|COL||0||1||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|NYR||4||1||1||(0 - 0)||6|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
When the Rangers started filling the net on Saturday night against Colorado it was quite simply an avalanche of goals for the score-starved Blueshirts. As such, the Blueshirts rode a four-goal outburst in the first period to a 6-1 victory over the aptly-named Avalanche to snap a four-game winless skid and hand John Tortorella his first win as the club’s head coach.
“I am excited to be here, and it’s a privilege to coach in this organization, but this is not about me,” stated Tortorella. “It’s about a hockey team trying to find its way that’s gone through a bit of an ordeal here in the past few weeks. It’s about a team trying to make the playoffs.”
The Rangers had dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions, including one in the shootout, in Tortorella’s first two games behind the bench since being named head coach on Monday. Now after playing three games in four nights, the Blueshirts will not play again until next Thursday when they visit the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
After scoring just six goals while posting a 0-2-2 record the previous four matches, the Rangers exploded for a single-game season-high six goals on Saturday.
“It is one win, but I think you can look at all three games since we started playing this new attacking system and we are pretty confident we were the better team on the ice all three nights,” said Brandon Dubinsky. “This is a confidence-builder to get over the hump and get into the playoffs.”
While most of the focus was on the Rangers’ resurgent offense on Saturday, goalie Henrik Lundqvist also turned in another solid performance, finishing with 23 saves to earn his 27th victory of the season. Lundqvist has now surrendered two goals or fewer in each of his last four starts.
“Everything just fell into place,” said Lundqvist. “I can’t say it enough: we really needed to win this one badly. But I am also really happy in the way we played.”
The first period onslaught began on the opening shift when Ryan Callahan converted a centering feed from Dubinsky during a 2-on-1 rush just 28 seconds into the contest. Dubinsky burst up ice on left wing and patiently waited for the perfect moment to pass the puck to Callahan, who shed Colorado’s Dave Hannan. Avs goalie Peter Budaj flopped to the ice, and Callahan roofed his 14th goal of the season into the net for a 1-0 Rangers’ lead.
It was the third straight game since Tortorella took over the coaching reigns that the Rangers scored the first goal of the game. The difference on Saturday was that this time the Blueshirts were able to score more than one goal and were able to extend their lead.
Only 40 seconds after Callahan’s score, Nikolai Zherdev scored a somewhat lucky goal -- his 17th of the year -- to put the Rangers up 2-0. Camped to the side of Budaj’s net, Zherdev accepted a pass from Lauri Korpikoski, who was behind the cage. Zherdev attempted a quick backhand shot, but the puck deflected towards the slot where it caromed off the skate of Avs defenseman Sami Salo and over the goal line at 1:08.
“I thought that was important tonight to get off to a fast start,” said Tortorella. “You always worry with players when you are introducing some different thoughts and then you are not getting the results, do they keep believing? And I think it’s always important to get some results early on here so you keep on teaching and they buy into it. Getting off to the fast start helped us.”
Not content with a two-goal advantage, the Rangers flexed their sudden offensive prowess to grab a 3-0 lead at the 13:24 mark of the first. Off a set play that the Rangers have used extensively since Tortorella took over as head coach, defenseman Paul Mara fired a shot from the right point purposely wide of the net so that a forward -- in this case it was Korpikoski - could take a quick shot off the carom. Korpikoski did just that, but Budaj made the save.
However, Petr Prucha escaped from Colorado’s Brett Clark to slide the rebound of Korpikoski’s shot underneath the pads of Budaj for his fourth goal. That score not only upped the home team’s lead to three, it also ended Budaj’s night after allowing three goals on nine shots.
“Nowadays in the NHL teams are trying everything they can to make sure you don’t get shots on net, so (shooting off the back wall) is a great play because it’s pretty much a pass, just a banked pool shot,” explained Mara. “We practice it, and tonight it worked out.”
Proving that they would not show any favorites on this night, the Rangers greeted the Avs’ new goaltender Andrew Raycroft by scoring on their first shot against him at the 15:02 mark of the first.
Zherdev set up the scoring play by racing up left wing before curling at the left circle and patiently waiting to assess his options. Teammate Marc Staal was the last player to enter the offensive zone and Zherdev slid a pass to him. Staal stepped into a hard slap shot, which was deflected by Scott Gomez, stationed in front, and past Raycroft for his 13th goal.
The four goals scored by the Rangers equaled the total of their last three games combined, and were the most scored by the Blueshirts in any one game since they potted four over the course of regulation and overtime in a 5-4 shootout victory over the Washington Capitals on Feb. 11 at MSG. The last time the Rangers scored six goals in a regular-season game was on Dec. 29, 2007, at Toronto.
The scoring binge was also the Rangers’ most productive first period since the fourth game of the season when they tallied four times in the first 20 minutes against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It was awesome because a quick start like that really generates momentum,” said Mara. “It’s been a long time coming for this team.”
Though they wouldn’t score again in the first period, the Rangers weren’t finished putting the puck in the net on Saturday. Thanks in part to Colorado’s parade to the penalty box early in the second period, the Rangers scored again to up their lead to 5-0.
