While it wasn’t an Al Michaels’s ‘miracle on ice’, last night’s New York Rangers shootout victory over the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden was a highly entertaining and engrossing contest.
It is true that the game occasionally competed against a sustained eating contest. And yes the odd brawl threatened to break out into a game of ice hockey. Despite this, this clueless ice hockey virgin really enjoyed the game and the cauldron-like atmosphere that it and the Garden generated.
Apologies must be offered to aficionados of ice hockey for the lack of technical expertise and understanding of the game contained in this report. Blame must be apportioned to random Australians who surrounded me rather than informed locals with whom I could have gained much wisdom from. How do you get 15-rows-from-the-front seats? Tickets are sold by fans and verified by Ticketmaster.
As the fans take their comfy Garden seats, the player warm-up is a frenzy of activity. It’s a puck-fest. Pucks are shot at goal at the same frequency that Shane Warne tweets.
I love the sound of puck on stick. Clack. Clack. Clack. It conjures neural images of Batman call outs. The sticks are longer than I thought and the skating is graceful. And you can see the puck.
It’s been a busy day at the Garden. The LeBron James clinic against the game Knicks finished at 4pm. Just three-and-a-bit hours later, fans are being warned to stay alert in the event that the puck flies out of the rink and knocks them rotten. As usual, the singing of Star Spangled Banner threatens to lift the roof. The singer has a bit of the Jade Hurleys about him as he encourages the crowd to roar.
The game begins. And it’s fast. Really fast end-to-end action.
And it’s brutal. Really brutal.
Hard bumps. The occasional broken stick.
Collisions with the perspex (?) barrier.
The Rangers dominate early. However, like Geelong in the 2008 GF, they can’t convert. AFL coaches would love ice hockey’s rotation system. Constant changes are made off the bench, as many as four players at once.
Apparently there are rules. A Sabres player gets two minutes for some form of interference. Hooking perhaps?
Halfway during the first period, the puck leaves the playing arena twice in a minute. Stay relaxed and alert fans. Bloody John Howard!
At the conclusion of the first period, it’s still a nil-nil deadlock with the Rangers having made 7 shots to 4.
It’s great to see a little league game played before the second period commences.
With eight minutes to go in the second period, and against the run of play (how often does this happen?), the Sabres through Stafford draw first blood. Both goalies are having great games. Goalies seem to be popular players in ice hockey. Heaps of Ranger fans wear the number 30 of Lundquist and he has his own chant.
In one passage of play, Lundquist, lays on his side protecting the puck from a pack of players as if he’d just laid it.
The Rangers make two breaks within thirty seconds. On both occasions, it’s a Ranger player versus Sabres goalie and each time, the Ranger player is thwarted. Each goalie makes minimalist movements when saving shots. At the end of the second period, the Sabres are marginally in front on the shot count.
During the next break, the human puck race should be accompanied with Benny Hill music.
Where is the promised brawl?
The third period delivers the yearned-for brawl in spades.
The seismic trigger occurs about three minutes into the third period when a Rangers player (number 18) is flattened. The remaining players throw many a round-arm cut lunch.
How many connect? And why don’t they remove their headgear?
Number 36 for the Sabres is sin-binned for five minutes. The AFL MRP would adjudicate a five month penalty. As the Sabres player leaves the arena, the Garden faithful point in unison and chant ‘asshole, asshole, asshole’.
In the ensuing power play, the Rangers through Stefan (?) and Rick Nash on his left both score to take the lead. What an atmosphere?
Minutes later Buffalo equalise. A Sabres player hoons down the left, fakes, crosses and passes the puck to Gerbe (number 42) who converts.
During a time-out, old Rangers footage is shown. I can’t believe it. No helmets. Is there a CTE issue in retired ice hockey players?
Nash is sent off for 2 minutes for hooking. Again, I’m no expert in hooking.
At the end of period three, it’s 2-2 with the Rangers leading 26-23 in the shot count.
The fourth period, five minutes in duration, begins with Lundquist making save after save. He’s seemingly reliable in the Enright/Scarlett mould. Most of these saves are achieved by closing his legs. Buffalo continues to pepper the goals.
A promising Rangers drive (it could be Nash) ends with the Rangers player leapfrogging the Sabres keeper and the puck ending its journey in the Sabres goalie’s safe-keeping. At the other end, Lundquist continues to make clutch saves.
It’s frenetic end-to-end action. The game is superb although it’s hard to take everything in.
Nash reminds me of Johnno. He seems to be three-parts genius and one-part villain. In defence, he conspires to almost lose the game by tumbling into Lundquist with the puck and nearly scoring an open goal.
It’s a shootout.
The Garden crowd are on their feet. For the Rangers, it’s Nash, Callahan and Miller. For the Sabres, it’s Pominville, Ennis and Gerbe.
Nash scores. Pominville goes too high. Callahan scores. Ennis’s puck is knocked away by Lundquist.
It’s the Rangers.
As I leave the Garden, I’m politely asked if I’d like to see some titties tonight.
Where else but New York can you field such offers after watching a brilliant game of ice hockey and prior to that being amazed by the Gutai movement collection on display at the Guggenheim.
I guess it’s all about embodiment.
I’m in a New York state of mind.