Monday was Eric Staal’s New York debut, but it was another Blueshirts center who stole the show as Derek Stepan scored one of the nicest shorthanded goals of the season to seal a 2-1 victory for the Rangers.
New York was in the midst of killing off a Marc Staal tripping minor when the Blue Jackets mishandled their zone entry and allowed Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh to swat the puck towards the Columbus zone. Stepan was at the Rangers’ blueline when McDonagh speared the puck on, but turned to pick up steam and ended up on a breakaway with two Blue Jackets defenders chasing him down.
Even with the opposition giving chase, Stepan cooly and calmly pulled the puck back as if to shoot, causing Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to fall to his knees. With the netminder down, Stepan pulled the puck forward and onto his backhand before dipping his shoulder, cutting across the face of the net and firing it past a downed Korpisalo:
The move is nice enough at full speed, but watching Stepan’s slick deke slowed down is even more impressive. The patience and presence of mind to out-wait Korpisalo made the play happen, and Stepan did it twice: first on the fake shot and again while cutting across the face of the net.
Stepan’s goal, which came with eight seconds left in Staal’s penalty and 2:48 in the contest, would hold up as the game-winning goal to give the Rangers their third-straight victory.
The Blueshirts now have a stranglehold on second in the Metropolitan Division, but their chances of catching the Washington Capitals are slim. With two games in hand on the Rangers, Washington currently sits 14 points ahead for the division lead.