Hey, it was a win right? The losing streak is dead, long live the winning streak! Still, it's hard to take much positive out of the Rangers' 2-1 shootout victory against an undermanned Carolina Hurricanes last night. It could have been worse if a double deflection off of a Dan Girardi hadn't beaten Anton Khudobin midway through the third and final period. In fact, when Henrik Lundqvist stopped Ryan Murphy to make a lone shootout goal by Rick Nash stand up, there was probably more a sign of a relief than anything amongst the Blueshirt faithful.
At least Lundqvist had something to be excited about. The 32 year old netminder gave an excited fist pump as he secured the win, and stopped 29 of the 30 shots, plus the three shootout attempts to finish as the game's number one star. It was quite an improvement over the previous two games where he let him 12 goals in just over one and a half games' worth of ice time.
But it should never have been this close...
The Hurricanes came into the game with a 0-1-2 record, and without several of their key players. Their three top scorers from last year - Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Andrej Sekera were all out injured, as was their fifth best scorer - Jordan Staal. They were also without the injured John-Michael Liles and Patrick Dwyer, clearly a heavier injury toll than the Rangers have been facing.
To put things into perspective, it'd be like the Rangers being without Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Rick Nash, John Moore and Dominic Moore. It's hard to imagine the Blueshirts winning many games with those folks out of the line-up.
Even with that kind of fire power missing from their line-up, the undermanned Canes still managed to put 30 shots on goal, several of them quality scoring chances that resulted from gaffs in the defensive zone. Several other opportunities went begging because the Canes couldn't convert.
Meanwhile at the other end, the Rangers could barely get a second shot, and a hard time finding space in the slot as the Hurricanes collapsed into the slot to protect their netminder. The Power Play had difficulty setting up in the zone and went 0 for 5 to extend the Rangers to an 0 for 16 start to the season.
When the Hurricanes scored first, it looked improbable that the Rangers would even score. As it was, it took some luck when Dan Girardi's hard pass looking for a deflection in front, actually caught both Zuccarello and Derick Brassard to give the Rangers a chance.
A quality shot by Rick Nash and three quality saves by Henrik Lundqvist, and the home team squeaked out the two points to send extend the Hurricanes losing streak to four games, and end their own three game losing streak.
Rounding out the bad news was a 23 of 67 performance in the face-off circle, with Kevin Hayes - 3 of 15 - and the usually dependable Dominic Moore - 6 of 18 - the two worst, not that Martin St. Louis - 5 of 13 - and Derick Brassard - 8 of 20 - were that much better. Overall as a team, they won just 2 of 18 face offs in the neutral zone - More stats.
Of the few positives the team can build on, perhaps the biggest was that they finally got their first home win, and first win against an Eastern Conference team. They'll still have to answer questions about the power play, but a 2-3-0 record just sounds a whole lot better than a 1-4-0, or even 1-3-1 record.
Giving up just the one goal also has to make Lundqvist feel a little better about himself, and even give the defense in front of him some confidence too. They also can look back at last year - where they started 1-4-0, and being outscored to the tune of 25-9 - as a point of comparison. They have two more points, scored three more goals - excluding the shootout credit - and have given up five fewer.
They also have Rick Nash leading the league in goal scoring...but more on that later.
Let's hope they can build on this, because it's hard to get very excited about this one win.