Rangers Exorcise The Devils At MSG

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Here is our recap of the Rangers 5-2 win over the Devils.

Mats Zuccarello – If there was one word to describe the play of Mats Zuccarello over the last few years, that word would be consistent. The diminutive Norwegian winger has always had a knack for assists but is now starting to put the puck in the net himself, with three goals in his last three games, and two in this one.

For his first goal of the game, Zuccarello stole the puck from Devils defenseman Damon Severson at the New Jersey blue line. Zuccarello skated in on a mini-breakaway and beat Keith Kinkaid’s blocker to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

But the alternate captain wasn’t done yet. With a little over six minutes gone in the third, Zuccarello and JT Miller worked a beautiful give and go to give the Rangers a little bit more insurance and a 4-1 lead. The goals were Zuccarello’s sixth and seventh of the season, and he should have no problem eclipsing last year’s total of fifteen tallies.

Nash-Hayes-Fast – During warmups¬†prior to the game, Alain Vigneault swapped Jimmy Vesey for Jesper Fast. And the move couldn’t have worked any better. Jesper Fast gave the Rangers a one-goal lead in the second, finishing off a great pass from Rick Nash. Fast has been one of the hottest guys on the ice of late, scoring a goal in each of the last three games. The Swede has 15 points on the season (7G, 8A) and is currently on pace to break his career high of 30 points in a season.

With the Devils looking to get back into the game, this line put the final nail in the coffin of the Newark natives. This was a goal that had all three forwards involved, beginning with Jesper Fast forcing a turnover in the Rangers defensive zone. Fast skated the puck up the ice and dumped it into the far corner. Rick Nash then pressured Sami Vatanen into a turnover and worked the puck towards the net where Kevin Hayes pounced on the rebound.

This line had a great game together and is a combination of size, speed, skill, and grit. In addition, when Mika Zibanejad comes back from his concussion, Alain Vigneault won’t have to break up this trio as long as they can keep performing.

“I’ve always thought of him as a hardworking, two-way hockey player. He’s definitely one of our guys that plays the right way in all situations. He’s a good example, and he never gives up on a play. He’ll put his body on the line to get the job done. I’m hoping that that’s going to rub off on a couple of other guys because he’s a real good example.” – Alain Vigneault

Fourth Line – One of the biggest bright spots for the Blueshirts in recent weeks has been the play of the Rangers fourth line. Currently constructed of Boo Nieves, Paul Carey,¬†and Jimmy Vesey, this line was able to do a great job on the forecheck, including two takeaways and five hits. And that wasn’t the only contribution this line had in this game, as they got the Rangers on the board with the game’s opening goal. Nieves forced a turnover and passed the puck to Carey, who touched it over to Vesey to make it 1-0.

When a team is able to get contributions from the entire forward group, it forces the opposition into playing matchups they won’t like. The Rangers already have one of the better top-nine groups in the NHL when fully healthy. If the fourth line can start producing on a regular basis, that makes it just that much harder for the Rangers to play against.

Playing a Full 60 – This was one of the best games I’ve seen the Rangers play all season. They came out ready to work in a game that head coach Alain Vigneault called a “must-win.” And the way the Rangers played in this one is how they need to play the rest of the season. The Blueshirts were hard on the forecheck, were smart in their own zone, and came out of the locker room ready to play. If the Rangers are going to gain the necessary ground to get into the postseason, and I know its just December, they will need to put in workmanlike performances like this one.

“There’s no time to relax. You just have to keep going. The way the league is shaping up this year, it’s going to be a tight race, and our division is so competitive that we have to continue to push ourselves here. – Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist – King Henrik bounced back from a rough performance in Washington on Friday night to backstop the Rangers victory. The Rangers netminder stopped 26 of 28 Devils shots, including this save in the third period with the Rangers protecting a two-goal lead.

Lundqvist has been key to the Rangers recent success this season, and for the Blueshirts to play hockey in late April 2018, he will need to be the brick wall Rangers fans know and love.

NEXT GAME: The Rangers will look to build on this win when they host the Dallas Stars on Monday. Puck drops at 7!

LETS GO RANGERS!!