|ANA||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In their final contest before the NHL All-Star Break, the Rangers put forth a special effort by scoring twice on the power play and twice while shorthanded to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden and move back into first place in the Atlantic Division.
“It was a great way to wrap up before a bit of break, knowing you won, knowing your power play did its job and the penalty killing did its job,” noted Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “Anaheim is a good team and they came right after us. But we kind of hung in there and got ourselves an important two points.”
Scott Gomez snapped a 2-2 tie and handed the Rangers their third one-goal advantage of the night, scoring a huge power-play goal with 7:21 remaining in regulation. After Nikolai Zherdev centered a pass to Markus Naslund at the top of Jonas Hiller’s crease, Naslund made a behind-the-back pass to Gomez, who somehow snuck the puck past two defensemen and Hiller, the Ducks’ goalie, for his ninth goal of the year, and for what proved to be the game-winner.
The Blueshirts had returned to The Garden on Tuesday night after a highly successful 3-1-1 road trip. With the victory, the Rangers jumped back into the top spot in the Atlantic with 60 points, one ahead of New Jersey.
“I think our team deserves the opportunity to relish what we’ve been able to accomplish in terms of wins and points,” stated Renney. “I think what we’ve done of late suggests we are coming back to what we want to be and how we have to play to have success.”
Gomez and Naslund each led the Blueshirts with a goal and an assist on Tuesday, while goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turned in another gem of a performance, finishing with 32 saves. Prior to Gomez’s go-ahead goal, Lundqvist made huge saves on Ryan Getzlaf at 9:48 and Corey Perry two minutes later to keep the score tied. Lundqvist stopped all 12 shots he faced in the crucial third period.
“It was a great effort by the team coming back here after some road games, and it’s a great feeling going into the break with a good win,” said Lundqvist, who earned his 24th victory, which is tied for second-most in the NHL.
Blair Betts played a dynamic all-around game -- especially on the penalty kill -- and sealed the Rangers’ victory with a shorthanded goal into an empty net with 33.9 seconds left in the match. Betts, who notched his fifth goal of the season, was selected as the game’s First Star for his efforts.
“I think he has had a heckuva’ season, and I think he is just a terrific hockey player,” Renney said of Betts, who drew a standing ovation from the home crowd in the third when he blocked a pair of shots despite not having the use of his stick, which was broken, during a big penalty kill.
“He’s not the kind of guy who’s going to bury a lot of pucks for you, but he will give you a yeoman’s effort every night,” the Rangers’ bench boss also said of his veteran center.
Voros, in particular, made his presence felt on the ice. Playing for the first time in six matches, he skated on a line with Brandon Dubinsky and Zherdev, displaying the hustle and grit Rangers fans have come to expect from him. Voros received some power-play time, and helped the Rangers’ garner the man-advantage when he drew a holding penalty on defenseman Steve Montador early in the second period. He also racked up six penalty minutes of his own.
Dubinsky seemed to thrive playing alongside Voros, producing several quality scoring chances, including one midway through the opening period when he stole the puck and snapped a hard shot on goal that was just blockered away by Hiller. Dubinsky also engaged Anaheim’s Drew Miller in a spirited fight late in the first period.
“We like where we are at in the standings,” noted Dubinsky. “We have a good record and are happy with the win, but at the same time we understand that this (break) is going to be an opportunity to recharge the batteries for a big finish.”
Year after year, the Ducks are among the teams that lead the NHL in fighting majors. So it wasn’t a surprise that Dubinsky’s bout in the first was not the only fight on the night. Early in the third period, Ryan Callahan held his own with Anaheim’s Travis Moen, until the much larger Moen dropped him with successive upper cuts. None the worse for wear, Callahan returned and played a spirited game the rest of the way.
Although the Ducks carried the play to the Rangers early in the first period, it was the home team that was able to score the game’s initial goal. Skating on the power play, Naslund netted his 15th goal of the season -- and first in nine games -- at 12:46 of the opening period to hand the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Naslund’s linemates -- Callahan and Gomez -- deserved as much credit for the score as the man who put the puck in the net. Working diligently down low and along the boards, Callahan and Gomez pried the puck free and it squirted to a wide-open Naslund in the slot, and the veteran winger ripped a slap shot past Hiller.
