When two stellar goaltenders go head to head, it is tough to decipher who is going to come out the victor. With the New York Rangers hosting the Phoenix Coyotes, Henrik Lundqvist would be battling his goaltending skills versus Mike Smith.
In an arena filled with fans from the top of the arena to the bottom (something the Coyotes are not used to seeing back home in Glendale), Phoenix displayed one of their best characteristics in all of the NHL. They showed New York City just how great of a defensive team these Desert Dogs are.
The Coyotes are a top notch defensive corps, yet they lack in offensive power. That wall of defense was their best strategy of attack against the Rangers. It kept the puck out of their net all night long. If it wasn’t for Smith keeping the puck out inside the crease, it was the five guys in front of his net that became and even bigger wall in front of him. The skaters anticipated each Ranger’s move, throwing any part of their body in the way to stop a shot or a pass from getting by them. They literally disrupted the Rangers’ game…even if the Rangers were the ones dominating the puck.
The Coyotes spent more time in defensive mode than offensive mode, letting the Rangers control the puck throughout the game…or shall we say, play chase to all of the shots they were throwing at them. If the Coyotes were not such a defensive team, the Rangers would have had more shots on goal credited to them. But it was the entire team that kept the puck out of their net throughout the game.
Getting into the first period, leave it to Mike Rupp and Paul Bissonette (@BizNasty) to get the Garden up and out of their seats. With gloves dropping and fists flying at 1:57, Rupp took the credit for schooling the young player. With the Rangers going strong and dominating the puck throughout the first period, their 12 shots on goal were shy of a goal and they ended the first period scoreless.
With the Rangers in control, Lundqvist had an easy first period, facing only 5 shots from the Coyotes. As for Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, he was strong in front of the net throughout the first period, denying all opportunities for the Rangers. The Phoenix defense kept the Rangers at bay.
Twitter celeb du jour, BizNasty, ended up skating only 0:46 in the first period. He was the only skater between both teams that had very little ice time.
In the middle stanza, the Coyotes kept up their amazing defense, keeping all 9 shots out of their net. But as the ‘Yotes defense was stellar, they lacked in offense and ended the period with only 5 shots on goal and kept the game scoreless going into the final period.
It was Ruslan Fedotenko that would snap that scoreless tie at 2:27 giving the Rangers fans in Madison Square Garden something to cheer about.
“I tried not to hit too many people there,” Fedotenko said of his goal after the game. “Luckily it went through and hit the net.”
But leave it to Phoenix’s Radim Vrbata to tie up the game at 11:37, with former Rangers defenseman Michael Rozsival getting the secondary assist on the goal. When the Rangers fans heard he got the assist, the boos came raining down throughout the Garden.
As the game played on, captains Shane Doan (PHX) and Ryan Callahan (NYR) started leveling each other out along the boards, exchanging a few blows here and there as their shifts went on. With 2:10 remaining in the game, Doan successfully leveled Callahan along the boards and a brawl ensued over the two captains as they were down on the ice. Brandon Dubinsky and Daymond Langkow were called for roughing in the incident.
With the two players in the penalty box, the clock wound down without another goal to add to the scoresheet. The game then headed into another scoreless overtime where both teams took their chances against the two stellar goaltending skills of Smith and Lundqvist.
Historically, Lundqvist shines in the shootout…and he went on to prove that he still does.
The shootout went six rounds with the Rangers sending out John Mitchell, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov, Callahan and Derek Stepan. The Coyotes sent out Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Vrbata, Mikkel Boedker, Adrian Aucoin, Ray Whitney and Doan.
Of the first three rounds, it was Vrbata that scored on Lundqvist in the second round, and Gaborik kept the Rangers in it in the third round. In the sixth round, Stepan scored on Smith, but Doan failed to keep the Coyotes in it, giving the 2-1 shootout win over to the Rangers.
Who earned the honors of the Broadway Hat? That would be the Ranger that scored the first goal of the game to break the scoreless tie… Ruslan Fedotenko.