Blueshirts United – Lee Stempniak and Chris Kreider both scored twice Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, with Stempniak’s second of the game late in the third period capping a three-goal comeback as the Rangers edged the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 and moved into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
What a weird game. Right off the opening faceoff it looked like the Rangers were missing something, just seemed like they a step behind the Coyotes which led to the most obvious goal ever less then a minute into the game. A couple of crappy power play goals later and the Rangers went into the first intermission down 3-1.
But like I said, this was a weird game. It’s not that I never lost faith that the Rangers would come back, it’s that this was one of the least intense two goal come-backs I’ve ever seen. Just seemed inevitable that the Rangers would rally to tie the game and once they did it seemed inevitable that they’d score the 4th goal. It was much more of a “thank god we didn’t lose to the god damn Coyotes” then a “wow what an awesome come from behind win.”
The big story is the Rangers have now moved into first place in the Metropolitan division, by virtue of the ROW tiebreaker. Suddenly all those Islander fans who have been chirping Rangers fans all season don’t know what to say anymore. Rangers fans are excited their in first place and Islanders fans are in panic mode trying to remind them that it’s just February, even though the Isles have been celebrating first place for months now.
Of course Ranger fans are allowed to be happy that they’ve overtaken first place, but for a day. Because the bottom line is Ranger fans have been right all along, it doesn’t matter what you do now, what matters is how you play in the playoffs.
The key here is that the Rangers have now picked up 20 of 24 points since losing their best player Henrik Lundqvist. While the wins haven’t been pretty they’ve been outscoring their opponents, routinely scoring four or five goals a game. If they can keep that up when Lundqvist comes back they will be scary good in the playoffs, especially since lack of scoring in the playoffs has been their Achilles heel in recent years.
All that matters is how you do come playoff time, but with a record of 27-6-2 since December 8th (when Derek Stepan returned to the lineup) there’s no denying the Rangers are playing the best hockey in the league and can compete with anybody.