JIM: On a night the entire team showed tremendous resolve in wiping out an early 2-0 deficit and a late 3-2 deficit en-route to a thrilling 4-3 shootout victory, Derek Stepan stood out the most to me and is my selection for the Rangers No. 1 Star Sunday. Stepan scored an unbelievably important goal in the first period, just 25 seconds after Calgary had grabbed a 2-0 lead and silenced the crowd at The Garden. That goal clearly buoyed the team and its fans, and set the stage for a very strong second period. Really, Stepan's goal changed the course of the game in my opinion. Then with the Blueshirts down a goal late in the third period, Stepan makes a strong, confident move to the net, and though his shot is stopped, it sets up the rebound for Chris Kreider to score the game-tying goal. Another huge play in a clutch moment for Stepan.
My second star did not show up on the scoresheet, but his stout work over a game-high 31:01 is more than worthy of selection here. Ryan McDonagh, plain and simple, was a bull out there Sunday night, especially on the penalty kill where twice he was a difference maker in helping kill off the tough-to-defend 4-on-3---one of which was a carryover from Kreider's four-minute double minor late in the third period and into overtime. McDonagh was credited with four blocked shots in the game, three during penalty kills. He wasn't as involved offensively, but he more than made his bones in the defensive end Sunday. Huge game by McDonagh that should not be overlooked.
There are a lot of candidates here for the Rangers No. 3 Star, but I will go with Carl Hagelin--who scored the important tying goal in the second period, tied for the team lead with four shots on goal, and had his motor running all night long. Hagelin was skating with a purpose, generating offense, and as such Alain Vigneault often double-shifted him since the Rangers dressed only 11 forwards on Sunday. Hagelin logged 16:17, and except for a not-so-smart interference penalty in the second period, and was noticeable all game long with his stand out play.
MATT: I'm going to go with No. 62, Carl Hagelin as my top star. I thought this was Hagelin's most impressive game in weeks and oddly enough, I think it was because he was positioned in a more checking-line role that I feel better suits his style. I really liked him skating alongside guys like Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot because because he's so strong in a grinding role and his skating helps to balance out the lineup and spread the offense out. His goal in the second period was huge to tie the game, and he was so strong on the penalty kill late in regulation and in overtime. As Jim stated, he led the team with four shots on goal and stood out all night long.
My second star goes to Derek Stepan, who, let's face it, may have saved last night's game early when he scored just seconds after the Flames grabbed a two-goal lead. The crowd was stunned and needed something to snap them out of it, and Stepan delivered. The puck looked like it was deflected, but this team deserves a bit of luck right now as so much has gone against it in recent weeks, most notably with injuries. Like Hagelin, I think last night's game was one of Stepan's best in the last little bit, as he snapped out of a four-game pointless streak as well as a 10-game goal drought in a huge way.
My third star goes to Chris Kreider, who despite taking a couple of bad penalties, is turning into a clutch performer before our eyes. Really, though, is it any shock with the way he made his NHL debut two springs ago? This is the second game in just over a week's time that Kreider scored late to give the Rangers a chance to win, and while last week against the Devils resulted in just one point, Kreider's late-game heroics allowed to the Rangers to pick up two crucial points in the standings Sunday night.