Sometimes the greatest moves are the most subtle ones. That's the philosophy New York center Derek Stepan employed on a breakaway late in the second period of the Rangers' 6-1 rout of the New Jersey Devils Saturday night.
With time winding down in the period, Stepan took a nice pass from Rick Nash, dashed in alone on Devils netminder Keith Kinkaid and showed incredible hands to tuck the puck between the legs of New Jersey's goaltender. On the tally, Stepan's forehand move broke down Kinkaid so much so that you can see the regret on his face when he goes to slide into his splits. It's like Kinkaid knows he has been scored on from the moment Stepan shuffles the puck across to his backhand:
The goal, Stepan's 14th of the season, is the first for the Rangers pivot in six games. The Rangers are surely hoping the goal is a sign of things to come from the 24-year-old center, too. Since registering 21 goals in his rookie season in 2010-11, Stepan has failed to get back to the 20-goal plateau. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Stepan did manage 18 goals in 48 games, but mustered only 17 goals and 57 points in 82 games last season.
With the victory, the Rangers remain well ahead of their division rival Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. If New York wants to return to the Stanley Cup finals again this season, they'll need Stepan and their other depth forwards to begin clicking. In 24 playoff games last post-season, Stepan was a big factor, recording five goals and 15 points while averaging nearly 20 minutes per game.