|WSH||0||0||0||0||0 (1 - 4)||4|
|NYR||0||0||0||0||1 (2 - 4)||5|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Having played with intensity and passion over 65 minutes of regulation and overtime against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, all that stood between the Rangers and an end to their five-game winless skid was a shootout at a raucous Madison Square Garden.
After Ryan Callahan received a fortunate bounce to put the Blueshirts up 2-1 in the fourth round of the shootout, Henrik Lundqvist was called upon to make one more stop to secure the victory. And the All-Star netminder delivered, making a glove save on Brooks Laich’s backhand shot to put the final exclamation point on the Rangers’ wildly exciting 5-4 win over the Capitals, setting off a thunderous, playoff-like ovation from the capacity crowd at MSG.
“It was pure excitement because it’s been a while since we had that winning feeling,” Callahan said of his emotions when Lundqvist made the final save. “And our crowd really added a lot, too. They are our seventh man, and they proved that again tonight.”
The Blueshirts were 0-4-1 in their previous five matches, having scored just five goals during that stretch. With the victory on Wednesday, the Rangers moved into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams have 65 points.
Nigel Dawes scored in the second round of the shootout for the Rangers, but Alex Ovechkin tied it in the third round for the Caps, briefly quieting the home crowd, which had been on its collective feet throughout the shootout trying to will the Rangers to victory.
Callahan -- who was a whirling dervish all night long, recording a goal, an assist, five hits, and a team-high six shots on goal -- potted the winner in the shootout’s fourth round. He beat Caps goalie Jose Theodore with a wicked forehand shot, although the puck clanged off the post to Theodore’s right. Callahan and his team caught a huge break, however, when the puck dropped down and caromed off Theodore’s skate and back over the goal line for the score.
“This was a huge win,” stated Lundqvist, who finished with 26 saves. “This is a critical time and we need wins badly. That makes this one even sweeter to go out and win. It’s fun, too, because it feels like we are playing for the whole season.”
After a wild second period in which five goals in total were scored, the Rangers and Capitals entered the third period tied 4-4. Despite that outburst, no more goals would be forthcoming, either in the final 20 minutes of regulation or during the five-minute overtime.
Almost incredibly, the Rangers were handed five straight power plays in the third period -- including 36 seconds worth of a 5-on-3 and a double minor awarded when Shaone Morrisonn cut Markus Naslund in the mouth with a high stick -- and the Blueshirts failed to convert on any of their opportunities. Naslund and Callahan came the closest to scoring late in the final man advantage when both wingers deflected a point shot just wide of the net.
With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Brandon Dubinsky fired a rising wrist shot from the right-wing circle that handcuffed Theodore, but stayed out of the net. A scramble for the loose puck then took place in the crease, and Blair Betts came close to slipping the puck over the goal line, but did not. When the Caps finally controlled the puck and scaled it down the ice, overtime was assured.
During the scoreless five-minute overtime period, Theodore made three saves, including excellent stops on Scott Gomez’s weaving wrist shot and Dan Girardi’s cannon from just inside the blueline. Lundqvist also faced three shots, and had to make a sensational left pad stop on Eric Fehr’s in-close wrist shot after Fehr broke in behind the Rangers’ defense.
Orr gave his team their first jolt of energy just 2:43 into the match when he engaged Donald Brashear in a fierce heavyweight fight. Both combatants landed big blows during the long bout, and neither ended up on the ice before the officials finally stepped in to break up the fight.
On the ensuing faceoff, Voros dropped the gloves with Washington’s Matt Bradley for a spirited tussle, which ended when Voros lost his footing and fell down.
“We needed to be more physical and be more involved so that we would be tougher to play against,” said Lundqvist. “And right away we had Orrsy and Voros step up, and that was a big thing to show that we were ready to battle.”
Five minutes later, following some key saves by Lundqvist, Korpikoski and Callahan teamed up to inject even more life into the building. Charging hard to the net, Callahan redirected a perfect left-wing feed from Korpikoski past Theodore for his 13th goal of the season, giving the Rangers the early lead they had craved 7:33 into the opening period.
“I think when you look at the goals we scored, they came because we drove to the net hard and we got pucks in deep, which is something that has been missing from our game,” said Korpikoski.
Callahan nearly snuck another in-close shot through a few minutes later, and the Rangers continued to buzz around Theodore’s cage. However, a bad bounce would help stem the Rangers’ momentum midway through the period.
Washington’s Tomas Fleischmann partially fanned on a shot from between the circles, but was able to re-collect the puck after it had been blocked by Dubinsky in front of the Rangers’ net. Given a second chance, Fleischmann chipped the puck past Lundqvist for his 16th goal at 10:51, and the Caps had pulled even 1-1.
More strong play by Fleischmann helped put the Capitals ahead 2-1 before the first stanza was complete. Fleischmann delivered a hard check along the back boards which separated Erik Reitz from the puck. He then proceeded to take the puck to the net and fire a shot that was denied by Lundqvist, with the subsequent rebound banged into the back of the net by Fehr with 1:52 remaining in the first.
Undaunted, the Rangers continued to display grit and passion despite falling behind. And they showed quite a bit of resiliency during the second period, as well, wiping out a pair of one-goal deficits in order to skate to a 4-4 tie after 40 minutes of play.
