Valiquette unbeatable as Rangers win in shootout
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Players Discuss the Shootout Win
|Renney Postgame Remarks
|Sam and Joe Recap the Game
Oct. 17, 2008
|Steve Valiquette heard his name chanted multiple times by the Garden Faithful during a 21-save performance for the Rangers' first shutout of the season.
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Nikolai Zherdev and Fredrik Sjostrom scored in the shootout, and Stephen Valiquette denied the final shooter, Jason Blake, as the Rangers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
“This was huge win because we are still a team trying to find its legs a little bit and prove ourselves in lots of different ways,” noted Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “And in games like this, you need great goaltending, and we sure got that tonight. This was a very big win.
Zherdev, the first skater in the shootout, beat Toronto goalie Vesa Toskala with a wicked forehand shot, and Sjostrom, the Blueshirts’ third shooter, banked a shot off of Toskala and just over the goal line.
“It was nice to see that go in, that’s for sure,” said Sjostrom. “It was a great game from Vali, and it was nice to win that for him.”
Valiquette, meanwhile stopped Matt Stajan on Toronto’s first shootout attempt; but rookie Nikolai Kulemin scored on the forehand on the Leafs second shot.
After Sjostrom had beaten Toskala, Valiquette stood tall against Blake, who burst in and fired a shot that Valiquette knocked out with his blocker to cement the victory and the shutout, the third of his career.
“Truthfully, I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well today,” said Valiquette, who made 21 saves. “I really want to feel as comfortable as possible in this building because I know my job and my role on this team is to be ready at all times.”
The Blueshirts upped their record to 6-1-0 with the win; and they now have a league-high 12 points. Toronto is 1-1-2 after losing their second straight shootout.
Valiquette, making his second start of the season in goal, was the star of the five-minute overtime session, making five saves, including three during a Toronto power play. His biggest one, though, was a game-saving stop only 14 seconds into the overtime when he flung out his left arm to deny Blake’s rising 15-foot shot off a 2-on-2 rush. Rightfully so, the extra-session featured several booming choruses of “Val-ly! Val-ly!” from the capacity crowd in Valiquette’s honor.
“It gave me goose bumps, and let me know how Henrik (Lundqvist) feels,” Valiquette said of the fan support.
The Rangers had come tantalizingly close to winning the game in regulation when twice within a minute during the third period they had shots that caught iron behind Toskala. First Scott Gomez fired a shot from left wing that deflected off of Ryan Callahan
’s leg and proceeded to hit the right post, bounce on the goal line, and then hit the left post at the 8:40 mark.
Play continued with the Rangers applying much pressure on the Maple Leafs. And at 9:05 Dan Girardi
sent a shot from the right point through a maze of players in front, but though the puck eluded Toskala, it again hit the left post and bounced straight out.
With the help of three power plays, the Rangers completely dominated the Maple Leafs in the third period, but Toskala was strong in goal, denying solid scoring chances by Girardi, Sjostrom, Zherdev, and Markus Naslund, among others.
So complete was the Ranger domination that the Blueshirts did not give up their first shot on goal to Toronto in the third until nearly fifteen minutes had elapsed in the period. And on that one, an alert Valiquette had to make a quick-reaction save amidst traffic in front of his net.
“Tonight he had to make some stellar saves in order for us to win this hockey game,” Renney said of Valiquette. “As dominant as I think we were in that third period, he still had to make big saves on difficult chances where we had left him alone to take care of things.”
All told, the Rangers outshot the Maple Leafs 13-4 in the third period, with nearly the entire session played in Toronto’s end of the ice. Nevertheless the two teams remained scoreless after 60 minutes of play.
With center Lauri Korpikoski out of the Rangers lineup due to a sore wrist, Renney shifted captain Chris Drury
from the wing to the center position. Drury remained paired with usual linemate Naslund, as Dan Fritsche also skated on that line Friday night. Fritsche had a pair of excellent scoring chances early in the second period -- one off a steal in front in which he fired the puck into Toskala’s chest, and the other on a left wing drive following a perfect cross-ice pass by Drury.
Gomez, who had been centering Drury and Naslund over the first six games of the season, found himself between Callahan and Nigel Dawes, the latter of whom returned to the lineup on Friday after being scratched in the previous three matches. The line played with a lot of jump, and Dawes, in particular, played with a physical edge to his game.
“The combinations we went with were ones that I thought would work best for the centermen on the two lines,” explained Renney. “And I wanted to see Chris back at center.”
However, despite the line juggling, the Rangers were held off the scoreboard over the first two periods by a gritty and determined Maple Leafs squad, and the two teams skated into the second intermission 0-0.
After a physical, though largely uneventful first period, play picked up by both teams in the middle stanza. After Fritsche’s two good scoring chances in the first three minutes set the tone for a more upbeat second period, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal
brought the crowd to its feet with a thunderous hit on Stajan that sent the talented winger sprawling to the ice.
When Staal turned around after the clean hit, Toronto enforcer Jamal Mayers was set to drop the gloves, and Staal, not known for his pugilistic talents, obliged. Though Mayers handled Staal in the fight, the sophomore defenseman drew roars of approval from the MSG Faithful.
Twenty seconds after that fight, Colton Orr delivered another clean, hard check, this one on Toronto’s Nik Antropov, and Antropov went back after Orr. Antropov was assessed a roughing penalty and the Rangers headed to the power play, which would come within inches of scoring the first goal of the night.
One minute into the man advantage, Gomez, with a defenseman hanging on his back, reached out to deflect a goal-mouth pass towards the net. Toskala dove across the crease, and was just able to stop the puck as it trickled towards the goal line.
The Blueshirts’ next best scoring opportunity in the second came with the Maple Leafs on the power play. With three minutes remaining in the period, Drury whipped a shorthanded backhander over the net while stationed just fifteen feet from the cage.
The Maple Leafs did not have as many quality scoring chances as the Rangers, but Valiquette was required to make two excellent saves in order for the game to remain scoreless. At 6:49 of the second, Valiquette turned in a scintillating, sprawling right pad save on Pavel Kubina after the Toronto defenseman had broken in during a Leafs power play.
Then with 20 seconds remaining in the middle stanza, Kubina ripped a slap shot on net as the trailer during a 3-on-2 break, but Valiquette confidently kicked out his right pad and squashed the scoring opportunity, just as he squashed the Maple Leafs hopes of coming into The Garden and grabbing a big road win on Friday night.
Immediately after the big win at MSG, the Rangers headed to the airport for a flight to Detroit, where a tilt against the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings awaits them on Saturday night.
|Three star selections