Rangers get last laugh at Pittsburgh
Despite injury to Callahan, Blueshirts find a way to blow out Penguins 4-1
|Rangers forward Artem Anisimov goes down on one knee to join Brandon Dubinsky in celebrating his goal at 14:55 of the third period on Wednesday. Anisimov made it a 3-1 game with the third of four unanswered Blueshirts goals in the final period.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In a season already chock full of major injuries to key players, the Rangers were dealt the most ironic twist of injury-related fate on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.
On the same night that the Rangers welcomed back their captain Chris Drury, who had missed 31 of the first 32 games this season because of two separate breaks of the same finger, alternate captain Ryan Callahan suffered a broken hand while blocking a shot in the club’s gritty 4-1 come-from-behind victory over the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center.
“Obviously, we lose Cally and we’re shorthanded against one of the best teams in the league, so we just tried to grind it out, get pucks to the net, and we were able to get some real nice individual goals down the stretch,” said Drury. “Word travelled fast when Cally got hurt, and that wasn’t a good feeling at all.”
Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov scored 15 seconds apart midway through the third period to wipe out a 1-0 deficit and propel the Rangers to the victory. Christensen’s power-play rocket from the left circle hit the top shelf behind Pens goalie Brent Johnson at 10:10 to tie the game. And at 10:25, Frolov scored his sixth goal -- first in 12 games -- by collecting his own rebound and shoveling it past Johnson on the backhand.
“Everyone kept saying that when we got that first one we’d be good,” said Christensen. “We were thinking just one shot, one shot, and it just so happened that it was my shot that went in. It seemed like everything after that just continued to roll.”
A few minutes after Frolov’s goal, it seemed as though the Penguins had tied the game. However, Evgeni Malkin’s apparent goal -- which beat Henrik Lundqvist to the stick side -- was waved off by the officials because Lundqvist was interfered with by Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis in the crease.
|Rangers forward Brian Boyle and defenseman Marc Staal celebrate Boyle's goal that wrapped up the third-period barrage. Boyle said the Rangers were a 'well-oiled machine' over the closing 20 minutes.
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The comeback resulted in an NHL-leading 12th road win of the season for the Rangers.
“We didn’t think we had the puck enough in the first two periods, though we played well defensively and really limited their odd-man rushes,” said Boyle. “In the third period we got the puck more and good things happened. We were a well-oiled machine and were just rolling.”
Mere minutes after Drury skated in his first shift since the Oct. 15 home opener against the Maple Leafs, Callahan got in the way of a shot during a Penguins power play at the four-minute mark of the first period. Kris Letang’s slap shot caught Callahan in the left hand and the Rangers winger headed off the ice quickly, and soon was in the dressing room with the team’s training staff.
The broken hand was confirmed during the first intermission. Callahan never returned to action after blocking Letang’s shot.
“We’ve gone through it with other players and now we’ll have to go through it again,” Lundqvist said of Callahan’s injury. “There’s not much we can do about it. It’s part of the game and we just have to accept it and keep working hard.”
Through 33 games this season, the Rangers already have lost 98 man-games to injury. Vinny Prospal has missed all 33 following knee surgery; Drury has missed 31 with the two breaks of his finger; Marian Gaborik sat out 13 earlier in the season with a separated shoulder; Michal Rozsival was sidelined nine games due to knee and shoulder woes; and currently Derek Boogaard is out with a shoulder injury.
Now Callahan, who is second on the team with 23 points, will be missing from the lineup for the foreseeable future.
“I just feel really bad for him,” said Drury, who logged 14:32 worth of ice-time in his return on Wednesday. “Obviously, he is a huge part of our team and he’s having a great year. It’s hard to see a guy like that go down. It’s not a good feeling.”
Without Callahan for most of the game on Wednesday, Rangers head coach John Tortorella was forced to juggle his line combinations, as well as his power play and penalty killing units. And the Rangers spent much of the game relying on Lundqvist’s brilliance in goal to keep them in the game against the streaking Penguins.
Through two periods of play, and with his team being outshot by a 22-12 margin, Lundqvist kept Pittsburgh with calm efficiency as the Penguins largely controlled the flow of the game.
|Rangers forward Erik Christensen is congratulated by teammates at the visitors' bench after scoring a power-play goal that opened the floodgates for a four-goal Blueshirts blitz over the game's final 9:50.
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The goal was Malkin’s third in two games since returning from injury. Crosby earned an assist on the goal, giving him points in a career-best 20 consecutive games.
“(Marc Staal) and (Girardi) did a great job on those guys tonight,” said Boyle. “Hank played a really strong game, too, but those two did a great job shutting down Crosby and Malkin.”
The Rangers did not mount much in the way of offense in the first 40 minutes following a couple of quality chances early in the first period. At the 70-second mark, Johnson stretched his right pad as far as he could to rob Boyle’s point-blank redirection of a Brandon Prust centering feed. And at 13:40 Johnson stoned Frolov’s backhand attempt after a neat pass by Drury set up the scoring chance.
Before the game, Tortorella said that he would play it by ear as to how much Drury would play in his return to the lineup. Once Callahan was forced out of action, Drury moved up to play on a line with Brandon Dubinsky and Anisimov and also assumed a spot on the team’s top power play unit.
“I figured my conditioning would be pretty good, but probably, if anything, I was curious to see how my awareness would be after watching too many games and not having any exhibitions or build up to it,” said Drury. “But I felt good out there.”
Following the game, the Rangers immediately headed home to host the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.