Rangers show heart in home opener
Missing two top forwards, Blueshirts fight back in third to gain a point
|Rookie center Derek Stepan takes one of his first regular-season faceoffs at The Garden in Friday's home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Sitting in their dressing room after a nightmarish second period in which not only did they let a 1-0 lead evaporate into a 3-1 deficit, but two of their most important veteran players had suffered significant injuries, the Rangers had a choice -- they could chalk up Friday’s home opener at Madison Square Garden to a bad day at the office and give-in over the final 20 minutes of play or they could fight back and make a game of it in the third period.
The Blueshirts chose the latter option -- playing with fire and passion to force overtime on Brian Boyle’s pair of third-period goals before eventually falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3.
“I am happy about the resiliency and getting a point (in the standings),” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “To get a point out of the game after that second period, I thought we regained ourselves pretty well.”
The Rangers lost star winger Marian Gaborik, who led the team with 42 goals a year ago, to a separated left shoulder when he was hammered into the glass by Toronto’s Colby Armstrong on a play that was ruled a boarding penalty at 2:33 of the second period.
Shortly thereafter, team captain Chris Drury, playing in his first game of the season after suffering a broken left index finger in training camp, broke his finger again and, like Gaborik, was forced from the remainder of the game.
Tortorella announced after the game that Gaborik is likely to miss two to three weeks of action, while Drury will be sidelined six weeks.
“They are both very important guys for us,” said Brandon Dubinsky, who logged nearly 23 minutes of ice-time, more than any other Rangers forward. “It’s tough, obviously, but it just means that the other 22 guys are going to have to step up, pick up the slack, and make sure we just find some ways to get some wins.”
The second period got worse for the Rangers as their 1-0 lead -- provided on Michal Rozsival’s first-period goal -- dissipated into a 3-1 hole in a span of less than six minutes. Clarke MacArthur scored his fifth goal at 2:04; Mike Komisarek netted his first at 4:57; and Phil Kessel scored his third at 7:50.
“They were just screaming through the neutral zone,” Tortorella said of the Maple Leafs, who have now won all four of their games to start the season. “We knew they were fast, but not like that. It’s something we need to work on.”
After 40 minutes of play, the Rangers were trailing by two goals and being outshot by a margin of 30-12. It was at this point in the dressing room that the Rangers discussed playing more physical and begining to take the play to Toronto.
|Rangers captain Chris Drury takes the first 2010-11 regular-season faceoff at The Garden between linemates Marian Gaborik and Alex Frolov. Both Drury and Gaborik suffered injuries in the OT loss.
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“We talked about that going into the third (period),” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 34 saves. “We had to get physical. And it brought us back into the game.”
Boyle brought the Rangers one goal closer by zipping a wrist shot past Jean-Sebastian Giguere at 2:10 of the third. And then just 30 seconds after killing off a penalty to Avery, Boyle scored again from the slot -- on a pretty pass from Avery -- and the Rangers pulled even 3-3 at the 6:19 mark.
“He was pretty effective in that third period,” Tortorella said of Boyle. “He gave us some life and helped give us a point.”
The two-goal outing was the second such game of Boyle’s NHL career. He also scored twice as a member of the Los Angeles Kings against the Phoenix Coyotes on April 4, 2009.
“To get called on a few more times was a nice feeling, as was the chance to help the team,” said Boyle, who had four goals in 71 games last season with the Rangers. “It was good to see the guys come together like that. We fought back, showed resiliency, and that’s one thing positive we can take from this. But it’s a loss, no matter what.”
The Rangers were unable to break through against Giguere again in the third period -- thus forcing their first overtime game of the 2010-11 season. Their chance at earning two points, though, slipped away when Kessel scored a power play goal -- with Marc Staal in the penalty box for interference -- at 3:08 of overtime.
Still, considering the adversity they faced on Friday night in their home opener, the Rangers were pleased to skate away with one point.
Following the game Tortorella added that alternate captain Vinny Prospal, who has not played yet due to a knee injury, will have surgery on his knee next Tuesday and will be missing from the lineup for an indefinite period.
Tortorella was not sure if the club would recall a player or two from the Hartford Wolf Pack prior to Monday’s game at The Garden against the Colorado Avalanche. Veteran center Todd White has been a healthy scratch the first three games, and Erik Christensen missed Friday’s contest due to a sore right leg.
“It’s too bad for them, and it’s too bad for us, obviously,” Boyle said of the injured Rangers. “It’s good we bounced back and got a point, but now we have some work to do.”