|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|NSH||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Henrik Lundqvist etched his name in the record books, but willingly shared the spotlight with Sean Avery, Scott Gomez, and Ryan Callahan, as the Rangers scored a very important 4-2 road victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
By posting his 30th win of the season, Lundqvist became the first goaltender in NHL history to earn 30 victories in each of his first four seasons. Lundqvist, who notched his fourth straight win, finished with 19 saves on the night.
“I started thinking about the record more this morning, so this is a big deal for me,” Lundqvist said. “It’s a great feeling to go here and get a road win, and then what it means to me personally. It all means a lot.”
Lundqvist received quite a bit of help from his teammates, in particular the line of Avery, Gomez, and Callahan, which spurred a Rangers rally over the final 40 minutes of play. Gomez recorded a three-point night with a goal and two assists, while Callahan picked up a pair of helpers, and Avery scored his first goal since returning to the Rangers.
“They played very well,” noted Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “Scotty’s line with Sean and Ryan clicked right away. I thought they forechecked very well and had the puck quite a bit.”
With the victory and other related game results on Thursday, the Rangers moved into a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 78 points. They are currently just four points behind the Flyers for fourth place.
The Blueshirts have now won four of their last five matches, and have split the first two games of the current three-game road trip which concludes in Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.
The Rangers erased a 2-1 deficit, scoring twice during a dominant second period. Avery, who had recorded the first goal of the game early in the opening period, helped create the tying goal early in the second when he quickly and aggressively got in behind the Predators net just as goaltender Dan Ellis was set to clear the puck. Ellis had to react quickly because of Avery’s pursuit, and the Nashville netminder blindly sent the puck up left wing where it was intercepted by Callahan, who had replaced Nikolai Zherdev on the top line after the first period.
Callahan wasted no time in firing the puck toward the crease, where it appeared to deflect off the stick of Gomez and into the net. Subsequent, postgame review, however, found that Gomez had never touched the puck, and the goal was awarded to Callahan, whose 16th of the season tied the contest 2-2 at the 3:01 mark of the middle period.
After numerous other excellent scoring chances in the second period -- many by the threesome of Avery, Gomez, and Callahan -- the Rangers scored late in the stanza to grab a 3-2 advantage. Avery set the scoring play in motion yet again, this time by collecting the puck on right wing in the offensive zone, curling towards the middle of the zone, and firing a shot towards the goal that deflected off defenseman Ryan Suter’s stick and off the right post.
Gomez and Callahan whacked away at the loose puck during a mad scramble in front of Ellis’ cage before Marc Staal swooped in to poke the puck underneath a maze of skates and over the goal line. Staal’s hugely important goal at 17:29 -- his third of the season and first in 18 games -- was not only the Rangers’ third of the game, but their third from no more than five feet in front of the Nashville net.
“I couldn’t see (the puck) in the scramble, so I kind of skated out front and it popped right to me so I just slid it underneath,” explained Staal.
The Rangers finally provided themselves some breathing room 7:59 into the third period when Fredrik Sjostrom scored a shorthanded goal to up their advantage to 4-2. Blair Betts collected a loose puck near the Rangers’ blueline after Suter fell down. Betts scooted up left wing, and Sjostrom joined him for a 2-on-1 break. Betts feathered a pretty pass to Sjostrom, and the Swede hammered it past Ellis for his sixth goal overall, and second while shorthanded, this season.
By playing so effectively in his first three contests since being re-acquired by the Rangers last week, Avery was bumped up to play alongside Gomez this evening by Tortorella. And Avery rewarded his coach with a quick early dividend by scoring the first goal of the contest early on in the opening stanza.
Gomez fired a left-wing shot wide of the net, but the puck caromed off the back boards and past Ellis, who put himself out of position on the shot. Avery charged hard to the crease, beat Nashville’s Martin Erat to the loose puck, and scored an easy tap-in goal to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:38 into the game.
The goal was Avery’s fourth of the season, and his first since returning to the Rangers. And it was exactly the early jolt of positive energy the Rangers were seeking coming off a shutout loss in Carolina.
However, just as it had happened in that match against the Hurricanes on Monday, the Rangers’ momentum was stalled by taking a string of penalties tonight against the Predators.
The Rangers’ penalty killers were able to kill off a slashing call against Zherdev at 7:29, but they were not as successful -- or lucky -- when Markus Naslund was whistled for an interference penalty at the 10-minute mark of the opening period.
