Rangers Gut Out 2nd Win In A Row
Remeber that winning blueprint I was telling you about? Well the Rangers sure did. Just like Thursday, the Rangers came out Saturday and got two early goals agains the Boston Bruins, matched the opponents physicality, and held on for a 3 - 2 win.
One word to describe the Rangers effort would be "gutsy." It definitely wasn't a pretty performance but any time the Rangers can win a game on the road against a surperior team they'll take it. It was a physical contest featuring 3 scraps (all in the 1st period), 61 hits (NYR - 28, Bos - 33), and 34 blocked shots (NYR - 16, Bos - 18). Boston seemed to initiate much of the physicality but the Rangers wouldn't back down.
Sean Avery played more like the good Sean Avery last night. After Boston defenseman Mark Stuart hammered Ruslan Fedotenko, who's head was down by the way, with a clean body check that sent the Rangers forward sprawling, Avery stepped right up and challenged Stuart. Stuart got the decision in the scrap but the message Avery sent was loud and clear.
Henrik Lundqvist was particularly pleased. "We'll take that penalty any day," the Rangers goalie said. "We want to stand up for each other, and it sends a message to them and to us as a group."
Avery received 17 penalty minutes for his actions but it set a tone for both team.
Artem Anisimov got the Blueshirts on the board with his 3rd goal of the year on a sweet play on a PP. Brandon Dubinsky shot the puck from a bad angle on the LW. Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask made the initial save but the puck was kicked up into the air where Anisimov batted the puck into the net on the back-hand. Zdeno Chara, who Anisimov beat to the elevated puck, tried to argue Anisimov's stick was above the crossbar but replays showed otherwise.
The Rangers doubled their lead just 27 seconds later when Alex Frolov took a shot on net that was deflected into the air by Boston's defense. Mark Stuart attempted to grab the puck mid-air but instead punched it up and back where it slipped over Rask's shoulder for a 2 - 0 Ranger lead. It was a flukey goal but one the Rangers will take. The tally was the 2nd of the year for Frolov who is being relied upon to fill in the offensive void created by the absence of Gabby and Prospal.
With time running out in the 1st, Chara got the Bruins on the board with a 5 on 3 goal at 19:55 of the first period. It was Chara's 2nd of the year. The Rangers were in a real tough spot as two of their top 4 defenseman and guys that are usually on the ice when short-handed, Marc Staal and Michael Rozsival, were both in the sin bin.
Staal's penalty in particular was of the ticky-tack variety. Because I was on assignment elsewhere, I DVR'd last nights game and ended up with the NESN feed. Surprisingly the NESN announce team was also critical of the officiating and of this call specifically. Staal was whistled for slashing when he delivered a weak two-hander to the stick of the Boston player. Perhaps sensing it may draw a call, the Boston forward dropped his stick to the ice and drew the penalty.
Whatever else you may want to say, the game was definitely called tight. It wasn't to anyone's advantage but I would prefer the officials to let some of the light stuff go to maintain a good flow to the game.
Staal would make amends for his penalty early in the 2nd period. As soon as his penalty expired, Staal shot out of the box just as Mark Recchi mishandled the puck at the blueline. Staal, resembling brother Jordan more than the shutdown defenseman he actually is, picked up the loose puck and skated in one-on-one against Rask. In a move that would have made either of his more recognized goal-scoring brothers (Eric of Carolina or Jordan of Pittsburgh) proud, Marc skated in and switched to the backhand where he was able to lift the puck over Rask's catching glove.
Nathan Horton, who also had an assist on Boston's first goal, scored to draw the Bruins again within 1. He took a beautiful feed from David Krejci on the RW boards and wristed a shot that beat the King high to the blocker side.
The Bruins did seem to get the momentum swung in their favor heading into the 3rd but the Rangers, especially Hank, were up to the task. The King stopped 35 shots on the night, 25 after the first period, and the Blueshirts were able to hold on for the win.
Actually the Rangers played a pretty good third period. Despite holding a skinny, one-goal lead against a more talented team in a hostile environment, New York out-shot Boston 11 - 10 in the final frame. The Bruins never mustered much after pulling Rask in an effort to pull even.
The win moves the Rangers to 3 - 2 - 1 on the young year. They have a chance to win their first at home this afternoon as they host the rival New Jersey Devils (2 - 5 - 1) at MSG.
The Devils are really struggling. Coach John MacLean benched star winger Ily Kovalchuk for undisclosed reasons in their contest last night against Buffalo. Kovalchuk has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in 7 games this season. The club, reknowned for their defensive play, has been outscored by 13 goals this year and is giving up nearly 3.5 goals per game.
I will be hosting a live blog for The Checking Line this afternoon. Be easy; it's my first one. Please join me in helping to forget that tomorrow is Monday and it's back to the grind for us working people.