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Howard Stands Tall in New York as Red Wings Edge Rangers 3-2

Tonight the Wings traveled to MSG to play the New York Rangers after beating the Islanders on Saturday. The hot hand in that game was Andreas Athanasiou scoring both goals and he was looking to continue his recent hot streak. Making his NHL debut tonight was the undersized Taro Hirose who was projected to play on a line with Nielsen and Vanek. On defense the roster remains the same from Saturday with Lashoff remaining in the lineup.

Jimmy Howard got the start between the pipes, and he has had some of his best play against Lundqvist and the Rangers. The man to watch for the Rangers was Mika Zibanejad with 28 goals on the season coming in.

A betting man would be wise to bet on extended time between these teams as they almost always go to overtime in their matchups. Would tonight be any different?

1st Period

Hirose made his debut within the first couple minutes of the opening frame. Early on Larkin had the best chance to open the scoring as he made a drive down the right side then cut across the crease area, briefly losing control of the puck before spinning and shooting one off the post as Lundqvist was at his mercy. New York struck back with a chance of their own just after on a series of shots that resulted in Howard laid out flat on his back as a rebound was blocked wide. New York carried the play early and earned the first 8 shots on net. The Wings didn’t manage a shot (Larkin’s post doesn’t count) until the game was seven minutes old.

The Wings went to the powerplay when Lettieri went to the box for interference on Lashoff. The Wings managed a good chance on a Larkin shot from the point that was intentionally sent to Vanek at the side of the crease for the redirect, but Lundqvist got in front of it. Just after that Mantha got a one timer off from the right circle that caught the post and stayed out. As the second powerplay came out, Hirose got some time on the powerplay. In a limited time frame he looked good on the right side half boards. He quickly moved the puck off his stick with a few one touches and a shot for a redirect to Larkin. But the Wings ultimately couldn’t put one in on the powerplay.

Not long after the penalty expired, it was the Rangers turn on the powerplay as Witkowski tripped Lemieux as he crossed through the slot. The best chance on the Rangers’ man advantage came on a scrum in front of Howard involving all four Wings penalty killers and four Rangers. Despite several whacks and pokes the puck never beat Howard and the game returned to even strength with score still 0-0.

With 7:00 remaining the Wings had closed the early shot margin to 11-9 thanks largely to several shots during their powerplay. Athanasiou was stuffed twice on successive one on one chances on Rangers defenders Gilmour and Staal. With just under 3:00 remaining Nielsen broke into the zone with a step on the defender, he fought off Gilmour on his back side. He then adjusted his body from a passing position towards Vanek by shifting the puck to his forehand and putting a shot high on the short side past Lundqvist, 1-0 Wings.

It was Hirose who made the nice touch pass to Nielsen in the neutral zone earning his first NHL point. The Rangers made a push late in the period after the goal to try to equalise. DeKeyser made a great block with his stick on a shot that came from the right side hash mark after it was thrown in front from the far side of the net. The Wings made it to the break with their 1-0 lead intact.

For a period that featured 17 shots for the Rangers and 13 for the Red Wings, there wasn’t a lot of top notch scoring chances. Regardless the Wings were going to have to play tighter defensively given the pace of shots to that point. Hirose had a good first pro period, generally moving the puck quickly and not making any glaring errors.

2nd Period

Early in the 2nd period the Wings got caught with too many men and went to the penalty kill. With Larkin and Glendening up front the penalty kill did a good job limiting New York early in the advantage, clearing the zone several times. New York did work the puck around the zone in the later stages of the advantage but never got a good look.

Soon after the penalty expired, De la Rose entered the Rangers zone on the right side after a chip pass up the boards from Rasmussen. De la Rose sauced a pass into the slot to a streaking Athanasiou who was able to redirect it past an outstretched Lundqvist, 2-0 Wings.

A short time later Rasmussen blocked a point shot between the padding above his knee. He had trouble getting to his feet and the play was eventually blown dead. Athanasiou almost made a very similar play to his goal when Bertuzzi chipped a puck towards the net and AA crashed towards Lundqvist quickly but this time the goaltender was able to get in front of it.

