|MTL||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
• Callahan Wins Extra Effort Award
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
On a night that the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award was presented to the Rangers player who has gone above and beyond the call of duty all season long, the entire team stepped up collectively to ensure a hugely-important 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in a must-have game Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, the Rangers retained their hold on the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference with 91 points, while also moving within a point of seventh place Montreal.
The Rangers are now two points up on ninth-place Florida, which lost 2-1 in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. That means the Blueshirts can officially clinch a playoff spot by beating the Flyers on Thursday night at MSG.
“Chris has been really sharp lately,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who turned in a strong game in goal for the Rangers, finishing with 24 saves to earn his 36th win of the season, one shy of his single-season career high.
“When it comes down to big games, he always steps up. That is why he is one of the best players.”
After playing to a 1-1 stalemate in the opening period, the Rangers displayed more passion and purpose in dominating the next 20 minutes. As a result, the Rangers headed into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead after outshooting Montreal 15-4 and scoring the only two goals of the middle stanza.
“I thought we were pretty nervous the first 10 minutes, but then I think we gathered ourselves and played pretty well,” stated Rangers head coach John Tortorella.
Terrific individual efforts by both Sean Avery and Nik Antropov helped the Rangers to score 2:37 into the second period and grab a one-goal advantage. On a dump in behind the Canadiens net, goaltender Carey Price went to play the puck for Montreal. However, Avery burst onto the scene to deflect Price’s clearing pass directly into the slot, where Antropov dove on his belly in between two Montreal players to poke the puck into the unguarded cage for his 28th goal of the season.
It had been unclear leading up to game time whether or not Antropov would be able to play on Tuesday. He had suffered a minor knee injury on Saturday afternoon, one that forced him out of the second half of that match, as well as all of practice on Monday.
Antropov not only played on Tuesday, he seemed to skate without any trouble and was a force in the offensive end while playing with Avery and Scott Gomez.
“That’s where you win when people are chipping in in all facets of the game,” Tortorella said of that particular threesome. “And they were a big part of that tonight.”
Energized by Antropov’s score, the Rangers would fire nine shots on goal before the Canadiens could record their first of the period. And at 9:27 Drury provided the Rangers some much-deserved breathing room by scoring his second goal of the night.
Playing without a stick, Callahan kept the puck alive with his feet along the right wing boards in the neutral zone to start the scoring play. Callahan then kicked the puck over the blueline to Drury, who quickly shuffled a pass to the streaking Markus Naslund on left wing. Naslund timed his centering pass perfectly as Drury blew past the backchecking Alex Tanguay for a pretty tap in goal to up the Rangers advantage to 3-1.
“Throwing pucks at the net, driving to the net, getting deflections and rebounds, that is all important, especially heading into the playoffs,” noted Naslund. “It’s good to see that we are scoring goals doing those things.”
Further buoyed by the two-goal lead, the Rangers went on to dominate the Canadiens the remainder of the period, though they were unable to add to their lead. There were stretches over the final 10 minutes of the middle stanza in which the Canadiens were pinned in their own zone, unable to make line changes as the Rangers controlled the puck and won battle after battle in the offensive zone.
“Especially coming off Boston (on Saturday) where we weren’t getting pucks in deep, we wanted to come in here and chip it in and get in hard on the forecheck, try to create opportunities off of that,” said Callahan. “I thought we did that right from the start.”
The first period had been much more evenly played by the two teams, with each club scoring a goal and the Canadiens holding an 11-10 advantage in shots.
Drury opened the scoring at 13:14, beating Price up high and to the short side with a wickedly quick release from the bottom of the right circle as Callahan tied up a Canadiens’ defenseman in the circle.
“That’s Chris Drury for ya’,” said Callahan. “He always seems to come up big, and we just follow him. He’s our captain, and he led the way tonight.”
Montreal answered back less than four minutes later when Mathieu Dandenault’s quick backhander from the slot seemed to surprise Lundqvist and sneak into the net at 16:56. The score came seconds after a Canadiens’ power play had elapsed and shortly after Drury nearly beat Price high to the blocker side off a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush with Fredrik Sjostrom.
But Dandenault’s goal would be the only one the Rangers would allow as Lundqvist played a sharp game and his teammates did a terrific job in limiting Montreal’s scoring chances.
This important victory now behind them, the Rangers can clinch a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season with a win in their next match Thursday night at MSG against the Flyers.
“We are going to go for it on Thursday,” said Lundqvist. “We have a great opportunity to play great now and go into the playoffs feeling really good. If we take care of business and do our job here on Thursday that (will be) the case.”
|Chris Drury (21) ASST: Ryan Callahan (16)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Mathieu Dandenault (4) ASST: Chris Higgins (11), Glen Metropolit (11)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Nik Antropov (28) ASST: Sean Avery (14)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Chris Drury (22) ASST: Markus Naslund (21), Ryan Callahan (17)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Wade Redden Tripping against Chris Higgins|
|Brandon Dubinsky Boarding against Tom Kostopoulos|
|Roman Hamrlik Interference against Scott Gomez|
|Ryan Callahan Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Mike Komisarek Holding against Nik Antropov|
|Doug Janik Holding against Brandon Dubinsky|
|SA: 44||TOI: 58:31|
|Saves: 41||EV: 35 - 38|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .932||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 25||TOI: 59:43|
|Saves: 24||EV: 22 - 23|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .960||SH: 0 - 0|