Rangers regain form with win at Philly
Blueshirts' thrilling OT shootout victory a huge boost in their playoff quest
|Rangers forward Wojtek Wolski prepares to score against Philadelphia netminder Sergei Bobrovsky during Sunday's overtime shootout. Wolski's goal sealed the 3-2 victory for the Blueshirts, who also got a goal from Erik Christensen in the shootout.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
As Henrik Lundqvist waited by the Rangers’ bench for the shootout to begin Sunday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, his mind could not help but to wander back to an almost identical circumstance in this very same building nearly a year ago to the day.
But where the Rangers’ season came to a crashing halt when they lost that shootout to the Flyers in Game No. 82 on April 11, 2010, Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Flyers in the shootout propelled the Blueshirts ever closer to clinching a spot in this year’s postseason.
“Oh yeah, it did enter my mind, and I had a little flashback there waiting for the shootout,” said Lundqvist, who made 32 saves during regulation and overtime, and stopped both shots he faced during the shootout. “But I think I learned a little bit from last year, so I tried to stay in the moment and be focused on what I have to do and not on the consequences. Last year I was thinking too much about if I don’t make the save then we are out (of the playoffs). Now it was just make the save.”
Philadelphia chose to go first in the shootout on Sunday, and Lundqvist made a sharp glove save on Nikolay Zherdev’s forehand shot. Erik Christensen followed by beating Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with a patient move to put the Rangers ahead.
Lundqvist then faced Claude Giroux, the player who scored the lone shootout goal in that game last April which clinched a playoff berth for Philly while ousting the Blueshirts from the post-season. This time Lundqvist poke-checked the puck off of Giroux’s stick before the Flyers’ top scorer this season could even shoot.
“I think the key save was on Giroux,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “Hank stood in there really strong for us today. I think we have the best (goalie) in the business.”
|Rangers teammates congratulate Bryan McCabe on his power-play goal with less than a full second remaining in the first period on Sunday. The goal pulled the Blueshirts into a 2-2 tie with the Flyers.
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“I haven’t seen (Bobrovsky) too much, and I had a plan, but after Erik’s move I kind of changed it up and was just happy to see it go in,” said Wolski, who has scored on 44 percent of his career shootout attempts. “Right now we are so close (to the playoffs) and we need every single point we can get, so to get the extra one today is great, and we are very happy about it.”
The victory was the Rangers’ 24th on the road this season, tying the franchise record originally set during the Stanley Cup season of 1993-94. It also came on the heels of two bitter defeats -- 1-0 in Buffalo on Wednesday and 6-2 on Long Island on Thursday -- which had temporarily stalled the team’s drive to the playoffs.
The two straight defeats -- coupled with another Carolina victory on Saturday night that brought the Hurricanes to within one point of the Rangers -- set the stage for an eerily similar contest Sunday in Philadelphia to the one played 51 weeks ago.
“There were a lot of similarities,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan, who logged 24:45 worth of ice time and tied for the team lead with four hits. “We just knew we had to win. And to our credit we responded after two pretty tough games. That’s how we have been all year, where we’ve responded after games like that, and that if we play the we know how to that we are a tough team to play against.”
After surrendering the game-opening goal to Philadelphia’s James Van Riemsdyk 12:25 into the first period, the Rangers seemed destined to hit the first intermission trailing on the scoreboard despite playing a strong road period
However, successive penalties taken by Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn -- the second on a high stick that slammed into Marc Staal’s nose -- handed the visitors a crucial 5-on-3 power play late in the opening period, and the Rangers took advantage.
Defenseman Bryan McCabe tied the game with a blast through Callahan’s screen right at the buzzer indicating the end of the first period. The goal -- McCabe’s second as a Ranger since arriving from Florida two days before the trade deadline -- was upheld by video review which noted the puck crossed the goal line with 0.7 seconds remaining on the game clock.
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan creates some traffic in front of the Flyers net on Sunday afternoon at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center. The Blueshirts returned to the style of play that has made them successful in close games this season.
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Philadelphia tied the game 4:32 into the third when an open Zherdev, a former Ranger, scored from out in front after Ryan McDonagh was forced to hobble off the ice after blocking a shot. Four of Zherdev’s 16 goals this season have been scored against the Rangers.
Although limping somewhat after blocking that shot, McDonagh -- just like Staal, who was banged up several times throughout the game -- remained in the game and kept battling. It was symbolic of the gritty and passionate effort put forth by the Blueshirts on Sunday.
“These two points were huge,” said Staal, who led all players with 34:01 worth of ice-time on Sunday. “I was hurting a bit out there, but I should be all right. We don’t look back right now. We just want to keep it rolling. So now we just focus on Boston (Monday) night.”
The Rangers have three games remaining on their regular-season schedule---all of which will be played on home ice at Madison Square Garden -- beginning Monday night against the Bruins. From there the Thrashers come to The Garden on Thursday night and the Devils visit MSG on Saturday to close out the season.
And the Blueshirts will be boosted heading into the final week by their powerfully defining performance Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia -- one that should erase any of the demons that might still have remained from the painful loss to the Flyers last April.
“It’s always a great feeling to come in here and win,” said Lundqvist. “Plus there was a lot of pressure on all of us today to respond in a good way, which we did. Now we’ll enjoy it going back to New York and then get ready to do it again against Boston (Monday).”