A blog focusing on the New York Rangers and all things hockey (also Yankees and Giants) with a New York attitude from a fan of 40 years whose greatest highlight came when Mark Messier lifting the Stanley Cup on June 14, 1994
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The third period of Monday's game against the Devils felt like the most important period of the season for the Rangers.
There were some anxious moments in the third period with New York clinging to a one-goal lead, but Derek Stepan scored with just over a minute left to clinch a 4-2 win and allow Rangers' fans to breath a little easier.
Another loss would have been the Rangers' sixth in eight games and saddled them with their second straight third-game slide during that span.
It also would have put Pittsburgh in a position to take over the top spot in the East and given the Flyers an opportunity to pull within one point of the Rangers.
Instead, the Rangers opened a three-point lead over Pittsburgh and a five-point edge over Philadelphia while clinching a playoff spot (joining St. Louis). The Rangers now have 97 points.
Monday's game got off to an explosive start as there were three separate fights right off the opening faceoff. Forty penalty minutes were assessed -- three fighing majors to each team and a 10-minute misconduct to New Jersey's Bryce Salvador.
Henry Lundqvist let in two soft goals in the second period, both of which beat him to the short side, but he blanked the Devils in the third period and ended his streak of allowing three or more goals in six consecutive starts.
But the biggest positive to come out of Monday's game is that the Rangers actually scored a power-play goal after going 1-for-49 in their previous 14 contests against everyone except the Islanders. And Stepan's clinching goal came right after a power play expired.
After going 0-for-5 with the man advantage in Saturday's 3-1 loss to Colorado, the Rangers made working on the power play a priority. For at least one night, that effort paid dividends.
Brandon Dubinksy opened the scoring 71 seconds in -- just over a minute after the trio of fights -- and added an assist in a strong game.
Dan Girardi and Mat Zuccarello also scored for the Rangers while Ryan Callahan added a pair of helpers. Girardi's tally ended a string of 34 consecutive goals by the Rangers' forwards.