Two weeks ago it wasn’t clicking for the New York Rangers and there was always a question about getting consistent wins and building momentum. After their 4-2 win Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden over the Washington Capitals, their seventh straight, the Rangers need the three day NHL holiday break but the way this team is winning who needs a brief hiatus?
They are at full health, the power play is working and Rick Nash with two goals (22) is second in the league, registering a point in 25 of the Rangers’ 32 games this season. The first meeting of the season between the Metropolitan division rival Washington Capitals also was a good indicator that everything right now is good in Rangers town.
You sense they can’t wait to take the ice again Saturday night at the Garden against the New Jersey Devils.
“I think we have to enjoy it,” Nash commented about the break. “We’ve worked hard these past seven games and there have been tough ones on the road. But, in the same sentence we have to be ready to come back on the 27th (Saturday) and earn our wins still.”
And the Rangers earned this win. They may have played their most aggressive hockey of the season and got a decisive power play goal from Martin St. Louis in the third period, one of two he scored on the night. The goal came moments after the Capitals made it interesting with a goal in the period.
On that goal, Nash said, “They had a good push. They are a good team. When they were down two goals they took it to us because they had to take chances.”
But it is the Rangers that are taking chances and every opportunity right now is going their way, in particular with the power play. That is the sign of a team with momentum and something that has been evident more during this winning streak which is the longest active streak in the NHL.
“I think we all feel we are getting closer to to where we want to be,” commented Henrik Lundqvist who made 30 saves, his 15th win of the season and his sixth straight victory. “We play a game where I think now everybody knows their role and how to play to have success. It helps.”
The first two periods the Rangers held the Capitals to no goals and limited them to 11 shots. Right now that is another sign of a team with the right combination of players. A few weeks ago, between some injuries and finding the right combinations, getting back-to-back wins was a struggle.
“Like our whole dressing room we feel good about ourselves right now,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We are going on Christmas break, we’ve put seven wins together. We are going to enjoy the next three days and back at it on the 27th.”
With their win, the Rangers got even with Washington in points for a third spot in the division. That is an accomplishment and it can only get better. But will this three day break that the NHL takes for the Christmas holiday spoil the plan to keep going and pull away from other teams?
Said St. Louis, “It’s a day-to-day thing. You try to work on that every day. The team is playing good, we are winning games and it’s a great feeling in here. We did a good job going out there and earning it every day. We take care of the opponents and we play seriously and we’ve been rewarded with some good plays.”
And it was St, Louis, who had not scored in seven games, with that second power play goal that put the Rangers in command after two bad penalties by the Caps, and It could not have worked better. Again with the momentum there, the power play is working to their advantage and that could not be said a few weeks ago,
Said Derek Stepan on the winning streak: I think it’s been the whole stretch. I don’t think you’re going to have success unless the whole team is going. We played well the past few games. Henrik stood tall for us. I think AV (Vigneault) said it the other day….you don’t go anywhere without good goaltending. That goaltending has been phenomenal.”
He added that the defense has done a good job as a five man unit. “I think that goes hand-in-hand with how we’ve been playing.”
Lundqvist also alluded to the work ethic and new teammates: “I think when you have new guys come in you need to find your role. What is my job and what do I need to do to help this team. It takes a while to get on the same page. You always have to work through it in the beginning.”
That beginning, when Vigneault said a .500 record won’t get you in the playoffs is far from their thoughts. The Rangers are winning and a fun team to watch but that well deserved break could be at a wrong time with this winning streak and momentum.
To that Lundqvist said, “It doesn’t matter if you’ve won five in a row or lost five in a row you have to have the same mindset coming into a game and approach it the same way of what we need to do to win. We have a couple of days off so it’s important to have a good practice, a good morning skate right away to get your legs going and your brain going.”
And when you are winning, as the Rangers are, all they will be thinking about is eight in a row when they take the ice again Saturday.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso Twitter @ring786 www.newyorksportsexcaminer.com