MATT: I had Brian Boyle pegged as my unsung hero immediately after his play that led to Ryan McDonagh's goal. Then, he went and scored and I knew he'd be in my three stars. Then, he had arguably his best game of the season and he's my player of the game. Boyle was hard on the puck, physical — as always — and just played with a confidence to his game all night. On McDonagh's goal, the played stayed alive due to Boyle's forecheck, and then he hit McDonagh in the circle to make it 1-0. On his goal, he found open space, received the pass from Brad Richards and just picked his spot. I felt good for him for scoring, as he's so hard on himself for not putting up more offense. Good for him.
My second star was Henrik Lundqvist, who was absolutely phenomenal, especially in the first period when I thought the Penguins carried the pace until the McDonagh goal. He made several saves, including two on Sidney Crosby — on on the opening shift and another on the penalty kill — and just kept the game scoreless long enough for the Rangers to take over. You can tell he loves the challenge of playing the Penguins, and loves it even more after he and the team walk away with a W. He finished with 28 saves.
My third star was Mats Zuccarello, who was all over the place last night, making plays and even fighting. While he struggled early, he's been a completely different player since he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers a couple weeks back. As I've written in this space before, Zuccarello creates so much space because defenders respect his skill and his vision. On the Derek Stepan goal, it looked as if he had no play along the boards, and then he leads Stepan with a gorgeous floating pass and allowed No. 21 to do the rest. On top of that, he's been so physical. While it didn't go down as a fight with Chris Kunitz, Zucc was ready and willing to drop them, and it was great to see.
JIM: All three of those players you mentioned had great games, though I rank Henrik Lundqvist as my No.1 Star. The Penguins had the Rangers on their heels right from the game's first shift when Lundqvist robbed Sidney Crosby at the 20-second mark, and then he proceeded to make big save after big save until the Rangers started to find theor legs and their game after nearly half of the opening period was past. It easily could have been a multiple-goal Pens lead, and you know what that would have meant? A Pittsburgh victory. But Lundqvist was the difference, and he continued to be a rock the rest of the way---the only goal allowed off a wild power play scramble by his crease. Brian Boyle was my Second Star for his all-around solid 12:29 last night. He put forth tremendous effort on the game-opening goal by Ryan McDonagh for which he earned an assist; he once again stood out on a very effective penalty kill that held the high-powered Penguins offense to one goal in six opportunties; and he finally scored his first goal of the season. And it was impossible for me to pass on Mats Zuccarello, who was my Third Star. He played with high-octane energy all night and was the Rangers best forward for most of it. He notched that gorgeous assist on Derek Stepan's goal, had three shots on goal, and was the Rangers engine last night. And I, too, loved his willingness with Chris Kunitz!