Rangers starting to own third periods is a sign this team is turning the corner

Fast scores game winner in the third vs Bos (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Fast scores game winner in the third vs Bos (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The New York Rangers are playing well, especially when it counts the most. We all know how badly they were slumping and we were looking for a sign that they would come out of it. Well, I found one and it’s the third period.

Before the Rangers took on the Ducks on 12/22, their December record was 2-6-2. Coming off a three game losing streak the Rangers stopped the bleeding with a 3-2 OT win, spoiling Carl Hagelin‘s return. In that third period, the Rangers outshot the Ducks 10 to 6 and added 2 more shots to none before Mats Zuccarello ended it in OT. All in all, shots were 12-6 and they outscored their opponent 2-1 from the final stanza on.

Let’s put OT aside, because 3-3 hockey isn’t hockey, it’s NHL Hitz on PS2. Including the Ducks game, the Rangers are 4-2-1, with a 1-1-1 records against the #1 Caps, #2 Stars, and #4 Panthers. They have picked up 9 out of 14 points against some stiff competition and they have done it with strong third periods.

NYR 3rd periods since 12/22/15

NYR 3rd periods since 12/22/15

This is a clear sign of a hockey team sticking with a game plan and playing a full 60 minutes. The only real disaster was in Nashville after a week long break that took them forever to find their skating legs. Even with that debacle in the mix, the Rangers have outshot their opponents by +8 over the last 7 third periods. In that same span, they outscored their opponents by a wide margin of 14 to just 6. Impressive.

For the record, the Rangers are shooting 20% in the third period which is insanely high right now, but as I mentioned before, it is a sign that they are starting to come together as a group. This means they are finding their confidence again, which should result in continuous improvement from game to game for all three periods.

One more thing to note, that save percentage of 90% is only going to climb with every win Henrik Lundqvist picks up from here. The shutdown monsters the Rangers are notorious for being in the third period will come back as well.

The Rangers had a nightmarish Thanksgiving all the way through Christmas. One of the worst stretches of hockey since Alain Vigneault first took over, but it appears the tide is changing. And it could be coming just in time as the Rangers take to the road to face three divisional rivals, the Islanders, Flyers and Capitals.

Three big tests and three big chances to prove that these third periods aren’t a fluke. From what I’ve seen, I don’t believe they are. This could be the start of a winning streak which last happened on November 21st and 23rd. They will do that and more starting Thursday in Brooklyn.