Jokinen delivers in OT as Rangers topple Penguins
|Rangers defenseman Marc Staal turned in an outstanding performance in shutting down the high-flying Penguins offense, and he was able to land some hits on his younger brother Jordan.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Olli Jokinen scored off the rush 1:02 into overtime to lead the Rangers to a gritty 3-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at Mellon Arena. The win came in the Rangers’ last regular-season visit to Mellon Arena, and was the club’s first in Pittsburgh since Nov. 17, 2007.
Jokinen beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre-Fleury -- who replaced the night’s starter, Brent Johnson, late in the second period -- from the top of the right circle, finishing off a rush up ice with a wicked wrist shot for his 13th goal.
The victory was that much more impressive because the Rangers played shorthanded, with only 16 skaters much of the night, due to injuries that knocked both Marian Gaborik
and Michael Del Zotto
out of the game.
“I think we all stepped it up and every single player played hard,” said Jokinen, who recorded a two-point night with a goal and an assist. “We had a short bench tonight, but everybody battled hard. Good things happen when you work that hard, and usually you get rewarded.”
Sidney Crosby had scored his second goal of the night -- and career-high 41st of the season -- at 3:53 of the third period to tie the game 2-2. With Marc Staal
in the penalty box, Crosby cruised through the low slot and perfectly deflected Sergei Gonchar’s shot past Henrik Lundqvist
for the equalizer, the goal that ultimately caused overtime.
“Even when they scored that power play goal to tie the game we didn’t stop playing,” said Jokinen. “We had some good chances there in the third before we won it in overtime. It was a big win for us.”
The Rangers originally thought they had received a major boost to their lineup when Gaborik decided that he would be able to play after missing Wednesday’s home game against Nashville because of a 21-stitch gash above his knee. However Gaborik labored out on the ice against the Penguins, was replaced by Ryan Callahan
on the top line, and was forced to call it a night after logging only 4:02 of ice-time.
Another Ranger suffered a freakish skate-blade cut early in the game and was lost to the team for the remainder of the contest. Del Zotto checked Evgeni Malkin hard into the back boards, and both players fell to the ice. Del Zotto accidentally landed on Malkin’s skate and suffered a bad cut to his side or midsection, coloring his white jersey in crimson as he left the ice with team trainer Jim Ramsey after just 2:30 had elapsed off the game clock.
“I thought maybe that just my ribs were bruised because I could feel the skate go there,” said Del Zotto after the game. “But I felt that I should take a check with my hand and I felt the blood and knew something was wrong.”
With Del Zotto out, the remaining five defensemen took on increased roles and played extremely well as a group. Staal led the way, logging more than 28 minutes of ice-time, while Wade Redden
and Dan Girardi
both were up over 25 minutes each.
earned praise from his coach after the game for his strong all-around effort, which included the primary assist on Jokinen’s game-winning goal.
“I thought he was outstanding tonight as far as his puck movement,” John Tortorella said of Rozsival. “He carried a lot of weight for us tonight. I thought he did some good things for us tonight.”
Trailing the Penguins 1-0, and minus two of their key regulars, the Rangers went out and played an outstanding second period. Playing with an edge and passion, the Rangers outshot Pittsburgh 13-6 and scored the only two goals of the period to carry a 2-1 lead into the final 20 minutes of play.
pulled the Rangers even just 1:28 into the second with his 13th goal of the season. Dubinsky and Chris Drury
led a strong forecheck that forced the puck in behind the Penguins net and drew the defensemen out of position. Drury whipped a no-look behind-the-back pass to Dubinsky in the slot, and Dubinsky beat Johnson to finish the impressive scoring play.
“I was open, and both their guys left the front of the net, so I was hollering,” said Dubinsky. “(Drury)’s a smart player and a good player. He made a heckuva’ pass and I was able to finish it.”
The Rangers secured their first lead of the night at 9:44, as Vinny Prospal
also scored his 13th goal of the season. Off a neutral ice turnover, the Rangers took off on a 3-on-2 rush, and Artem Anisimov
feathered a soft pass on to the stick of Prospal who was flying down the left side. Prospal roofed a shot under the crossbar -- his fourth goal in the past four games -- and the Rangers moved ahead 2-1.
Moments later, Drury delivered a crushing check on Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke that sent the forward down to the ice by the penalty box. Cooke pulled himself up and jawed at Drury before the two dropped the gloves and fought. Michal Rozsival
tried to pull Cooke off of Drury once the Penguins winger gained the upper hand and received a ten-misconduct penalty, leaving the Rangers short two defensemen for a ten-minute stretch.
“It doesn’t matter win or lose fights, it’s a matter of standing up for yourself,” said Tortorella. “It was a clean hit, and I thought it was fantastic what (Drury) did. … and Rozy standing up for him. … the bench was 10 feet tall.”
The Rangers weathered the rest of the period with only four defensemen, displaying more gritty play the final half of the middle stanza. In fact, the second period ended with Dubinsky exchanging slashes with Crosby, and Brian Boyle
pushing and shoving with Chris Kunitz.
Crosby, who opened the scoring 6:42 into the first period, likely was still smarting from being wiped out in the slot with two minutes to play in the second by the Rangers combo of Redden and Brandon Prust
Lundqvist had little action in his end for most of the second period, although the Penguins did create some scary chances while killing off two Rangers power plays. Lundqvist was very sharp on those shots, just as he was in stopping 10 of 11 shots in the opening period.
Before the Rangers found their legs in the first period, Lundqvist was there to provide his team its backbone. Cooke, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal were among those stoned by Lundqvist on prime opportunities in the opening 20 minutes.
Crosby, though, did beat Lundqvist on a one-timer from the slot off of a Malkin feed for his first goal of the night early in the opening stanza, the first time in his career that he had reached the 40-goal plateau.
Lundqvist finished with 25 saves and a big victory as the Rangers now look to finish up before the Olympic break with another winning effort on Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.
|Three star selections