Despite missing number one center Brad Richards and number one defenseman Marc Staal, the New York Rangers extended their current winning streak to 4 games with a 2-1 overtime victory against the New York Islanders last night.
Richards is sitting out with a stiff neck and back as a result of a dirty hit last Sunday from Buffalo Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta, a hit which earned Kaleta a 5 game suspension.
Staal was lost in the next game, taking a deflected slapshot to the face. Initial concerns over Staal’s eyesight seem to have been alleviated as doctors predict a full recovery is likely but Staal remains out of the lineup until further notice. Hopefully with a face shield in the future!
Newly acquired waiver wire pickup Roman Hamrlik played his first game on the blueline for the Rangers last night and was a steadying presence. That is exactly what the Rangers need from him to solidify the third pairing once Staal returns to the lineup but it is even more welcomed with Staal sidelined. Hamrlik is far removed from his offensive defenseman days but last night he showed he can still be smooth with the puck under pressure and smart enough to play positionally sound defense. If he can provide that consistently for the Rangers, he was a wise pickup at no cost.
The Islanders held a 1-0 lead from the first period until late in the third period, making it look like the Rangers’s modest streak may come to an end, but once again it was Rick Nash to the rescue. With 14:37 gone by in the third period, Nash deflected a shot by Derek Stepan past Islanders goaltender Evgeny Nabokov to tie the game and force overtime.
Just 21 seconds into overtime Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto rushed the net and was hauled down on the play by Michael Grabner, giving the Rangers a power play. They wasted little time as Marian Gaborik fired home a shot from the just above the top of the right wing faceoff circle, under a leaping Ryan Callahan and past Nabokov for the victory.
The 2 points give the Rangers 26 points in 22 games played and places them eigth in the Easter Conference playoff race. They stand 1 point behind the New Jersey Devils with 2 games in hand.
Their next game is tonight versus the Ottawa Senators at Madison Square Garden before heading out on a road trip as the Big East Tournament takes over MSG next week.