|NYR||0||2||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|NYI||1||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers were able to weather a first-period storm of shots by the Islanders and, in so doing, rallied for a 2-1 victory at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday night, vaulting back into first place in the Atlantic Division in the process.
The Rangers have now garnered five of a possible six points over the first three games of their five-game road trip. Their victory over the Islanders moved them one point past the Flyers for the top spot in the Atlantic with 56 points. The Flyers dropped a 4-2 decision at home to the Penguins on Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0, the Rangers swung the game back in their favor by scoring twice in a span of less than two minutes during the second period.
“We knew we would create some chances against them, and it finally paid off in the second period, and then we locked it down the rest of the way,” said Lundqvist. “It was a great effort, and we are definitely on the right track here.”
Chris Drury tied the game at 12:31 of the second, whipping a snap shot from the slot past the blocker of goalie Yann Danis. A strong forecheck by Lauri Korpikoski forced Isles defenseman Chris Campoli into a giveaway along the left wing boards to start the scoring play. Scott Gomez intercepted the clearing attempt, skated towards the net, and then made a neat drop pass to Drury, who finished for his 13th goal of the season, just two seconds after the Rangers’ first power play of the night had expired.
Moments later, Islanders forward Frans Nielsen was penalized for tripping, and this time the Rangers delivered during the power play. Ryan Callahan collected a loose puck at center ice and scooted up right wing and over the blueline. Callahan faked a shot from the circle and passed the puck into the slot where Nigel Dawes redirected it past Danis for his eighth goal at 14:27 to give the Rangers their first lead of the night, 2-1.
“Any time you can win the specialty teams’ game, it’s going to help you out,” said Dawes. “Obviously our power play has not been the best throughout the year, but it’s going to have to be big for us in the second half of the season if we want to get into the playoffs.”
The rest was left up to a strong commitment to team defense and the goaltending of Lundqvist. Coming off of a 2-0 shutout over the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday, Lundqvist stopped 33 of 34 shots to earn his 22nd victory of the season, which is tied for second most in the National Hockey League.
Working with no margin for error in the third period, Lundqvist was positioned perfectly to deny Richard Park’s rising right wing shot off a 3-on-2 rush at 7:25. And at the 11-minute mark Lundqvist showed quick reflexes in making an excellent save on Nate Thompson’s deflection from in front.
With 23.7 seconds left in regulation, Lundqvist made a pair of stops while flat on his back to preserve the win.
“Tonight we had that little extra luck you need in a tight game like this,” explained Lundqvist. “They hit a post earlier, and then we had a couple bounces at the end. But we’ve been on the other end of those bounces, too, the past couple of weeks.”
Danis did his part to keep his team in the game, as well, in the third period. He made his biggest stop of the match at 11:42 when he dove from right-to-left across his crease to rob Petr Prucha of a near-certain goal from in close.
The Rangers seemingly received a big break when Islanders goaltender Joey MacDonald had to be removed from the ice with an apparent left leg injury only 5:11 into the first period. MacDonald, who once again was starting in the place of injured No. 1 goalie Rick DiPietro, gave way to Danis, the Isles’ third-string netminder, which appeared to be a major advantage for the Rangers, especially considering his 5.32 goals against average and .816 save percentage in three prior appearances this season.
Within his first minute on the ice, Danis had faced three shots, stopping all three, although looking a bit shaky in the process. However, the Islanders tightened up their collective game after the Rangers’ initial surge against Danis, and the Rangers would manage only two more shots on goal the remainder of the first period.
The Islanders grew in confidence as the period wore on, and over the last 10 minutes of the opening stanza they out-shot the Rangers by an incredible 18-1 margin. Overall, the Isles fired 19 shots at Lundqvist in the first, while the Rangers finished with eight shots on goal.
“We had a good start to the game, but the second half of the first period they really came after us, which we knew they would,” explained Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “But we hung in there, though Henrik had a lot to do with that, of course.”
The Islanders scored the only goal over the first 20 minutes of play. Campoli skated into the left wing circle to collect a puck that had caromed off the back boards and blasted it short-side past Lundqvist for his fifth goal of the season at 18:50 of the first.
Lundqvist had made a string of excellent stops just prior to Campoli’s score, and was the Rangers’ best player on the ice in the first period. He made huge saves on Mike Comrie’s rebound attempt from the doorstep at 14:08 and Jeff Tambellini’s tip from in-close at 15:28, among his best of the night.
With 7.8 seconds remaining in the first, Lundqvist made a scrambling save on Brendan Witt’s screened slap shot and then was helpless while lying on his back as Comrie’s rebound attempt slid into the post and safely away from the goal line, keeping the Rangers’ deficit at 1-0.
“We did a good job of weathering it, and Hank made some big saves, and we were able to find our way after the first period,” said defenseman Wade Redden.
Both teams played a very clean and very physical opening period. Dawes set the tone for the Rangers with a hard hit on Radek Martinek in the slot to prevent an Islanders’ shot eight minutes into the match. And teammate Dan Girardi delivered several glass-rattling checks in the period, as well.
The Islanders countered with the biggest hit of the period, however. At 14:40 Tim Jackman crushed Rangers’ defenseman Michal Rozsival into the boards behind Lundqvist’s cage. Rozsival gamely played on until, hunched over, he was finally able to reach the bench. After a breather Rozsival was able to return to action without missing a shift.
The same scenario occurred at the 18-minute mark when Rozsival’s defense partner, Marc Staal, was also shaken up after a big hit. But he, too, returned without missing a shift.
The Rangers settled down and played a much tighter defensive game in the second period, which set the stage for the goals by Drury and Dawes that gave the visitors the 2-1 advantage which they carried into the second intermission. In fact, the early portion of the middle stanza featured both teams playing sound defense and blocking numerous shots and passes. Redden and Girardi, in particular, stood out in this area for the Rangers.
“We wanted to go out and win the second period to get ourselves back in the game,” Dawes explained. “We got back to what makes us successful -- get the pucks in deep and play more physical.”
After allowing 19 shots on goal in the first period, the Rangers surrendered only six in the middle stanza. And they continued that solid defensive trend in the final period, when Lundqvist faced only nine shots, albeit still having to make some difficult saves along the way.
“What we can’t do is fool ourselves, and our guys won’t because they understand that they need to be better than they were tonight,” stated Renney. “We’ve got a couple big games coming up against real good opponents and we’re going to have to correct ourselves through looking at this one.”
The Rangers’ five-game road stretch will conclude this weekend with a tilt in Chicago against the Blackhawks on Friday and a match Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh vs. the Penguins.
|Chris Campoli (5) Slapshot - ASST: Bill Guerin (18), Richard Park (13)|
1 - 0 NYI
|Chris Drury (13) Wrist shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (21)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Nigel Dawes (8) Snap shot - ASST: Ryan Callahan (5)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Chris Drury Holding against Richard Park|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Mark Streit|
|Richard Park Interference against Paul Mara|
|Frans Nielsen Tripping against Blair Betts|
|Jeff Tambellini Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|SA: 34||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 33||EV: 31 - 32|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .971||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 26||TOI: 53:17|
|Saves: 24||EV: 22 - 23|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 2|
|SV%: .923||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 3||TOI: 5:10|
|Saves: 3||EV: 3 - 3|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 0 - 0|