For the fourth straight game to start this nine-game homestand the Rangers failed to come up with two points Thursday night, falling behind 3-0 early before succumbing to the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2; and it was the third straight time this week a third-string goalie stymied them along the way, with Mike McKenna becoming the latest on the list Thursday. Rangers Three Stars
: This may the first and only time I select a player who was a minus-three on the night to be the Rangers No. 1 Star, but Thursday night Brad Richards
' effort and energy far outdistanced the play of any of his teammates. His ice time jacked up to 23:41, Richards was a presence in the offensive zone all night, leading all players with a season-high nine shots on goal as part of 13 attempted shots. One of those shots on goal led to the rebound Dominic Moore
deposited into the cage in the first period, Richards' team-high 25th point of the season with the assist. He made some mistakes defensively, a glaring one on the first goal by Columbus, but no Ranger was as active, engaged, or productive as Richards was Thursday night.
My second star is Dan Girardi, who scored a big goal at the time in the third period, was second on the team with four shots on goal, and contributed a team-high three blocked shots at the other end of the ice. He was not on the ice for any of the Blue Jackets' four goals and he played nearly 25 minutes of hockey Thursday. It's been a tough year for Girardi, and Thursday was a rough one for his team, but Girardi stood out against the Blue Jackets and hopefully it's a game he can build off of moving forward.
For the Rangers No. 3 Star I am going with Derek Dorsett. He did not record a point Thursday against his former team, but his tenacious forechecking freed the puck up on Moore's goal, and he was a constant thorn in the side of the Blue Jackets all night long. Dorsett was credited with a game-high five hits, had a pair of shots on goal, and played a passionate game over his 12:22 of ice time. His two penalties were not bad ones, instead he wisely took a Blue Jackets player off the ice with him both times he was penalized. More Rangers could have followed his inspired lead Thursday.
Matt Calamia: My first star goes to Dan Girardi, who I felt had his best game in recent memory, as he did a bit of everything last night in both the offensive and defensive zones. As you stated, Jim, despite playing nearly 25 minutes, Girardi didn't find himself on the ice for any of the four Blue Jackets goals. With the Rangers in need of offense, Girardi joined the play in the third period and Mats Zuccarello found him in the slot and he buried it for his second goal of the season. Girardi finished with four shots and four other attempts, as well as three blocked shots.
My second star was Dominic Moore, who I couldn't have been happier for for scoring his first goal in nearly two years (he did not play last season). Despite being scratched earlier this week, I felt as though he had been playing very well, so to see him get rewarded one the scoresheet was great. He's been very solid in his role as the fourth-line center and penalty killer, and any time a team can get scoring contributions from their bottom-six — especially from the fourth-line — it's a positive. Hopefully the first was the hardest for Dom, and more come.
My third star goes to Brad Richards, who keeps on shooting and shooting. While he was a minus-3 on the night, he continues to play strong hockey and continues to be one of the players who is producing consistently. Obviously you'd like to see the minus-3 improve, but it can also be a deceiving stat.Rangers Unsung Hero
: Good for Dominic Moore
. His long goal-scoring drought, dating to January 17, 2012--and one that continued through last year when he did not play in the NHL--finally ended Thursday when he converted a rebound at 14:08 of the first period. That was a span of 59 games — and three teams he played for — between goals for the veteran center. Moore also won all seven of his faceoffs and did a solid job as a member of the Rangers 2-for-2 penalty killing unit on the night. Moore only played 14 shifts, but he made the most of them; and that goal most definitely should ease his mind as he had been fretting about missed opportunities for several weeks. Good news for a good guy.
MC: Derek Dorsett continues to be one of the positives for a Rangers team that is struggling to find them right now. He's playing with his normal edge but is also looking to create chances offensively. He's perfect in that third-line, sandpaper-type role and he didn't hold back last night against his former teammates. Some fans would like to see him fight a bit more, but I personally think being that pest who stands up for his teammates after whistles is even more effective, which is what he did last night. He finished with two shots, five hits and was a plus-1 in 12:22 of ice time.Dylan's Debut
: Dylan McIlrath
made his much-anticipated NHL debut Thursday night, and he admitted afterwards that the adrenaline got the best of him when he made "a rookie mistake" by trying to nail Boone Jenner in the neutral zone instead of playing the puck on what turned out to be Columbus' second goal of the night in the first period. McIlrath seemed to have the yips there in the opening period, but I agree with his assessment that he settled down somewhat as the game wore on. Alain Vigneault was very careful with McIlrath's ice time and what game situations he played him in as the team's 2010 top pick clearly was adjusting to the speed of the NHL game. In all McIlrath played 13 shifts for 8:55 and was credited with one hit. He also got into a few post-whistle skirmishes, including one with Brandon Dubinsky
in which he drew a high-sticking penalty on the ex-Blueshirt. This is the start. Let's see where Dylan's next step is.
MC: Aside from the "rookie mistake" he made, I thought McIlrath played pretty well in his debut. He stuck to his game, which is simple and physical and I thought Vigneault trusted him more than I thought he would by putting him on the ice in all types of situations. As you mentioned, I liked his reaction when he mixed it up with Brandon Dubinsky after he was high sticked. He saw that Dubinsky was getting the penalty, so he skated away and wasn't suckered into taking a penalty himself to negate the call. It'll be interesting to see what happens with McIlrath in the coming days.