MATT: There have been times this season where it was debatable who the team's best player was. Last night was not one of those nights. Henrik Lundqvist may have had the best game of his career last night in Dallas, especially in the first period, where he absolutely stood on his head and made several highlight-reel stops, including his arm save on Trevor Daley late in the first. Lundqvist made 23 saves in the first period, the most he's ever made in any one period in his NHL career. Hank even contributed offensively, picking up the secondary assist on Rick Nash's first period goal, helping his own cause. It was great to see his strong performance wind up with a W, as there have been a few games this year where No. 30 deserved a better fate than he was given.
My second star was Chris Kreider, who finally found the back of the net after having what felt like several chancs a game over the last eight or nine games. He did what I've been hoping he would: shoot. He has such a great shot and he's finally starting to use it more. He got a bit of "puck luck" as the puck deflected before finding the net, but they all look the same on the scoresheet. You could tell after the game that Kreider felt some relief after his drought, and the hope is that the floods gates will now open. He finished with one goal and one hit in 15:18 of ice time.
My third star was Rick Nash, who scored his first goal of the season on a gorgeous breakaway in the first period, and later drew a penalty shot int the third period. He looked good Tuesday night, but looked even better with a game under his belt Thursday night. He was strong on the puck, looked great stickhandling through defenders and his presene just changes the dynamic of the team's offense. Nash finished with two shots and had another seven attempts, as well as two blocked shots in 15:34.
JIM: Hmmm, let me think long and hard about this one. Who should be the Rangers No. 1 Star from Thursday night's game? How about the goalie? He was pretty good. Seriously, Henrik Lundqvist was the team's first, second, third, fourth, fifth star! You get the idea. This was a real virtuoso performance by Lundqvist, especially that 23-save first period when the team admittedly had not found its legs yet and he was a one-man show keeping the Rangers from being run out of the arena. Though the his team played better around him as the game wore on, Lundqvist kept up his great concentration and his stellar play for a full 60 minutes, including that huge point-blank stop on Jamie Benn in the closing minutes, to finish with 41 saves. And as you pointed out Matt, there was the great pass to Ryan Callahan which led directly to Rick Nash's goal in the first period. That was a smart quick decision, and great execution. What a night for Lundqvist!
My Second Star was Rick Nash, even though he was stopped on that third period penalty shot and also misfired on seven of his nine shot attempts. He is playing really well, is a force on the puck, and though his timing is a bit off after his six-week layoff, you can see he is being a difference maker out on the ice. Nash kept it smart last night with short shifts and finishing with 15:34 of ice time, but you certainly noticed him when he was out there. His first goal of the season was a beauty, and quite the reminder of his elite skill level. High marks for Nash in each of his first two games back in the lineup.
For my Third Star I am going with John Moore, who scored the game-winning goal, had another shot ring off the crossbar in the second period, and was active in the offensive zone while being decent in his own end. Both of Moore's goals this season have been game-winners, and Alain Vigneault was clearly impressed with the play and shot that resulted in Moore's goal when he spoke about it and him following the game. Moore played 13:40, blocked two shots, and came through in the clutch on a night it had been a possibility that Vigneault was going to scratch him. Well done John Moore.