So what was different from the Ranger team that got swamped 6-2 in Ottawa on December 26, 2005 and the Ranger team that outclassed Ottawa 5-1 last night? Henrik Lundqvist, that is what was the difference. In a first period goalie duel The Prince was 16-16 and Hasek was 10-10 in a scoreless first period. However it all changed in the next two periods as The Prince went 8-9 and Hasek went 8-13 as The Rangers won their fourth straight game and the second against a top Eastern Conference team. The way the Rangers are playing now it looks like the only thing that may stop them is the Olympic games and the 18 days of no NHL hockey.
The Rangers continued their assault on team and personal records. With his performance Lundqvist raised his league leading save percentage to .927, passing Hasek, who dropped to .925. His record is now 24-7-6, which leaves him two behind Johnny Bower and Jim Henry for the Ranger rookie goalie wins record of 26. He may well set a Ranger rookie winning record that may never be surpassed by any rookie goalie in the future. Jaromir Jagr scored his 36th goal, tying him for the league lead, and moving him into a tie for 16th place on the all time goal list. He now has 573 goals and insists that he is not a goal scorer. His three points vaulted him past Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull into 18th place with 1,392 points. He has 83 points and is well poised to set a new Ranger season scoring record which is 109 points.
Jagr scored the first goal on a five on three that came from the point. Yes folks, Jaromir Jagr was at the point on a five on three. Catch the replay and you will hear the voice of JD yelling, "Jagr is on the point." The Ranger Pundit has been vindicated. Then came a couple of surprise goals by the Rangers. Marek Malik intercepted a pass at the point and put in a shot off of a Senator player. Jason Ward then scored the Rangers third short handed goal of the season, his second, on a beautiful pass from Ville Nieminen and the game was basically over. Yes, Ottawa scored a goal to cut the deficit to two, but the Rangers iced it with two third period goals. The fourth Ranger goal was the goal of the game. It was the ultimate tic-tac-toe play, Jagr-Straka-Nylander=GOAL!!!!
A word about the defense and the penalty killing. The defense, for the most part, played solid stay at home hockey. They out hit the Senators 26-19, seven by Kaspy and four each by Strudwick and Tyutin. Ryan Hollweg, back in the lineup, got only four minutes of ice time and had two hits. The Rangers had sixteen blocked shots and Strudwick led the way with four. He easily could have been named player of the game, especially for the work he did battling Zdeno Chara who stayed in front of the net on the Ottawa PP's. Dany Heatley, the high scoring forward for the Sens, was held without a shot for the game and was a -3 for 22:08 of ice time. The penalty killing returned to their early season form with a perfect 8-8 night.
The negatives. How can there be negatives you say? Too many penalties, too many lazy penalties. Three holdings, two hookings and one tripping are the signs of lazy penalties. Ryan Hollweg got only four minutes of ice time and Marcel Hossa, with one shot in a little over 7 minutes of ice time was almost invisible. But why carp? The Rangers won a great game and I believe have established themselves as a prime contender for the Eastern Conference Championship.
However, I believe they are one tough defenseman away from being there. Is it Witt of Washington? Or, is it Jackman of Pittsburgh? Both of these teams are basically out of the running so a move may be possible. Then there is Dale Purinton in Hartford. Also it might be time to think about Jarkko Immonen making the big jump from Hartford. Who would have thought that four months ago we would be in the position we are now that we are contemplating these moves.
ICINGS: Three stars of the game. 1) Jason Ward, 2)Henrik Lundqvist, 3) Jaromir Jagr. Pavel Brendl is not finished yet. The Phoenix Coyotes are bringing up the former Ranger first round pick. It will be interesting to see what The Great One can do with him or maybe they're just rolling the dice with Brendl (pun intended). Two games to go before the Olympic break. A home and home with Toronto this weekend and then it's on to Torino, Italy. Buono fortuna Americana!
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