This past Sunday, as it was cold in Dallas and there wasn’t much in the way of motivation to do much of anything, I watched the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals in a pretty spirited affair. The game ended up going through regulation, through overtime, and into a shootout. One player continuously stood out to me – Alexander Georgiev.
He was very good against a Capitals team that can score a lot of goals at times. Also, he was good behind a team that sometimes thinks defense is a little optional. That game ended on one of the weirdest plays of the season. As Alex Ovechkin came in for his shootout attempt, Georgiev threw his stick at the puck and prevented Ovechkin from pulling off a chance. Because that is very much against the rules, Ovechkin was awarded a shootout goal and the game ended. That play notwithstanding, I knew the Dallas Stars would face a goaltender that seemed to be playing fairly confident hockey tonight when Georgiev was named the starter.
Though the Rangers are all but eliminated from the playoffs (they were 12 points out of a playoff spot before tonight’s games), that does not mean that this opponent would represent some automatic win on the Stars schedule. Often, these are the exact teams that can be dangerous to the Stars down the stretch as they try to make the playoffs – easily overlooked, with guys getting some bigger minutes to see what they could have in the future for their club or guys playing for future jobs and contracts, there are still things to play for on the Rangers side.
The Dallas Stars started the game with the first couple of good looks on Georgiev, including an unsuccessful breakaway chance by Mattias Janmark. As the Rangers started to push back, though, Dallas would head to the penalty box for an early kill. It was a strength for the Stars tonight, though: aggressive pursuits on the puck and a few shorthanded looks mixed in tonight when Dallas was on the kill. None of the Rangers power play chances looked particularly threatening outside of one shot in the first chance in the first period.
A lot of the reason why the period ended 0-0 was because of Georgiev and Ben Bishop. The two goaltenders had some big saves in the period to keep the other scoreless, and it appeared as though fans were going to be gifted with a goalie duel.
Maybe the goalie duel is a slight oversell. After all, the Stars were missing Alexander Radulov tonight, and his lack of creativity with the puck is especially painful when the Stars struggle to score to begin with. Nothing showed that more than the fact that the Stars ended the game with nearly nine minutes of power play time without a goal to show for the extended man advantage time.
However, somehow, they did manage to manufacture a goal at even strength early in the second period. John Klingberg took a slick pass from Miro Heiskanen. With a Stars forward in front of the net setting a nice screen, Klingberg said he had a lot of net to shoot at. He rang one in off the post by picking the corner on Georgiev, and that ended up being the only way to beat the young Rangers goaltender tonight. That also gave Klingberg goals in back-to-back games.
He joked after the game that maybe he needs to shoot more and stop looking for the pass play as much. If these two games are any indication, most fans would probably agree that he does need to shoot more. Head coach Jim Montgomery quipped after the game that “When it comes to Klinger’s decision making, I trust his over anything I could tell him to do.”
The third period was more of the same as the second period – for about half of the 20 minute frame.
As the Stars killed some more penalty time off, Radek Faksa on a shorthanded chance gets boarded by Mika Zibanejad, who led with his hip and made primary contact with Faksa’s head as he was hunched over looking for the puck. Zibanejad was given a 5-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct on the play as Faksa headed down the tunnel for evaluation. (He should be fine for next game according to Montgomery’s comments post game.)
On the ensuing play after the penalties were sorted out, the Rangers committed a slashing, giving Dallas a 4-on-3 powr play for 23 seconds before an extended 5-on-3 look for the Dallas squad. Georgiev came up with some massive stops, and was the main reason Dallas didn’t convert on that power play time. The Stars had two huge looks at the net and the Rangers didn’t have much in the way of stopping the Stars’ movement of the puck through the most dangerous part of the ice throughout the 5-on-3. Once the 5-on-3 expired, the Stars had some tired power play skaters, and the Rangers got a boost from the two man-advantage kill. They were able to kill off any chances of Dallas actually using special teams to give them a cushion in a game, too.
Near the end of the game, Ryan Strome crosschecked Jason Dickinson into Bishop in net. “We don’t play them the rest of the year, but we won’t forget about that next year.” He called it an unnecessary and dirty play, and now there is one more game to circle on the calendar next season, it seems.