MATT: In a game with so much scoring, I still have to go with No. 30 as my No. 1 star. On Thursday, the Rangers' 2-0 lead was a lot more convincing than the score would have you believe. On Saturday, though, while the Rangers certainly played well, Henrik Lundqvist kept the Hurricanes in check. He played his best at the start of the game when the Rangers just got off on the wrong foot, but Lundqvist was superb and kept the game scoreless. With the game still tight in the third period, he was superb again, making save after save to hold onto the lead. It's a shame he wasn't able to keep Carolina off the board entirely because he was that good Saturday night. Either way, though, it was nice to see that Hank was Hank even when he didn't have to be.
My second star was Derek Stepan, who not only snapped out of a funk, he exploded with three goals — his first hat trick since his first NHL game in 2010. Stepan, who has been playing very well centering a line with Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider, quite simply deserved to find his name in the goal column. On his first goal, Stepan hung around the slot until he found the puck. On the second, Stepan buried a gorgeous pass from Zuccarello to make in 4-1 and his final had a bit of luck with it, but like the saying goes, you have to be good to be lucky. Hopefully this is just a taste of what's to come from No. 21.
My third star goes, unsurprisingly, goes to Carl Hagelin, who finished the game with two goals — his first two of the season. The speedy winger changed the game in the first period when his team was struggling to control the puck after the Hurricanes came out hot. While it wasn't a gorgeous shot, the puck found the net and that was it. The feel of the game changed completely and the Rangers never looked back. On the second goal, Hagelin used — you guessed it — his speed to negate an ice, drive to the net and tuck the puck in to make it 2-0. While Hags is most known for his speed, he's so fun to watch along the boards, an aspect of his game I feel is under-appreciated. Hagelin finished with five shots in 17:44 of ice time, and nearly finished with the hat trick.
JIM: Pretty hard to go against those three on this night. I agree that Lundqvist was the No. 1 Star. He was there when the Rangers needed him most. The outcome of this game could have been far different if Lundqvist had not been so steady at the outset of the game until his team found its legs and started skating and playing much better. And Lundqvist continued his strong 'tending through a 14-save third period as his game is clearly rounding into form. That's now 81 saves on 84 shots since returning from that unspecified injury, looking a lot more like the Henrik Lundqvist we all know as compared to the player who started the season and struggled out of the gate. My Second Star goes to Hagelin, who scored one fewer goal that Stepan, but who scored the biggest goal of the game---the first one---to get the Rangers going at a time when they were being outplayed over the first eight minutes of the game. Then with the score still only 1-0 nearly halfway through the game Hagelin uses that elite speed out of the penalty box and scores again to double the Blueshirts advantage. Add to the mix a solid defensive effort from Hagelin, and five shots on goal in total, and I just liked his all-around game better than Stepan, my No. 3 Star, whose line was benched in the first period by head coach Alain Vigneault for poor defensive play. Now Stepan and his linemates sure responded, and Step's goals turned a close game into a nice comfortable lead for the home team, but if we are looking at the complete game, then I'd have to slide Hagelin up ahead of Stepan on Saturday. That said, boy it's been fun watching Stepan-Kreider-Zuccarello generate offense the past few games!