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Raanta solid for Rangers again in win against Flames

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Decent and typically good enough, but with plenty of room for improvement is how the New York Rangers are evaluating themselves 10 games into the season.

The Rangers finished their first 10-game block with a 4-1 win against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. They are 6-2-2, which puts them on a 115-point pace.

New York set a franchise record and won the Presidents' Trophy with 113 points last season. Nobody inside or outside the Rangers' dressing room is ready to compare the current team to last season, when the Rangers advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But nobody is suggesting the Rangers can't get there again.

"I feel like sometimes we beat ourselves down a little bit for the standard which we're used to playing, but we've figured out ways to win hockey games and that's what you have to do early on here in the season while you're finding your way to get to the point where you're consistently playing solid hockey for 60 minutes," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's something we'll keep working at as we go along."

The Rangers found a way against the Flames (2-6-0) after falling behind 1-0 on Jiri Hudler's goal at 3:06 of the first period.

Backup goalie Antti Raanta, making his second start, kept the deficit at one goal in the first period with a save on Mikael Backlund's shorthanded breakaway before turning aside the rebound attempt from Michael Frolik.

The Rangers rallied in the second for goals from defenseman forward Oscar Lindberg at 12:03 and defenseman Dan Girardi at 16:57. They sealed the win with two more goals in the third period by defenseman Kevin Klein at 8:38 and center Derick Brassard at 10:26.

Raanta finished with 22 saves. He has stopped 44 of 45 shots he's faced in two starts for a .978 save percentage.

"There's no doubt that breakaway save, where he makes a save and they get a rebound, that's a turning point in the game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We need those timely saves for guys to find their rhythm and we got that tonight."

Flames goalie Jonas Hiller was replaced by Joni Ortio shortly after giving up the goal to Brassard. Ortio is expected to start against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Monday.

Calgary coach Bob Hartley said Hiller's performance Sunday was "OK." He felt the Flames had a "great" second period, but stressed it was difficult to use the word great when you get outscored 2-0 in a period.

The Flames have not held a lead going into the third period yet this season. They have trailed after two periods in seven of their eight games.

'We're talking about secondary scoring, we're talking about capitalizing on our chances; that's where the game is [won]," Hartley said. "If you capitalize on those chances you're giving yourself a chance to build a lead. A one-goal lead in this league is not a very big lead, especially against a team like this that throws four lines at you and six Ds that move the puck very well."

The Rangers are off until Friday, when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Madison Square Garden. They have two games in the next nine days and plan to use the time extra time off as a chance to work on the inconsistent parts of their game.

For example, Staal mentioned the Rangers' defense against the rush needing improvement. It showed in the first period Sunday, when Calgary managed 10 shot attempts but had eight shots on goal largely because it was able to get quality chances, including off the rush.

"Our rush reads, we need to clean up," Staal said. "That's something we've talked about."

Vigneault said the Rangers' offense from their defense was better Sunday, but it hasn't been consistent this season.

New York got four points from defensemen, including the goals from Girardi and Klein. They have 17 points from defensemen through 10 games, including 11 on four goals and seven assists during in the past five games.

They are 4-0-1 in those games.

"Our game revolves a lot on defending well because our 'Ds' have good gap, because of the back pressure, which leads to turnovers," Vigneault said. "But those turnovers can only be executed if we get that first pass most of the time tape to tape or indirect, and that helps us with our pace and it helps us with our speed game. We're not there yet. We're coming, but we're not there yet."

That's how Vigneault and the Rangers feel about their overall game. But at 6-2-2, they're not apologizing either.

"That's a good start for us," Staal said.


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