The shootout is a funny thing.
A skills competition at the end of 65 minutes of action is an exceedingly strange way to determine a winner or a loser, especially since the result of a few breakaways winds up making you feel differently about a game that hasn't been changed a bit by what happens in those one-on-one matchups. That was never more clear than at the Garden on Monday night.
The Rangers offense was a non-starter again and they handed a point to a team that they'll likely be battling for playoff position, but everyone went home happy because the Rangers scored twice in the shootout while the Hurricanes didn't score at all. A crossbar here or a puck jumping over a stick there and the outcome is a lot less joyful and the 2-1 win doesn't change the problems plaguing the Rangers.
They got their only goal in regulation because Ryan Callahan took out Canes goalie Dan Ellis to leave Derek Stepan with an easy goal. It didn't look like a penalty, but you'd hardly blame Callahan for taking the risk since conventional means simply aren't getting it done for the Rangers offensively.
The Rick Nash-Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik troika all had chances to put the puck in the net and they failed until Nash was able to get the first shootout goal for the Rangers. J.T. Miller got the other one, a good sign about the rookie's ability to handle his nerves, but there simply wasn't enough threat from the Ranger offense in regulation again on Monday.
Urgency wasn't the problem, not after a sluggish first period anyway. The Rangers played hard and created opportunities, they just didn't cash in more than one of them.
If not for Henrik Lundqvist, that would have spelled doom. But, thankfully, the Rangers do still have Lundqvist and he was able to keep stealing the team chances until they finally won the game.
He made the easy stops, the medium stops and the tough ones, including a point-blank stop that led to a quick transition to offense that resulted in Stepan's goal. It would be understandable for Lundqvist to succumb to frustration while standing in the net watching more than two full games get played between Ranger goals, but he was as sharp as ever all the way through the extra period.
Someone looking to stir stuff up might point out that Lundqvist hasn't been winning many games by himself this season, but a list of Ranger issues is going to have plenty of entries before you get to the goalie. Assuming, of course, you get to the goalie at all on a team that would have lost a lot of 1-0 games this year while giving up copious good scoring chances every night because of defensive breakdowns.
Lundqvist starred on Monday and the Rangers worked hard enough to deserve the second point even if they grabbed it by the slimmest of margins. Turnarounds have to start somewhere, though, and we'll find out soon enough if this is the start of one for the Rangers.