Rangers refuse to lose, burn Pens in OT
Staal, Callahan makes sure Lundqvist gets the road victory he deserves
|Rangers defenseman Marc Staal powers past Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby along the boards. Staal scored the game-tying goal, shorthanded, at 18:34 of the third period -- just 27 seconds after Pittsburgh had stormed back to take a 2-1 lead.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
On Monday night in Pittsburgh the Rangers paid their first visit to the CONSOL Energy Center, the brand-new home of the Penguins. Clearly the Rangers were hoping that a change in venue might bring them better fortune in the Steel City.
In their last 15 visits to Pittsburgh prior to Monday, with the games played at the Penguins’ former home across the street, Mellon Arena, the Rangers did not record a single victory in regulation play. Over that span, the Penguins posted an imposing 12-0-3 record vs. the Rangers in the city of Pittsburgh. The Rangers most recent regulation victory on the road against the Penguins was recorded back on Jan. 19, 2006.
Although they did not pick up a regulation victory on Monday, the Rangers did the next best thing, earning an emotional 3-2 overtime win, secured on Ryan Callahan’s goal at 3:38 of the extra period.
Callahan tapped in a smart, delayed pass from Brandon Dubinsky off a 2-on-1 rush to win a game that the Blueshirts had trailed by a goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation.
“The way we did it just shows a lot of character in our team which is good for the room,” said Callahan, whose goal was his fifth of the year. “To win a game like this early in the season when we were not at our best, but we battled and worked hard, tied it up late and then won it in overtime, is just great. To come into Pittsburgh and get the two points like that is a really good win.”
Seemingly en-route to a 1-0 victory, the Rangers were stunned when the Penguins received goals from Chris Kunitz at 17:29 of third period and Matt Cooke at 18:07. To make matters worse for the Rangers, frustrated goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct when he smashed his stick over the crossbar following Cooke’s goal and then yelled at the referee.
“You don’t see that from me very often, but I was so frustrated the way the game was called today,” said Lundqvist, who turned in a sensational 37-save effort despite allowing the two late goals. “It felt like they just got another chance and another chance on the power play, so it was frustrating when they scored.”
The Rangers were not awarded a single power play in the game, while the Penguins received six, to further explain Lundqvist’s frustration.
|Monday night's would not have been possible without the remarkable work of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 37 Penguins shots in his first appearance at Pittsburgh's new arena.
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“Obviously you have to take a chance and try to score, and not sit back and accept the loss,” said Staal. “You have to go for it. And Brandon made a great play, sucked all the guys to him and made it easy for me.”
Although their streak without a regulation victory in Pittsburgh was extended when the game headed to overtime tied 2-2, the Rangers felt fortunate for the second chance to earn a victory.
“It was a pretty emotional swing there,” said Callahan. “They scored two quick ones, and then we’re killing a penalty and we knew that as soon as we got the puck we had to go and create something. It was good for us, obviously, how we came back.”
Despite being outshot by a 24-14 margin over the first two periods, the Rangers skated off the ice after 40 minutes with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Erik Christensen’s goal 10:16 into the middle stanza.
Christensen, the former Penguin who spoke highly of his time in Pittsburgh following Monday’s morning skate, made his ex-mates pay when he collected a loose puck in the slot and roofed a quick snap shot over Fleury’s glove for his third goal of the season midway through the second.
On the play, another former Penguin, Ruslan Fedotenko, earned the primary assist. And defenseman Matt Gilroy picked up the other assist, his second in as many games after being held without a point in his first nine appearances this season.
That lead held up due to Lundqvist’s brilliant play in goal, as well as a strong penalty kill against the Penguins’ dynamic power play.
After doing a good job stymieing Pittsburgh’s first power play 4:47 into the second, the Rangers’ penalty killing unit excelled even more in denying the Pens during a four-minute high-sticking double-minor assessed to Staal with 2:45 to play in the middle period.
So good were the Rangers on that important kill that the Penguins struggled to move the puck out of their own end of the ice for several long stretches. Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle put forth outstanding efforts up front pinning the puck deep behind the Penguins net.
The Rangers finished a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill on Monday night. They have now allowed only one power play goal in the last six games.
|Rangers players congratulate Erik Christensen on his goal at 10:16 of the second period. The goal gave the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead that stood for much of the game until the evening's wild closing minutes.
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Lundqvist, who did not play in the Rangers’ two previous games due to an illness, looked healthy and on top of his game right from the first drop of the puck on Monday. He made 12 saves in both the first and second periods, including dazzling stops on Penguin superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Midway through the first Lundqvist somehow was able to make a flashing glove save on Malkin’s wicked rising wrist shot from ten feet out. And 4:15 into the second, Lundqvist flung his glove up to rob a wide-open Crosby from the slot.
Two minutes into the third, just after the Rangers killed off the remainder of Staal’s second penalty, Lundqvist came through again when he stood tall and made a key pad stop on Mark Letestu’s breakaway attempt.
And with four minutes to go, and the Penguins skating on their fourth power play of the game, Lundqvist spread his legs as far as he could to rob Chris Kunitz’ redirection from five-feet out, a play that seemed destined to end with the game-tying goal.
“In hockey things happen so fast,” said Lundqvist. “Things can change so fast. But we worked so hard for this. It’s a big win, for sure.”
The Rangers bring their three-game winning streak back to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night when they debut their brand-new Heritage jerseys and skate against the Boston Bruins in an Original Six matchup.