Chris Drury scored two power play goals and a shorthanded tally to power the Eastern Conference leading Rangers past Tampa Bay for the third time this season.
New York's power play has been ineffective for most of the season, operating at only 13.5% - including last night's 3 for 8 effort. However, recent adjustments showed that the Rangers were more willing to cut down the distance of the d-to-d pass and subsequently allow more time and space to shoot.
Had Tampa stayed out of the box, this game may have been a lot closer. However, Henrik Lundqvist was tested and repeatedly delivered. He stopped 36 shots and improved to 9-3-1 on the season. The effort was highlighted by a beautiful third period glove save on Vincent Lecavalier's quick wrist shot from the high slot.
Michal Rozsival responded to Tuesday's tough outing with a solid night. On the first goal of the game, he fought off a forechecking Chris Gratton to move the puck to Nikolai Zherdev in the neutral zone. Zherdev then streaked in on the rush and fed Ryan Callahan in the slot for the 1-0 power play marker. Rozsival would later add an assist on Chris Drury's hat trick goal, feeding Dmitri Kalinin for the point shot that would eventually rebound to Drury's stick.
Marek Malik was his old self, and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. For the record, I believe Malik caught some unnecessary flack from Rangers fans during his tenure in New York partially due to the appearance he gave while playing on the ice. Rangers fans have traditionally reacted negatively to lanky defensemen that can make clumsy plays (see: Tom Poti).
Last night, Malik made several solid breakout passes - one of the things Tampa was missing in its start to the season. But as we all know with Malik, with those breakout passes come the occasional turnover. Malik fumbled the puck at the Rangers blue line during the first period and allowed a breakaway to Frederick Sjostrom, who could not convert.
For the record, I thought the Malik signing was a good one by the Lightning brass. Unfortunately, they're going to need more than that and will quickly realize that instead of signing a ridiculous amount of forwards in the offseason, they should have allocated some of that money to solid #3/#4 defensemen. Carle, Meszaros, and Ranger are just that - but not enough. Hopefully for Melrose's club, Malik can step up and come somewhat close to the #2 defensement he was from 2003-2006.
The Rangers travel to Washington tomorrow to face what I believe is a Capitals team stronger than last year. Sergei Federov looks about 5 years younger than his age, and a healthy Michael Nylander gives the Caps terrific center depth. Add in some other guy named Ovechkin and you have yourself a squad.
Sam Weinman wondered in his blog whether or not Stephen Valiquette would get the start, but I don't believe that will happen. Valiquette had a rough finish to his outing last Saturday on the road. I'd think that if Renney was going to give Valiquette a bit more work (and he should), it would likely be at home against Edmonton on Monday or Boston on Saturday.