After Callahan came close to tying the game 1:55 into the middle period when he rang a left-wing shot off the near post, the Rangers eventually did pull even at 8:49 when Korpikoski potted his fourth goal of the season.
Korpikoski alertly slapped the puck past Theodore from 20-feet out after the puck fell down to his feet when Marc Staal’s left-point slap shot inadvertently hit the rookie center in the upper body.
The Caps came roaring right back to reclaim the lead at 10:32 when Mike Green scored his first of two goals on the night. Green wired a right circle shot over Lundqvist’s glove and into the top shelf to not only give the Caps a 3-2 advantage, but to also etch his name in the NHL record books. Green scored for the seventh straight contest, tying the league record set in 1983-84 by Boston’s Mike O’Connell for longest consecutive goal-scoring streak by a defenseman.
Mere seconds before Green’s goal, Lundqvist had made a sensational arm save to deflect a wide-open Jay Beagle shot out of play.
A great hustling effort by both Dawes and Naslund tied the match at 11:39 of the second. Dawes outraced Morrisonn to a rolling puck below the right wing circle, and then slid a centering pass towards the slot. Naslund burst behind former Ranger Tom Poti and, falling to the ice, deflected the puck into the net as he, too, ended up in the back of the cage.
“It could have been easy for him to turn away and maybe just try and tap that puck, but he wanted to make sure he did whatever it took to make sure it went in,” Dawes said of Naslund’s extra effort.
Naslund’s team-high 17th goal was not official until a brief video review confirmed that the puck hit his stick and was not kicked over the goal line. The veteran’s tremendous effort on the play was yet another example of the Rangers’ team-wide willingness to pay whatever price was necessary.
The club’s physical play also proved that point. Callahan, Reitz, and Dubinsky led the hit parade, while Staal joined in with a huge open-ice hit at the second period buzzer on former Ranger Michael Nylander that left the veteran center dazed. Voros also challenged Brashear after the Caps enforcer had taken liberties with Nikolai Zherdev midway through the second, although Brashear did not take the bait.
“I think we did a real good job of finishing our checks and playing physical top to bottom in our lineup, not just three or four guys” noted Dawes. “We need to continue to do that.”
After Naslund’s score, Callahan had an opportunity for another goal, but just missed out on a great scoring chance. The hustling winger accepted a long pass in stride at the Caps blueline and broke in on Theodore for a shorthanded scoring opportunity at the 13:50 mark of the second. However, Green hooked Callahan from behind and the puck slid off his stick, though a penalty was called on the Washington defenseman.
Ten seconds after Green’s penalty expired, the Rangers scored to take a 4-3 lead. Paul Mara hopped off the bench and joined the play in the offensive zone, accepting a perfect pass from Gomez before hammering a left wing slap shot into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season, setting off a thunderous roar from the appreciative crowd.
However, Green netted his second goal of the period -- and 21st of the season, most among all NHL defensemen -- with 57.6 seconds left on the clock to force yet another tie heading into the second intermission.
“It was crazy,” Callahan said of the high-scoring second period. “They took the lead, we came back. Then we had the lead, they tied it. But it’s good for us that we kept our composure. With what’s been going on lately we could have easily gotten down on ourselves, but we didn’t do that.”
As a result, the Rangers snapped their winless skid, earned two very important points, and now can look ahead to another critical conference match on Friday night when they skate in Florida against a Panthers team that sits in the eighth and final playoff spot.
|Ryan Callahan (13) ASST: Lauri Korpikoski (5)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Tomas Fleischmann (16) ASST: Eric Fehr (9), Sergei Fedorov (14)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Eric Fehr (7) ASST: Tomas Fleischmann (12), Karl Alzner (4)|
2 - 1 WSH
|Lauri Korpikoski (4) ASST: Marc Staal (7), Ryan Callahan (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Mike Green (20) ASST: Alex Ovechkin (33), Nicklas Backstrom (43)|
3 - 2 WSH
|Markus Naslund (17) ASST: Nigel Dawes (9), Scott Gomez (27)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Paul Mara (5) ASST: Scott Gomez (28), Brandon Dubinsky (20)|
4 - 3 NYR
|Mike Green (21) ASST: Michael Nylander (20), Shaone Morrisonn (6)|
4 - 4 Tie
|1||M. Naslund||M. Nylander|
|2||N. Dawes||S. Fedorov|
|3||N. Zherdev||A. Ovechkin|
|4||R. Callahan||B. Laich|
|Donald Brashear Fighting (maj) against Colton Orr|
|Colton Orr Fighting (maj) against Donald Brashear|
|Aaron Voros Fighting (maj) against Matt Bradley|
|Matt Bradley Fighting (maj) against Paul Mara|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Karl Alzner|
|Brandon Dubinsky Charging against Shaone Morrisonn|
|Mike Green Slashing against Ryan Callahan|
|Tom Poti Diving|
|Alex Ovechkin Cross checking against Paul Mara|
|Mike Green Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Shaone Morrisonn Hi stick - double minor against Markus Naslund|
|SA: 32||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 28||EV: 21 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: .875||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 30||TOI: 64:37|
|Saves: 26||EV: 25 - 29|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: .867||SH: 1 - 1|