game (preseason included) where J.T. Miller was noticeable. He was very active on the fore check and made some heads-up plays with the puck.
While Vesey stole most of the headlines last night, there was a bigger development which took place.
How about that Rangers’ defense? The defense was not only serviceable, but they were straight-up impressive.
Their finest moments came in the third period, when the Blueshirts went into their famous “AV shell”.
This prevent defense strategy didn’t work at all last season because the team didn’t have players who could execute properly.
Well, the Rangers completely shut down one of the better teams (and better players in Ovi) in the league for the entire third period.
Marc Staal looked like the Staal of old last night. Both Staal and Ryan McDonagh played strong defense from a fundamental standpoint, and the results speak for themselves.
A lot of fans will point to Dan Girardi‘s absence as the major reason why the defense was effective last night, but I just don’t buy this. The Rangers have been playing as a unit defensively, with all five players moving together to clog up the passing lanes.
Is anyone else sick of hearing that Rick Nash only scores goals when it “doesn’t count”? How did you feel when Nash scored last night? Relief?
Not only did it count but it was a great, heads up play by Nash to ice the game.
The Rangers will be back to work tonight when they skate against the Coyotes tonight at Madison Square Garden.