|NYR||0||0||0||0||1 (3 - 3)||4|
|MTL||0||0||0||0||0 (2 - 3)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
It took 65 minutes of game action and three rounds of the shootout, but it was well worth the wait for the Rangers, as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre to move one point ahead of their hosts into sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
“Both teams played hard, and it could have gone either way, but we found a way to win it,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella, who earned his 245th career win on Tuesday, moving him past Peter Laviolette as the NHL’s all-time winningest U.S.-born coach. “We had our ups and downs, and it was back and forth, but I think we grew up a little bit with composure.”
Chris Drury beat Montreal goalie Carey Price with a forehand shot that banked in off his left pad in the third round of the shootout to ice the victory for the Rangers, who have now won six of their last eight contests. The Rangers have 82 points in the standings, one better than the Canadiens who earned one point despite losing on Tuesday.
“It was a huge game for both teams, but we ended up winning and getting the two points,” said Antropov. “It was 65 minutes of playoff hockey, that’s for sure.”
Henrik Lundqvist stopped Andrei Kostitsyn in the first round of the shootout before allowing goals to Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov, setting the stage for Drury’s game-winner. Lundqvist made 26 saves over 65 minutes for the Rangers to earn his 32nd victory of the season.
“It feels great to come here and come away with the two points,” said Lundqvist. “We looked sharp from the start, and particularly calm, I thought.”
The Rangers and Canadiens entered the third period of this evenly-played contest tied 1-1 on the scoreboard, before exchanging goals twice in the final stanza.
Nikolai Zherdev handed the Rangers their second one-goal lead of the night with his 20th goal of the season 5:32 into the third. Zherdev wristed a shot from the right wing circle that deflected off the stick of Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec and knuckled past Price to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
However that advantage was short-lived, as the Canadiens answered back 40 seconds later to once again tie the game. Maxim Lapierre made a terrific move between the circles in the Rangers’ zone, away from defenseman Dan Girardi, and fired a shot past Lundqvist, tying the contest 2-2.
In a hostile road environment, the Rangers kept their composure and continued to press forward with several strong scoring chances against Price following Lapierre’s goal. They finally broke through to grab a 3-2 advantage when Ryan Callahan converted the rebound of a Brandon Dubinsky jam shot in front at 10:58. Callahan’s 17th of the season snaked its way through several skates in front of a screened Price, and yet again the Rangers had a one-goal lead.
Once more the Canadiens answered the Rangers’ score with one of their own. Markov fired a shot from the bottom of the left circle that bounced off Lundqvist’s right shoulder and caromed into the back of the net with 4:53 remaining in regulation to pull Montreal even.
“I think we played great tonight and should have had a 3-2 win because that was a terrible goal I let in there at the end of the third,” stated Lundqvist. “But it happens. And the key for us is that we didn’t panic and we continued to play great.”
Markov’s goal eventually forced overtime, but not before the Rangers had to kill off a late penalty called against Scott Gomez. With 1:44 left on the clock, Gomez tripped Montreal’s Matt D’Agostini. The Rangers expertly killed off the penalty with Wade Redden and Blair Betts coming through with huge clears.
“Everyone knows we will back each other up on the ice and on the bench, and that’s what we did when we killed those two minutes,” explained Antropov.
In the five-minute overtime, both teams aggressively pursued the all-important extra point in the standings. Lundqvist and Price both made several sharp saves in OT as the Rangers outshot their hosts 3-1 in the extra session.
With the two teams skating 4-on-4 in the second period, the Rangers struck to score the game’s first goal. Antropov buried the rebound of Drury’s shot for his 25th goal of the season, fourth as a Ranger, and third in as many games, to put the Rangers up 1-0 at 7:13.
Antropov actually finished off the rush which he helped start back in his own end when he sealed a Canadiens forward against the left wing boards, allowing Redden to collect a loose puck and skate out of the Rangers’ zone. Redden and Drury played give-and-go twice before Drury fired a shot from right wing which was stopped by Price, but converted into a goal by Antropov.