Nashville’s All-Star defenseman Shea Weber finished a give-and-go passing sequence with winger Jordin Tootoo by wristing a left wing shot off the glove of Lundqvist and just over the goal line, tying the game exactly one minute after the power play started. It was a frustrating goal given up by the Rangers because Lundqvist nearly was able to squeeze the puck in his glove, but it just popped off the top of the catching mitt and trickled into the net.
Having stolen the momentum away from the Rangers, Nashville pressed its advantage after tying the game, and less than four minutes later the Predators grabbed their first lead of the night. Following a giveaway in the offensive zone by Zherdev, the Predators took off on a 3-on-2 rush the other way which ended in a lucky goal when J.P. Dumont’s centering pass from left wing was inadvertently kicked into his own net by defenseman Dan Girardi at 14:56, giving Nashville a 2-1 lead.
Less than a minute later, the Rangers were penalized for the third time in the first period when they were caught with too many men on the ice. The Nashville crowd -- as well as both teams --- sensed that this could be a big moment in the contest. Fortunately for the visitors, the Rangers successfully killed off the penalty, and were able to get to the first intermission trailing only by one goal.
The Rangers regrouped in between periods after a fiery speech from Tortorella, and, after several excellent saves by Lundqvist early in the second, they went on to dominate the home team in the middle stanza. Buzzing non-stop of the forecheck, the Rangers pinned the Predators in their own end of the ice for most of the middle 20 minutes. The Rangers had a whopping 16-5 shots advantage in the second period and scored the only two goals to carry a 3-2 advantage into the final stanza.
“Well, let’s put it this way, after the first period we had a very interesting meeting with our coach,” explained Lundqvist.
Added Staal, “He sent the message loud and clear that we needed to be better and start winning more one-on-one battles and start playing more as a team.”
Avery, Callahan, and Gomez led a buzzsaw-like assault on the forecheck, which led to both goals in the second period, as well as numerous other scoring chances. In addition, it set the tone for the rest of the team, with the likes of Brandon Dubinsky, Colton Orr, and Nik Antropov clearly stepping up their games after the first intermission.
The feel-good middle period may not have come to pass for the Rangers, however, if not for Lundqvist, who made a pair of sensational saves early on. Just 2:40 into the second, Lundqvist denied Dumont’s breakaway with a sharp arm stop to keep the Rangers’ deficit at one. And then at 5:17 he kept the score even when he robbed David Legwand, who was all alone five feet from the net after accepting a beautiful feed from teammate Steve Sullivan.
Next up for the Rangers is a home-and-home set with the Flyers this weekend, with a Saturday afternoon visit to the City of Brotherly Love to be followed by a home-ice tilt on Sunday afternoon at The Garden.
“You can see easily that when we get involved physically and really go after teams we’re a really good hockey team,” stated Lundqvist. “That’s how we have to play.”
|Sean Avery (4) ASST: Scott Gomez (34), Nikolay Zherdev (32)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Shea Weber (18) ASST: Jordin Tootoo (10), Ryan Suter (31)|
1 - 1 Tie
|J-P Dumont (13) ASST: Steve Sullivan (11), David Legwand (20)|
2 - 1 NSH
|Ryan Callahan (16) ASST: NONE|
2 - 2 Tie
|Marc Staal (3) ASST: Scott Gomez (35), Ryan Callahan (11)|
3 - 2 NYR
|SHG - Fredrik Sjostrom (6) ASST: Blair Betts (4), Marc Staal (10)|
4 - 2 NYR
|Nikolay Zherdev Slashing against Martin Erat|
|Markus Naslund Interference against Scott Nichol|
|Markus Naslund Too many men/ice - bench|
|Jordin Tootoo Hi-sticking against Colton Orr|
|Vernon Fiddler Tripping against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Lauri Korpikoski Slashing against Jordin Tootoo|
|Greg Zanon Hi-sticking against Sean Avery|
|Brandon Dubinsky Hi-sticking against David Legwand|
|Chris Drury Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Ryan Jones Hooking against Michal Rozsival|
|SA: 21||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 19||EV: 14 - 15|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 4|
|SV%: .905||SH: 2 - 2|
|SA: 32||TOI: 58:04|
|Saves: 28||EV: 21 - 24|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: .875||SH: 1 - 2|