|NYI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
It wasn’t easy for the Rangers on Wednesday evening at Madison Square Garden, but that was to be expected with the pesky Islanders providing the opposition and looking to extend the Blueshirts’ recent struggles.
To their credit, the Rangers persevered and snapped a three game winless skid with a strong 3-1 victory over their Long Island neighbors. The victory was only the second in 10 games (2-6-2) for the Rangers, who have now won four of five from the Islanders this season.
The victory was important because not only did it bring a halt to their winless skid, but it vaulted the Rangers back into fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 68 points.
“Right from the start we were engaged and our heart was in the right place,” stated captain Chris Drury, who assisted on all three Rangers’ goals. “It was a 60-minute effort where we played hard throughout. We got ourselves a big win.”
Henrik Lundqvist was rock solid in goal for the Blueshirts, finishing with 25 saves. He made two critical stops on Andy Hilbert in the first period after the Islanders had tied the game at one apiece, and another huge save on Josh Bailey’s power play one-timer from the low slot 3:18 into the third period to preserve the Rangers 2-1 lead.
“I think it was a good job tonight, it was a big effort, and it is something to build off of,” noted defenseman Wade Redden.
With the score tied 1-1, and having been denied on two power plays already in the game, the Rangers were handed another man-advantage at 6:32 of the second when the Islanders Richard Park was whistled for interfering with Lundqvist during a scramble in the Blueshirts’ crease. At that point in time, the Blueshirts had not scored a power-play goal since Feb. 6 in Dallas -- a span of six games and 23 power plays.
Perhaps the Rangers needed a bit of luck to snap out of their power play funk, which is exactly what they got at the 7:26 mark. Gomez rushed the puck up ice, maneuvered around one Islanders defenseman, and sent a soft wrist shot at Islanders goalie Yann Danis from between the circles 30 feet from the cage. Surprisingly, Danis -- in the midst of a strong performance -- misplayed Gomez’s shot and the puck trickled between his pads and over the goal line, handing the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
Gomez was mobbed by his relieved teammates just as if he had sent a laser top shelf. The bottom line was that the Rangers had scored a hugely important power play goal, and Gomez -- netting his 11th of the season -- had his first goal in 10 contests. And most important, the Blueshirts were back in front.
“I don’t know how it went in,” explained Gomez. “You just shoot the puck and good things will happen. Hey, we finally got a bounce going our way.”
The other half of the Rangers’ special teams helped that lead stand up through two periods as the Blueshirts smartly killed off two Islanders power plays following Gomez’s go-ahead score.
The Rangers’ best penalty killer was Lundqvist, who made a neat stick save after Bailey accepted a Blake Comeau pass on the man advantage and shot from five feet out at 10:40, and who robbed Park on an earlier power play one-timer.
All told, the Rangers’ penalty killers were a perfect 4-for-4 on the night.
A physical game from the outset grew more intense as the match progressed. Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, and Brandon Dubinsky led the Rangers’ hit parade, while Jack Hillen and Tim Jackman paced the Islanders’ physical efforts.
At 10:16 of the second, a scrum involving all ten players on the ice occurred, appropriately enough, in front of the penalty boxes. It began when Erik Reitz was whistled for kneeing Sean Bergenheim, and culminated in a fight at center ice between Bergenheim and the Rangers’ Petr Prucha. Not known for his pugilistic talents, the diminutive Prucha more than held his own in the fight, and received a tremendous ovation from the appreciative Garden Faithful.
“Pruchs means an awful lot to this organization, and his teammates just love the guy,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “Of course, when he’s willing to do that, it shows you the level of sacrifice he’s prepared to make. It’s a great example, and I think the guys fed off of that.”
The Rangers scored the important first goal of the contest early in the first period, but as has been their way of late, they allowed the Islanders to answer back shortly afterwards.
The line of Drury centering for wingers Dawes and Prucha had a pair of excellent shifts to start the game, and that threesome then combined to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead on their third shift.
By applying relentless pressure on the Islanders and by displaying tremendous hustle, Drury’s line controlled the puck for an extended period in the Isles zone before the Rangers’ captain fired a quick pass from the goal line to Dawes in the right circle. Dawes did not hesitate and zipped a snap shot high over the glove of Danis for his ninth goal of the season at 5:37 of the opening stanza.
“We had a really good start; and it’s funny how good rivalries can bring out good games in you,” said Dawes. “I don’t think you really ever find a bad game that the Rangers and the Islanders play against each other. It’s pretty easy to get up for, and the fans were behind us early, which really helps.”
It seemed as though that line was on the verge of giving the Rangers a two-goal advantage at the 8:02 mark of the first, as well, but Prucha had the puck roll off his stick after receiving a perfect cross-ice pass from Dawes that sent him behind the Islanders defense and in alone on Danis.
That Prucha did not even get a shot off, much less score, came back to haunt the Rangers 22 seconds later when the Islanders tied the contest. Kyle Okposo and Comeau steamed over the Rangers blueline on right wing and all five skaters wearing the home blue jersey collapsed to that side of the ice. That allowed Isles defenseman Marc Streit to slip in unnoticed on left wing, where Comeau found him with a cross-ice feed. Streit rifled the puck into the back of the net, tying the game 1-1 with his 10th goal of the season.
But that would be all the Islanders would get against Lundqvist and the Rangers. And the Blueshirts would score just enough on Wednesday to come away with a hard-fought victory against one of their biggest rivals.
“Whether we like it or not, we are in a playoff race now, and we are right in the pack of those teams,” said Gomez. “We put ourselves in that position, and it’s our job to get out of the pack, which we can do with efforts like the one we had tonight.”
|Nigel Dawes (9) ASST: Chris Drury (20), Petr Prucha (5)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Mark Streit (10) ASST: Blake Comeau (7), Kyle Okposo (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Scott Gomez (11) ASST: Chris Drury (21), Henrik Lundqvist (2)|
2 - 1 NYR
|EN - Fredrik Sjostrom (5) ASST: Chris Drury (22), Wade Redden (18)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Andy Hilbert Tripping against Michal Rozsival|
|Frans Nielsen Hooking against Markus Naslund|
|Ryan Callahan Holding against Chris Campoli|
|Richard Park Interference - Goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Petr Prucha Fighting against Sean Bergenheim|
|Andy Hilbert Charging against Erik Reitz|
|Erik Reitz Kneeing against Andy Hilbert|
|Erik Reitz Roughing against Andy Hilbert|
|Sean Bergenheim Fighting against Petr Prucha|
|Nikolay Zherdev Holding the stick against Bruno Gervais|
|Brendan Witt Roughing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Erik Reitz Tripping against Tim Jackman|
|Chris Campoli Interference against Markus Naslund|
|SA: 37||TOI: 59:02|
|Saves: 35||EV: 27 - 28|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 9|
|SV%: .946||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 26||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 25||EV: 17 - 18|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 8|
|SV%: .962||SH: 0 - 0|