With the home team trailing, and with the Rangers doing an outstanding job defensively, effectively shutting down the potent Canadiens, the fans in the Bell Centre began to boo their beloved Canadiens. Rangers defensemen routinely were standing Montreal forwards up at the blueline and coming away with the puck, while also shutting down both the passing and shooting lanes.
The young pair of Girardi and Marc Staal, in particular, stood out amongst the Rangers’ defensemen. Both consistently won one-on-one battles, deflected pucks out of harm’s way, and showed confidence in playing aggressively at both ends of the ice.
Redden, who led the rush on Antropov’s game-opening goal, also enjoyed a stellar night in both the offensive and defensive zones, perhaps turning in his finest all-around performance of the season.
“I thought Redden played really well,” noted Tortorella. “All six of the D played well and everyone chipped in.”
However, late in the second period, the first chinks in the Rangers’ collective armor began to show. At the 15:26 mark Kovalev led an odd-man rush into the Rangers’ zone after Antropov fell down at center ice, and whistled a wicked shot towards the upper left corner of the cage that required a sharp blocker save by Lundqvist.
Moments later, with the Blueshirts on the power play, the Canadiens had another odd-man rush. But this time, Redden -- the only man back to help out Lundqvist -- perfectly timed his dive to the ice to block a centering pass by Chris Higgins.
Then at 17:59, Lundqvist made a sensational stacked pads save while bursting across his crease from left to right to rob D’Agostini’s one-timer off another 2-on-1 rush. Twenty seconds later, Lundqvist made another great save, stoning Saku Koivu in-tight after Koivu collected the rebound of a Mathieu Schneider shot that rang off the crossbar.
With the tide turning in the favor of the Canadiens, the Rangers made a crucial mistake, and the home team capitalized to tie the match before the second period was over. Fredrik Sjostrom was penalized for delaying the game with two minutes left in the middle stanza, and Kovalev wired a one-timer past Lundqvist -- following a perfect cross-ice pass from Markov - to tie the game 1-1 at 18:26.
The Rangers bent, but did not break, as they collected themselves during the intermission and came out hard in the third period. They never trailed in this match, and did not let Montreal’s three comebacks get the best of them, a difficult task when playing at the raucous Bell Centre.
Having just completed a three-games-in-four-nights stretch, the Rangers will not play again until Saturday when they host the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden. That match will be followed 24 hours later by a home-ice battle against the Ottawa Senators.
|Nik Antropov (25) ASST: Chris Drury (29), Wade Redden (21)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Alex Kovalev (17) ASST: Andrei Markov (44), Mathieu Schneider (18)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Nikolay Zherdev (20) ASST: Scott Gomez (37), Marc Staal (11)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Maxim Lapierre (12) ASST: Andrei Markov (45)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Ryan Callahan (17) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (26)|
3 - 2 NYR
|Andrei Markov (10) ASST: Guillaume Latendresse (10)|
3 - 3 Tie
|1||A. Kostitsyn||M. Naslund||0 - 1|
|2||A. Kovalev||N. Antropov||1 - 2|
|3||A. Markov||C. Drury||2 - 3|
|Derek Morris Holding against Maxim Lapierre|
|Marc Staal Tripping against Matt D'Agostini|
|Wade Redden Hi-sticking against Andrei Kostitsyn|
|Andrei Kostitsyn Interference against Marc Staal|
|Lauri Korpikoski Hooking against Andrei Kostitsyn|
|Roman Hamrlik Tripping against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Mathieu Schneider Holding against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Mike Komisarek Slashing against Sean Avery|
|Scott Gomez Tripping against Matt D'Agostini|
|SA: 29||TOI: 64:54|
|Saves: 26||EV: 18 - 20|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 8|
|SV%: .897||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 42||TOI: 65:00|
|Saves: 39||EV: 35 - 38|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: .929||SH: 0 - 0|