The Rangers edged the Penguins in a hard defensive battle last night to pull even with the Devils at 93 points and give themselves from breathing room from the surging Capitals.
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Chris Drury scored the game winner in overtime on the power play after the the Penguins had tied it with about 10 minutes to go in the 3rd.
The equalizer came after Jagr gathered some steam in the neutral zone and attempted to carry the puck up the boards. Unfortunately for big #68, he put his head down at the wrong moment and was clocked by the physical Brooks Orpik. Brandon Dubinsky decided that he should vacate center ice and issue some sort of verbal warning to Orpik, who snickered back at him as Ryan Malone and Maxim Talbot streaked into the Rangers zone and connected to tie the game at 1.
At that point in the game, Rangers fans sluggishly slouched back in their seats to watch the final minutes of regulation. It seemed inevitable that the Blueshirts would blow this one just like they had against Philadelphia 6 days earlier. After fending off minutes of Pittsburgh pressure, they got to overtime - and to everyone's surprise, a penalty was called after Jagr was mauled by yet another defender. The Rangers would convert on this power play as Drury's blast found the twine through traffic like a seeking missle.
I was at the game, so I didn't get to see any replays (Madison Square Garden is notoriously horrible at giving the fans any insight as to what happened in a big play). However, one thing that I vividly remember from the game was the lack of urgency in Brendan Shanahan's game. I'm not sure when his 'lower body' injury occurred, but Shanny was invisible during the 5 on 5 portions of the game that he played last night. Is age becoming an issue? And furthermore, do you want this guy on your team next year?
I will hold back on criticisms for last night's play, as the team was certainly knocked around quite a bit in Sunday's game and seemed to lack the energy needed to dominate an also-tired Penguins team. 2 points is 2 points, and it's important that the Rangers got them.
Does the East even have a chance?
Short answer: if the Sharks or Ducks make it throught the West, probably not.
I've been watching the Ducks all season in efforts to try and grasp what this 'formula for success' is that Brian Burke has established. Hard, physical play combined with a brilliant backline and skilled forwards have turned Anaheim from a mediocre team in January to one of the top 3 Cup contenders in the league right now.
The Sharks don't play quite as physical a game (though to call them soft would be very off-base), but they sure are responsible in their own end. When they do make a mistake, Nabokov is almost always there to bail them out. The addition of Brian Campbell and the recent clutch play of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton has made San Jose a premier offensive threat as well.
None of the teams in the East right now have enough of these things going for them. I have a tough time finding an Eastern conference team that will be able to stand up to the Ducks in a physical 7-game series. And if you can show me a team that can get past Evgeni Nabokov at even-strength and on the power play, I'll show you a Cup winner. Sadly, right now I don't see one.
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