Skating on a 5-on-3 power play, the Rangers converted at 4:56, and it was a very welcome goal for the man who scored it. Chris Drury snapped the longest goal-scoring drought of his NHL career, potting his first in 18 matches when he swept a Gomez cross-crease pass into the back of the cage for his 16th goal of the season.
Not to be lost in the play was the effort of Markus Naslund, who pried the puck loose as Raycroft tried to freeze it and get a play stoppage. When Naslund dug the puck free, it set in course the chain of events which saw Gomez whip the pass to Drury, who buried his shot.
At the other end of the ice, Lundqvist was barely challenged by the Avalanche, facing just four shots in the opening stanza and only a few more early in the second. He was called upon to make two sensational saves, though.
At 11:34 of the first, Lundqvist dropped into the splits to deny Ryan Smyth, who broke to the net during a 2-on-1 Colorado rush. And then at 7:41 of the second, Lundqvist absolutely robbed Marek Svatos from the doorstep during another odd-man opportunity that favored the Avalanche.
However at 13:05 of the middle stanza, Colorado finally broke through against Lundqvist. Smyth stole a bouncing puck from between the feet of Rangers’ defenseman Dmitri Kalinin at center ice and took off on a breakaway. Smyth drove hard to the net before slipping his 21st goal on the backhand between Lundqvist’s pads to cut the Rangers lead to 5-1.
Naslund closed out the scoring, by netting his team-high 20th goal of the season at 14:49 of the third period. Naslund accepted a drop pass from Gomez, drifted through the left circle, and then fired through a Kalinin screen in front, beating Raycroft to the far side of the cage.
The goal marked the 10th consecutive season in which Naslund has scored 20 goals; and it was the 12th time overall in his career he has reached the 20-goal plateau.
“All the big guys scored a goal tonight, so hopefully they’ll all feel good about themselves,” noted Tortorella. “It’s a confidence thing. It’s not effort, and it’s not the execution when it comes to finishing. It’s a confidence thing.”
The final five minutes of the match segued into a turf war, as there were several scrums and fights. All told, 66 minutes in penalties were doled out to the two clubs in the final 4:17 of play, including misconducts to Dubinsky of the Rangers and Ian Laperriere and Cody McLeod of the Avs.
Colton Orr and Mara both dropped their gloves and decisively beat their Colorado counterparts -- Chris Stewart and Darcy Tucker, respectively -- to thunderous applause from The Garden Faithful.
“It was a lopsided game, and they wanted to show they wouldn’t back down, and the same goes for us,” explained Dubinsky. “It is our building and we have to take care of ourselves here. It was just boys being boys.”
The rough stuff only added an exclamation point on what was a complete all-around effort by the Rangers on Saturday. The trick now -- and what the team will work on over three days of practice beginning on Monday -- is to ride this momentum, improve upon their first three well-played games under Tortorella, and make a strong stretch run towards the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are now 18 games away.
|Ryan Callahan (14) Snap shot - ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (23), Chris Drury (25)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Nikolay Zherdev (17) Tip-in - ASST: Lauri Korpikoski (6)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Petr Prucha (4) Slapshot - ASST: Lauri Korpikoski (7), Paul Mara (12)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Scott Gomez (13) Tip-in - ASST: Marc Staal (8), Nikolay Zherdev (30)|
4 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Chris Drury (16) Wrist shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (32), Markus Naslund (19)|
5 - 0 NYR
|Ryan Smyth (21) Backhand shot - ASST: Milan Hejduk (26), John-Michael Liles (22)|
5 - 1 NYR
|Markus Naslund (20) Snap shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (33), Dmitri Kalinin (12)|
6 - 1 NYR
|Tyler Arnason Hooking against Paul Mara|
|John-Michael Liles Charging against Dan Girardi|
|Cody McLeod Kneeing against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Paul Stastny Cross checking against Scott Gomez|
|Dan Girardi Interference against Ryan Smyth|
|Wade Redden Hi-sticking against Ryan Smyth|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Ian Laperriere|
|Ian Laperriere Roughing against Colton Orr|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Roughing against Cody McCormick|
|Cody McCormick Roughing against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Cody McCormick Roughing against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Brandon Dubinsky Misconduct (10 min)|
|Petr Prucha Roughing against Cody McLeod|
|Brandon Dubinsky Roughing against Cody McLeod|
|Cody McLeod Roughing against Petr Prucha|
|Cody McLeod Roughing against Petr Prucha|
|Cody McLeod Misconduct (10 min)|
|Colton Orr Fighting (maj) against Chris Stewart|
|Chris Stewart Fighting (maj) against Colton Orr|
|Ian Laperriere Misconduct (10 min)|
|Paul Mara Fighting (maj) against Darcy Tucker|
|Darcy Tucker Fighting (maj) against Paul Mara|
|SA: 21||TOI: 46:36|
|Saves: 18||EV: 12 - 14|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 7|
|SV%: .857||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 9||TOI: 13:24|
|Saves: 6||EV: 5 - 8|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .667||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 24||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 23||EV: 19 - 20|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .958||SH: 2 - 2|