JIM: I pretty much feel that my Three Stars from Sunday night could be placed in any order and there couldn't be much argument from anyone. To me it was pretty clear that three players stood out in the Rangers 4-3 win over the Panthers and I'm going to put them in the following order: 1-Brad Richards, 2-Mats Zuccarello, 3-Derek Dorsett. Again, any one of those three could have been First Star or third or any mix there of, but I'll go with Richards as my No. 1 Star because he was on the puck all night, hungry to break out of his 8-game stretch without a goal, and then did not let his frustration get the best of him when he muffed Carl Hagelin's perfect set up in the second period. Instead he stuck with it, beat Tim Thomas with a perfect shot early in the third period, and then followed by patiently setting up Zucarello during the 5-on-3 several minutes later for the eventual game-winning goal. Richards had four shots on goal, attempted another five shots, and won 73 percent of his faceoffs. After the game, Dan Girardi called Richards a difference maker, and I agree.
Zuccarello is my selction as No. 2 Star, logging 21:19 (team-high for forwards) of high-energy hockey. Playing at his most confident right now, Zuccarello led the Rangers with five shots on goal, and one-timed the eventual winner past Thomas when the Blueshirts most definitely had to score when handed a two-man advantage. Just another in a growing list of strong games for the popular Noerwegian forward.
Then there is Dorsett, my No. 3 Star on Sunday. He worked diligently all night, as he usually does, as a physical presence, key penalty killer, and smart in-your-face forward. Dorsett's hard work and second effort led to him scoring the tying goal in the second period---the most important goal of the game according to Henrik Lundqvist. He finished with three shots on goal, three takeaways, two shots, and a blocked shot while logging 15:23. Since the loss in St. Louis where his penalties cost the Rangers big time, Dorsett has been a very smart, very effective, very important forward on this team.
MATT: Hard to argue with those choices, so I won't. What a roller coaster of a night for Brad, which ultimately ended positively. As he said to John Giannone after the game, it looked like it wasn't going to be RIchards' night after he missed what looked like was an empty net — though replays showed the shot was more difficult than it first appeared to be. But that changed just seconds into the third period when he buried a gorgeous shot off a pass from Carl Hagelin that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. After the goal, Richards was poised on the 5-on-3 power play later on in the period, and picked up an assist on Mats Zuccarello's game-winning goal to give him two points on the night. If Richards can get going and play the way he was early in the year — when he was the only consistent player — the Rangers will have yet another weapon.
I never like to copy, but Zuccarello deserves to be the second star, as he had the game-winner and five shots, while his 21:19 was a season-high. It's amazing how a light has just clicked for Zuccarello ever since being scratched against the Flyers a couple weeks back. Since then, he's been a beast and by far one of the team's best forwards. He's dangerous with the puck, and opponents know that, which has definitely helped the power play as well.
Finally, I'll take Dorsett as well — though I did toy with the idea of taking No. 30, who I felt had a very strong game — but whenever a guy like Dorsett has a game like he had last night, I think he deserves some recognition. For me, Dorsett has completely turned his game around as well since the start of the season, as he's stopped taking penalties — though he still leads the NHL in PIMS — which I think has allowed head coach Alain Vigneault to trust him in more situations.