|CAR||0||0||0||0||0 (0 - 5)||2|
|NYR||0||0||0||0||1 (1 - 5)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Redemption was sweet for Henrik Lundqvist and his Rangers’ teammates on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Less than 24 hours after surrendering eight goals in a loss to the Devils, Lundqvist stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout, leading the Rangers to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
“For a group that lost a real tough game last night, I thought we were terrific in a lot of ways tonight,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “It certainly showed a level of character that will be required to move forward.”
After both teams shot blanks over the first four rounds of the shootout, Rangers captain Chris Drury beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward with a backhand shot high into the net. Lundqvist then denied Carolina’s Justin Williams with a right-pad stop to secure the win, his league-leading 17th of the season.
Showing great resolve, Lundqvist finished with 29 saves, including six in the five minute overtime period. He made his two most important saves in the extra session, game-saving stops on Eric Staal at 1:15 and Matt Cullen 25 seconds later after both players raced in behind the Rangers defense.
“Henrik is our backbone; and I think the coaches made the right choice in putting him right back in there and giving him a chance, just like the rest of us had the chance to rebound and get a win here,” said alternate captain Markus Naslund.
The Blueshirts are 9-2 in overtime this season, including an incredible 8-1 in games decided by the shootout. Lundqvist has stopped an amazing 21 of 24 shootout shots he has faced so far this season.
The penalty killing unit of the Rangers once again showed why it is ranked No.1 overall in the entire National Hockey League, successfully killing off all seven Carolina power plays, including a full two-minute 5-on-3 with the score tied in the third period.
Drury received a double minor for high-sticking at 4:52 of the third, and at 6:11 Scott Gomez followed him to the penalty box for an interference penalty. So not only did the Rangers face two full minutes two men down, but two of their best penalty killers were seated side-by-side in the sin bin, unable to help kill off the two-man disadvantage.
“You know what? I thought we would kill it,” said Renney. “We’ve done a good job of that where we’ve had to kill a 5-on-3 over an extended period of time. I just thought ‘Well, let’s do it again.’ And that was the feeling on the bench.”
Proving their coach correct, the Rangers persevered, killing off both penalties, allowing only two shots on goal in the process. Blair Betts, Michal Rozsival, and Marc Staal handled the first minute of the kill, with Betts finishing his shift by blocking a slap shot and firing the puck down the ice. That threesome was replaced by the equally as effective unit of Fredrik Sjostrom, Wade Redden, and Dan Girardi.
“We’re confident as a penalty killing group, but they have some pretty good skill players over there on that team, so it wasn’t easy,” said Betts. “Afterwards you could tell on our bench that we had a momentum swing there.”
As is the case with most successful penalty kills, the key man on the ice was the goaltender, Lundqvist. And the same held true with 4:14 remaining in regulation when Lundqvist robbed Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour on his doorstep during another Hurricanes power play, keeping the game tied 2-2.
“The guys worked really hard tonight and played a really solid defensive game,” said Lundqvist. “When the guys play like they did tonight, I get more confidence.”
If there was any question as to whether or not the Rangers were ready to play less than 24 hours after their disappointing loss to the Devils, the Blueshirts answered in the affirmative by playing a strong first period. The Rangers put forth a physical and energetic first 20 minutes, and exited the ice at the buzzer holding a 2-1 lead.
Brandon Dubinsky helped set the tone that the Rangers were going to play a hard-nosed game by delivering several hard hits in the game’s opening minutes. One of those resounding checks led to Carolina’s Ryan Bayda responding with a roughing penalty, handing the Rangers the first power play of the night 6:25 into the contest.
Further proving that this was a new and completely different night, the Rangers, who were 0-for-9 with the man advantage Friday in Newark, went out and scored a power-play goal at 7:27 to grab a 1-0 lead.
Nikolai Zherdev and Gomez did the work along the back wall in the offensive zone to control the puck, and Gomez made a perfect pass to Naslund, who was set up at the bottom of the left-wing circle. Naslund snapped the puck high over Ward’s glove and into the back of the net for his 12th goal of the season, second in as many nights, and fifth in nine games.
The ‘Canes came right back and pulled even just 22 seconds later when Tuomo Ruutu hammered a loose puck past Lundqvist for his 10th goal after a steal in the offensive zone by teammate Eric Staal started the scoring play.
