The New York Rangers went into Arizona looking to build on their last win against the Senators. They defeated the Coyotes by a score of 6-3 with the help of three power play goals by Matt Puempel. Nick Holden continued his hot streak, contributing a goal and an assist.
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The New York Rangers began the game with a different starting lineup than most nights. Antti Raanta started for a sick Henrik Lundqvist (flu) and Dan Girardi was not saddled alongside Ryan McDonagh for the first game in months.
The game began quickly for both teams, with the Coyotes giving the Rangers a power play 26 seconds into the game. New York controlled the pace for the entirety of the two minutes.
It was New York’s ability to connect on passes anywhere in the zone that opened up goalie Mike Smith when Matt Puempel surfaced from behind the net. Puempel threw a shot on net that found an opening off of an Arizona player for his third goal of the season. Rangers took the early lead 1-0.
The Rangers continued to dominate the play in the first period when the Coyotes gave them their second power play of the game six minutes in. This time, J.T. Miller retrieved a puck behind the net and drew the Arizona defense in deep. He found Nick Holden trailing alone in the slot and Holden supplied the Rangers with another power play goal as well as a 2-0 lead.
The Coyotes had their first taste of extended zone time a little over 15 minutes into the period. Dan Girardi iced the puck from the defensive zone instead of finding an open man down the wing. The ensuing faceoff was controlled by Arizona when Brady Skjei blocked his goaltender’s view of the puck, which led to a Christian Dvorak goal. The Coyotes cut the lead in half, Rangers up 2-1.
The Rangers were forced to kill off an Oscar Lindberg penalty late in the period but did so easily. Aside from the late goal, the first period was a perfect template for the way the Rangers need to play in order to be successful.
Their zone transitions were completed with speed and numbers, and they controlled their own blue line with ease. At the end of one period, the shots on goal were 11-8 in favor of the Rangers.
The beginning of the second period saw the Rangers continue their domination. This time, Mats Zuccarello held the half boards and passed to Nick Holden at the point. Chris Kreider was supplying a perfect screen in front of Mike Smith and deflected Holden’s shot on goal for his 12th of the season. 3-1 Rangers early in the second period.
Brady Skjei put the Rangers on the penalty kill 12:29 into the second period, but the duo of Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller maintained their rapport shorthanded. Hayes drew a hooking penalty on a 2-on-1 opportunity and the teams skated 4-on-4, but neither team scored.
After the 4-on-4, Anthony Duclair showed what made him an elite scoring prospect for the Rangers a few seasons ago. He deked past Brady Skjei on an inside move in open ice and roofed his shot over Antti Raanta off of Dan Girardi’s stick for an unassisted goal.
The Rangers led on the scoreboard 3-2 at the end of the second period. They also led in shots 24-13.
The start of the third period was frightening for the Rangers, with Radim Vrbata poking away at Antti Raanta, nearly scoring the game-tying goal. However, Raanta was stellar, making tough save after tough save negating any opportunities Arizona created early. The play was trending in the Coyotes’ direction, though.
Anthony Duclair was pushing harder as the game went on, and he drew a penalty almost 7 minutes into the third. The Coyotes moved with ease through the neutral zone and Dan Girardi over-committed on a pass from Radim Vrbata to Tobias Rieder across the goal crease. Rieder buried Arizona’s first power play goal of the game, the score was tied 3-3.
I don't know what that was by Girardi on the PK. Rangers getting smoked every time he's on the ice.
With the game getting ugly, the Rangers were given their sixth power play of the game. The Rangers were successful in gaining the zone led by Ryan McDonagh’s quarterbacking. McDonagh fired a shot on goal where Matt Puempel was postured in front of the Coyotes goaltender for a tip-in goal, his second power play tally of the game. The Rangers took the late 4-3 lead.
The Rangers refused to play conservatively following Puempel’s second power play goal. Arizona pulled Mike Smith from the net with over a minute to play. J.T. Miller scored on an empty net and Matt Puempel found himself gifted a goal on a tremendous pass by Marek Hrivik to secure the hat-trick and the Rangers victory.
Final Score: New York Rangers 6 Arizona Coyotes 3. Final shots 32-22 in favor of the Rangers.
With the Rangers controlling play through the first period, it looked like they would be able to cruise to an easy victory. The special teams were strong early on, helping give the team their early lead on the two power play goals. However, the pace changed midway through the second period and the Coyotes began to control the play. The 2015-16 Rangers had a problem playing a full 60 minutes, this team must not fall into the same trap.
The special team units for the Rangers won them this game. Three of the team’s six goals came with the man-advantage and although they gave up the third-period goal, the penalty kill looked strong as well. Any time they can win the special team goal differential by two, they should come away with the victory.
Matt Puempel had a career game against Arizona, scoring two of the Rangers’ three power play goals and recording his first career hat-trick. With Rick Nash and Pavel Buchnevich’s return on the horizon, there will be roster decisions looming. Puempel is auditioning to be a mainstay on Broadway as a secondary scoring option.
Nick Holden is officially on fire. He scored his third goal in two games and recorded another multi-point game. He has 20 points on the season and is on pace to shatter his previous career high in points of 25. He has been the team’s second-best defenseman after a rough first month.
Most of the new defensive pairings looked comfortable against the Coyotes’ weak roster. In particular, the Staal-Holden pairing looked strong and Ryan McDonagh’s play was noticeably stronger without Dan Girardi at his side. The Girardi-Skjei pairing had a rough go of it, but with sheltered minutes they can be managed.