Howard and the Wings faced a shift of sustained pressure by the Rangers across the midway point of the period but Jimmy was able to hold the fort and direct several shots away. The Rangers came close on a wraparound try that Vesey couldn’t quite finish the move on but he had Howard beat if he had been able to tuck the puck. Just after that Howard drew a stoppage when his skate blade came loose and left him helpless. But he was back to form afterwards as Howard made a terrific glove save on an attempt from the faceoff dot to his right. The Rangers came on strong after the Wings had opened the gap to two goals and Howard was the only reason the Wings were maintaining that spread.

As the Rangers pressure continued, Kronwall did a great job controlling a two on one slowing the opposition enough to allow a teammate to track back on the play. As the pass came to Kronwall’s man he dropped to one knee and made a great block on the shot. Larkin was able to get a chance to turn the ice the other way when he carried the puck into the zone on a 2 on 1. He elected to hold on the play and made a couple moves to try and freeze Lundqvist before letting his shot go. But the veteran netminder stayed with him and made the save.

The period came to a close with the Rangers sporting a 31-25 shot advantage. Obviously Howard had been a wall thus far facing a pile of pucks. But the Wings did a decent job of boxing out on rebound attempts. Athanasiou had a very strong period with several shot attempts and seemed to show good discipline defensively.

3rd Period

Rasmussen fortunately did return to the game after his block earlier. The Wings continued to allow the Rangers to apply the pressure early in the period. After the Wings got the puck going the other way Bertuzzi worked the puck from down low up to Hronek who lobbed one through traffic towards the goal that deflected off a body and narrowly wide. Later, after a Nielsen pickpocket deep in the Rangers zone he quickly passed to Mantha up high in the middle of the zone. Mantha ripped a one time shot but Lundqvist was able to direct it away to the corner.

Halfway through the period we received an update that De la Rose would miss the remainder of the game due to illness, likely the flu that has been making its way around the Red Wings room. Howard had trouble tracking a point shot through traffic and was fortunate to have it bounce off the shaft of his stick and wide. After Howard scooped up a puck to draw a whistle, Lemieux showed shades of his father trying to harass Hronek. Glendening was quick to put an end to that pulling the antagonist away. After some shoving back and forth nothing more occurred.

The 3rd period lacked chances both ways as with 7:00 to play the Rangers had only managed 5 shots to the Wings 4 shots. But with 5:59 left, Bertuzzi slashed Zibanejad across the gloves and took a penalty for it. The Rangers were swarming during this powerplay and were eventually rewarded after a rebound from a point shot bounced to Howard’s right where Strome was in the right place and knocked it into the open net, 2-1.

On quite the comical play, Bowey was hustling back for a puck into his own zone. Nielsen was also tracking on that puck and Bowey turned and slapped the stick out of his hands mistaking him for an opponent. Luckily for the Wings no danger resulted from the play. With just under 2:00 to play the Rangers pulled Lundqvist. After a near miss on a one timer from in close that went just wide, the Wings chipped the puck up to Athanasiou along the boards. AA streaked through the neutral zone and then lobbed his shot into the empty net, 3-1 Wings.

But before jumping to conclusions on this one, the Rangers worked a puck to the point and after the rebound deflected off Howard, a wide open Brendan Smith tapped in the rebound to close it back to a one goal game with 0:10 to play, 3-2.

Off the faceoff the Wings were able to get the puck to Athanasiou once again and he sent a long shot towards the empty net again trying for the hat trick. But his shot hit the outside of the net and finished this one off, Wings win!!!

Wrapping Up

The Wings not only managed to beat the Rangers, they didn’t need overtime to do it; thanks in large part to Athanasiou’s empty netter before Smith’s would be tying goal. Speaking of Athanasiou he was once again on top of his game in this one generating a good portion of the Wings chances. Hirose had a good debut, nothing flashy but steady. One area for improvement is his board battles but that’s not surprising given his current size. Larkin did have a couple chances in this one but doesn’t seem back to his regular form quite yet, where he typically dominates a few shifts in the game. Mantha other than a couple shots in the 3rd period seemed invisible in for large chunks of this game. Last but not least, Howard was obviously stellar throughout making 41 saves on 43 shots. The Wings did enough to ultimately hold on and have now strung two wins together for the first time in what feels like forever. The Wings look to keep things rolling Thursday in St Louis. Until then, LGRW!!!

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