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• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Stephen Valiquette made a season-high 39 saves, and Michal Rozsival scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner 3:41 into overtime, as the Rangers stunned the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 Wednesday night at the Staples Center.
The Rangers, who are now 9-2 in overtime this season, have won the first two games of their three-game road trip through California. They have won three in a row and four of five overall.
“On the heels of a game last night in Anaheim which was a real test for us, too, and a big, big win, coming back tonight to do something like we did is important,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “Not every game is a work of art, and tonight was one of those nights. But we certainly competed and found a way to get ourselves two points.”
The win also lifted the Rangers into a tie with the Bruins for first place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. And the club is now 10-5-1 in 16 road contests this season, the third-best road record in the entire NHL this season.
Nigel Dawes started the winning play in overtime with a slick cross-ice pass to an onrushing Chris Drury, and Drury drove a right wing shot on goal that was stopped by Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera. The puck skipped into the corner where Marc Staal won a battle for it, slipping it back to Rozsival, who was just inside the blueline.
Rozsival stepped into a booming one-timer that flew over the glove of LaBarbera and into the upper right corner of the cage with 1:19 remaining in the extra session, and the Rangers had a dramatic overtime victory.
“Personally, I felt so exhausted because they played us so hard, and they dominated us the first half of the game,” said Rozsival, who recorded the third two-goal game of his career. “But fortunately for us we were able to score in overtime, and I was lucky to hit the top corner.”
Valiquette was outstanding between the pipes for the Rangers, making his sixth start of the season with Henrik Lundqvist receiving the night off after backstopping Tuesday’s 3-1 win in Anaheim. Valiquette made four of his 39 saves in overtime.
“He was huge. He was the difference tonight,” Drury said of Valiquette. “Early on, if he wasn’t as big as he was it could have gotten ugly. He played great.”
Other than Valiquette’s goaltending, the one area where the Rangers consistently excelled all night was with their physical play. Led by Brandon Dubinsky, Blair Betts, and Staal, the Rangers played an extremely hard-hitting game, even when other parts of their game were a bit out of sync.
The Rangers entered the third period with a 2-1 lead, but the Kings came on strong right from the first drop of the puck in the final stanza. And it took just 2:27 before the Kings pulled even on the scoreboard.
Kings captain Dustin Brown, who was a tremendous physical force all night, scored his 12th goal to tie the match 2-2. Brown positioned himself behind Rangers defenseman Dmitri Kalinin and banged in the rebound of a Kyle Calder shot.
A minute later defenseman Kyle Quincey nearly gave the Kings the lead, but his blast hit the post behind Valiquette. Brown pressed on his next shift and came close twice to scoring another goal, once after a Valiquette turnover that resulted in a 20-foot blast on net at 4:15 and seconds later with a perfect deflection that required a sterling right pad save.
The Rangers had their opportunities to forge ahead, as well, in the final period. Dawes chipped a shot off the post midway through the period, and Nikolai Zherdev nearly beat LaBarbera with a quick wraparound with just under four minutes remaining.
The Rangers had capitalized on a rare penalty shot opportunity midway through the second period to grab their first lead of the night. The penalty was called at 12:33 during a Rangers power play when veteran defenseman Sean O’Donnell inexplicably threw his stick towards Rozsival, a clear violation of the rules.
Awarded the penalty shot, Rozsival skated in on LaBarbera, made several dekes, and finally finished with a pretty backhand shot into the net for his third goal of the season to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
“They had been all over us and I knew this was the opportunity, if I scored right there, to put the momentum on our side a little bit,” stated Rozsival.
It was the first penalty shot taken by the Rangers since Jan. 29, 2007 when Brendan Shanahan beat Hannu Toivonen in Boston.
Most important, Rozsival’s goal gave a Rangers squad that looked sluggish for much of the first half of the contest after playing so well in Anaheim the night before much needed life. Vastly outshot and outchanced by Los Angeles prior to Rozsival’s goal, the Rangers came on over the last half of the middle stanza with increased pressure in the offensive zone. As a result, the Rangers actually outshot the Kings 12-9 in the second period, recording eight consecutive shots on goal.
Despite being vastly outplayed in the opening period, the Rangers had reached the first intermission tied 1-1 thanks to fantastic goaltending by Valiquette and a late goal scored by Drury.
Valiquette surrendered only a power-play goal to Patrick O’Sullivan at 14:24 while making 13 saves in the first. Ironically, several of Valiquette’s best stops came on shots off the stick of O’Sullivan, who was buzzing with four shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.
Brown also tested Valiquette with a pair of excellent scoring chances in the first period, but the Rangers’ 6-foot-6 goaltender repeatedly stood tall to deny Brown and his teammates. And luck was on Valiquette’s side, too, when Jarret Stoll’s right wing slap shot clanged off the crossbar at 18:12.
“He played extremely well, right from the start of the game he kept us in it,” Staal said of Valiquette.
One minute after Stoll’s near miss, Drury pounced on a loose puck in the offensive zone and snapped a 35-foot shot off LaBarbera’s glove and over the goal line to tie the game 1-1 at 19:16. The goal, Drury’s 10th of the season, came on only the third shot of the period for the Rangers, and it was similar to Drury’s score the previous night in Anaheim, which was also an unassisted tally off a turnover.
In fact, at the point of Drury’s game-tying score, all four of the Rangers’ goals on this road trip were unassisted, and three of the four came after turnovers by the opposition in the offensive zone. Of course, Rozsival’s penalty shot goal later in the second period gave the Blueshirts their fifth straight unassisted score of the trip.
The final score by Rozsival in overtime snapped the odd streak of unassisted goals, but assisted or not, it was a huge goal for the Rangers, who now have the chance to sweep all three games of this western trek.
Next up, though, are the league-leading Sharks, who have lost only three times in regulation this season. The Rangers will take their shot at San Jose when these two elite teams skate at the HP Pavilion on Saturday night.
|PPG - Patrick O'Sullivan (8) ASST: Anze Kopitar (16), Dustin Brown (12)|
1 - 0 LAK
|Chris Drury (10) ASST: Nigel Dawes (4), Dan Girardi (13)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - PS - Michal Rozsival (3) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 NYR
|Dustin Brown (12) ASST: Kyle Calder (6), Sean O'Donnell (6)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Michal Rozsival (4) ASST: Marc Staal (5), Chris Drury (10)|
3 - 2 NYR
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Alex Frolov|
|Dmitri Kalinin Hooking against Alex Frolov|
|Michal Rozsival Holding against Anze Kopitar|
|Steve Valiquette Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|John Zeiler Tripping against Ryan Callahan|
|Drew Doughty Tripping against Nikolay Zherdev|