Several minutes after Ruutu’s score, the Rangers found themselves in a bit of trouble as they took three penalties in a row, including a pair that gave Carolina 31 seconds worth of a two-man advantage at 12:33. The Hurricanes had one excellent scoring chance while two men up, but Lundqvist made a sensational left-pad save after exploding across the crease from right to left to deny Staal’s slam dunk shot.
The Rangers’ outstanding PK unit survived all three Carolina power plays in the opening stanza. And on the third of those power plays, the Blueshirts scored the go-ahead goal while shorthanded.
Defenseman Paul Mara started the scoring play by poking the puck free near his own blueline, and Sjostrom swooped in to pick it up. Sjostrom burst up left wing to create a 2-on-1 rush with Betts, and Betts converted Sjostrom’s cross-ice pass for his fourth goal of the season at 16:55 to give the Rangers a 2-1 advantage.
“He’s just a workhorse who plays the game hard and does a lot of things well,” Naslund said of Betts. “It’s nice that tonight he chips in with a big goal, too. I am happy for him.”
One night after surrendering a pair of shorthanded goals, the Rangers had one of their own. And it was fitting that Betts, who was playing with tremendous jump and had been denied twice earlier in the period on two very good scoring opportunities, notched the important goal.
Carolina scored the only goal of an evenly-played second period that featured tight checking and few scoring opportunities on both sides.
Veteran winger Ray Whitney finished a neat passing play by rifling a laser high into the net at 7:19 of the middle stanza to tie the game 2-2. Whitney’s 10th of the season culminated a pretty play featuring crisp passes by Scott Walker and Brind’amour. The goal also extended Whitney’s point-scoring streak to five straight games.
Lundqvist made a great pad save on Whitney later in the period and overall looked sharp in stopping 18 of 20 shots over the first 40 minutes of play.
Although the Rangers did not get a lot of prime scoring chances in the second, the Blueshirts did skate with good energy and effort. Yet again it was Dubinsky delivering multiple hard hits, including one that lifted 6-foot-4 defenseman Brett Carson off his skates and onto the seat of his pants.
Rozsival had the best scoring chance in the middle period for the Blueshirts when he walked into a booming slap shot that required a strong save by the partially screened Ward in the latter stages of the second.
Tied 2-2, the Rangers headed to the dressing room at the second intermission looking to find a way to pull ahead again and secure two very important points in the standings. That it eventually happened in overtime -- and more specifically in the shootout -- should not come as a surprise given the Rangers’ success there this season.
“It was almost a blessing that we played the next night after what happened (Friday) night,” noted Betts. “We definitely did not want to dwell on what happened (Friday) night. It was nice that Tom kept the same lineup, and we came up big tonight.”
The Rangers can reflect on all that has transpired over the past two days when they fly out to the West Coast on Sunday, getting ready for a three-game trek through California which begins Tuesday evening in Anaheim with a game against the Ducks. The next night, the Rangers will skate in Los Angeles vs. the Kings, before closing out the road trip in San Jose with a tilt against the league-leading Sharks on Saturday night.
|PPG - Markus Naslund (12) ASST: Scott Gomez (16), Nikolay Zherdev (20)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Tuomo Ruutu (10) ASST: Tim Gleason (8), Eric Staal (9)|
1 - 1 Tie
|SHG - Blair Betts (4) ASST: Fredrik Sjostrom (2), Paul Mara (9)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Ray Whitney (10) ASST: Scott Walker (5), Rod Brind'Amour (11)|
2 - 2 Tie
|1||M. Naslund||M. Cullen|
|2||N. Zherdev||S. Samsonov|
|3||F. Sjostrom||R. Whitney|
|4||S. Gomez||E. Staal|
|5||C. Drury||J. Williams|
|Ryan Bayda Roughing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Dennis Seidenberg Holding against Scott Gomez|
|Paul Mara Interference against Brandon Sutter|
|Scott Gomez Holding against Eric Staal|
|Wade Redden Hi-sticking against Scott Walker|
|Michal Rozsival Tripping against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Joni Pitkanen Hi-sticking against Markus Naslund|
|Chris Drury Hi stick - double minor against Patrick Eaves|
|Scott Gomez Interference against Justin Williams|
|Tuomo Ruutu Hooking against Scott Gomez|
|Wade Redden Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Scott Walker Tripping against Michal Rozsival|
|SA: 29||TOI: 64:55|
|Saves: 27||EV: 22 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 4|
|SV%: .931||SH: 2 - 3|
|SA: 31||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 29||EV: 21 - 23|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 8|
|SV%: .935||SH: 0 - 0|