The Ducks countered almost exactly one minute later, also scoring on the power play, to even the score at 1-1. Rookie sensation Bobby Ryan powered to the cage unchecked and had several whacks at the puck before chipping it past Lundqvist and into the net at 13:45. The goal was Ryan’s 14th in only 30 games played so far this season.
Lundqvist was outstanding throughout the first period, stopping 12 of the 13 shots Anaheim fired his way. Due in large part to Lundqvist’s stellar play, the score remained tied 1-1 after 20 minutes of play.
Whether it was flashing a quick right pad to deny Chris Pronger’s blast 1:17 into the contest, or making a sharp arm stop on Rob Niedermeyer’s down-low backhander at 4:45, or flat-out robbing both Getzlaf and Brendan Morrison during the same sequence near the 12-minute mark, Lundqvist was clearly on top of his game. He finished the period strong, as well, flashing out his left pad to stop a powerful slap shot by Chris Kunitz with less than two minutes remaining.
“Henrik can certainly feel good about his play heading into the break,” observed Renney of the Rangers’ All-Star netminder who has given up only eight goals in his last five starts.
The Rangers regained a one-goal advantage early in the second period when Fredrik Sjostrom potted a shorthanded goal at the 3:22 mark. Defenseman Michal Rozsival cleared the puck out of the Rangers’ zone and Sjostrom sped down the ice on left wing to beat everyone to the loose puck. Sjostrom then unleashed a wicked rising snap shot from the left dot that sailed over the left shoulder of Hiller and into the top of the cage to give the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead.
“That was one helluva’ shot by Freddie,” observed Dubinsky.
Sjostrom’s third goal -- and first in 27 matches -- was the club’s sixth shorthanded score of the season, and, as it would turn out, first of two on Tuesday.
Though the Rangers would reverse roles with Anaheim and carry play for much of the middle stanza, Hiller switched roles with Lundqvist and was the goalie coming up big to keep his team in the game. As Lundqvist did in the first, Hiller stopped 12 of 13 shots in the second, including sensational stops on Callahan’s one-timer from the slot at 6:15 and Dubinsky’s power play deflection from in front at 8:27.
Hiller was rewarded for his efforts when Perry scored a highlight-reel goal at 18:23 of the second to tie the contest 2-2. Perry danced past defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, broke in on Lundqvist, and beat the Rangers’ goalie with a hard, low shot for his 14th goal to even the score before the second intermission.
Only moments before, Lundqvist made a terrific left-pad stop on a George Parros redirection off a 3-on-2 Anaheim rush, just another in a long list of quality stops made by Lundqvist on the night.
“We battled hard, Hank was great, and it was nice to see our specialty teams play really well,” said Betts. “Going into the break with a win feels a lot better than going into the break with two losses.”
|PPG - Markus Naslund (15) ASST: Ryan Callahan (6), Scott Gomez (23)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Bobby Ryan (14) ASST: Samuel Pahlsson (8), Ryan Getzlaf (39)|
1 - 1 Tie
|SHG - Fredrik Sjostrom (3) ASST: Michal Rozsival (17)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Corey Perry (14) ASST: Andrew Ebbett (7), Scott Niedermayer (23)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Scott Gomez (9) ASST: Markus Naslund (15), Nikolay Zherdev (27)|
3 - 2 NYR
|SHG - EN - Blair Betts (5) ASST: NONE|
4 - 2 NYR
|Chris Kunitz Interference on goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Aaron Voros Tripping against Steve Montador|
|Brandon Dubinsky Fighting (maj) against Drew Miller|
|Drew Miller Fighting (maj) against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Drew Miller Roughing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Dan Fritsche Too many men/ice - bench|
|Steve Montador Holding against Aaron Voros|
|Brendan Mikkelson Hooking against Markus Naslund|
|Brendan Mikkelson Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Ryan Callahan Fighting (maj) against Travis Moen|
|Travis Moen Fighting (maj) against Ryan Callahan|
|Ryan Getzlaf Roughing against Dan Girardi|
|Aaron Voros Holding against Bret Hedican|
|Aaron Voros Roughing against Drew Miller|
|Samuel Pahlsson Interference against Ryan Callahan|
|Dan Girardi Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|SA: 29||TOI: 59:06|
|Saves: 26||EV: 14 - 14|
|PIM: 0||PP: 11 - 13|
|SV%: .897||SH: 1 - 2|
|SA: 34||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 32||EV: 21 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 10 - 11|
|SV%: .941||SH: 1 - 1|