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Sweet 16 Garden Party as Rangers win 1-0 thriller...
Brassard notches lone tally as the King stands tall
Ranger Fans of recent vintage undoubtedly recall a Glen Sather deadline deal that brought a gritty, controversial, lightning rod forward to Broadway by the name of Sean Avery. Jettisoned by the L.A. Kings, who grew tired of his antics and erratic behavior, it was Avery who in turn helped fuel a Ranger playoff run in the 2006-2007 Season. Like Derick Brassard, Avery wore the Number 16 across the back of his blue sweater and had an immediate post-season impact.
Similarities end abruptly after that however, as the soft-spoken, understated Brassard once again rescued the offensively-challenged Blueshirts in yesterday's hair-raising 1-0 victory in front of a stoked Madison Square Garden Crowd.
Brassard found twine at the 9:39 mark of the 2nd period, assisted by former Blue Jacket Teammate John Moore and Mats Zuccarello, thus allowing frustrated Ranger fans an opportunity to erupt in unmitigated jubilation after a period and a half of missed chances, blown power play advantages and a general sense that the teams' lack of scoring punch would culminate in the season's conclusion right before their very eyes. The action level and overall sense of desperation seemed to ratchet up on both sides of the frozen pond after the game's first and only score, and it was from that point forward that the opposing net-minders took part in a goal tending clinic that would've made Eddie Giacomin and Ken Dryden proud.
23 year old Braden Holtby matched Henrik Lundqvist save for save throughout the remainder of the 2nd period and into the 3rd, as the game was hard fought, physical and evenly played but for the Rangers' significant edge in the face-off circle, where they finished with a 27-18 edge on the dot. Alexander Ovechkin, a scoresheet absentee over the last 5 games, had 12 scoring chances resulting in 5 shots on goal over the course of his 19:03 of ice time. But Ovechkin isn't the only Capital who shot blanks at the stingy Lundqvist. The King recorded 27 stops in route to tossing his first bagel of the Post-Season, many of which he saved for the waning moments of the contest. His kick-save in the final seconds was reminiscent of John Davidson, who lugged the Cinderella 1979 Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals with his stellar goal-tending, most notably in the Semifinal Round against the heavily favored dynasty-in-waiting NY Islanders.
So we now await a Game 7 in a Series in which there are no secrets, familiarity has bred an ocean of contempt, and the first goal of the game could once again wind up being the only one.
Can both goaltenders continue to play at their current torrid pace?
Will the Rangers stay out of the Penalty Box now that the scene has shifted back to the Nation's Capital?
Will Alexander Ovechkin and/or Rick Nash find their offense in the nick of time?
One would expect nothing less than an exciting, down-to-the-wire affair tonight with the winner emerging as a legitimate contender to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals.