The New York Rangers completed their season sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes, winning at MSG, 4-2, to extend their Eastern Conference lead to 12 points over second place Boston. The Canes fell behind 3-0, but got two quick goals in 32 seconds from Tim Brent and Drayson Bowman to make a game of it.
The loss drops Carolina 26-29-15 with 67 points, tied with the Islanders for 13th in the conference.
1. With Bobby Sanguinetti entering the lineup for Jaroslav Spacek, Kirk Muller and his staff shuffled up two of the three defensive pairings. Sanguinetti lined up with Bryan Allen, while Gleason (Allen's usual partner of late) was paired with Jamie McBain. The result was a mixed bag. Both of the new pairings seemed to lack familiarity at time, and the Rangers took advantage to score once against each duo. The duo of Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison stayed together and also had their share of mishaps, most notably Harrison's near own goal that ended up in the Carolina net anyway.
2. The Hurricanes dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 33 of 51 and moving into ninth in the NHL with a 50.9 percent winning percentage on the season. It's been a remarkable turnaround for Carolina, which ranked 29th last season at 44.6 percent. Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter, who take the majority of the team's draws, are both at more than 50 percent on the year compared to 48 percent and 44.3 percent, respectively, in 2010-11. Surely assistant Rod Brind`Amour has played a huge role in the improvement, specifically with Staal. Throughout his career, Staal has often been closer to 40 percent than 50 percent, but he's improved exponentially this season.
3. Cam Ward recorded back-to-back regulation losses for the first time he lost four straight from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1. And although he and the Hurricanes gave up four goals Tuesday, it was the third straight game the opposition went without a power play goal — though if the Rangers have a weakness, it's their 28th-ranked power play, which clicks at just 14.6 percent. With 24 wins on the season and only 12 games left, Ward is in danger of not reaching the 30-win mark for just the second time in his career as a starter. The other, in 2009-10, was partly due to injuries that limited him to just 47 games and only 18 wins.
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Five — Shot attempts by Justin Faulk that were blocked Tuesday. Faulk continues to be one of the most impressive 19-year-old defensemen to come through the pipe in recent memory, but he struggled against the Rangers' shot blocking, particularly 6'7 center Brian Boyle — who finished with four total blocks, three on Faulk shots. Faulk's offensive instincts are top-notch, but he still needs to adapt his game at times to handle different defensive game plans, particularly on the power play when facing willing shot blockers.
Drayson Bowman — On top of scoring his third goal of the season, Bowman was active throughout the night. He started the game with Eric Staal and Tuomo Ruutu on the first line, but rejoined Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer on the shutdown line in the second period. The trio were the only players not victimized by the Rangers top line of Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Carl Hagelin, and all three finished plus-1 thanks to Bowman's goal — the lone players not to finish the night with a minus.
Tuomo Ruutu — In just his third game back from injury, Ruutu is still yet to hit his stride. On top of looking a tad slow in his decision-making, Ruutu turned the puck over several times, including one behind the net that led to Hagelin's nail-in-the-coffin goal that made the score 4-2.