|Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist gets set to make a save against former teammate Fredrik Sjostrom on Saturday night at Toronto. Lundqvist passed former Blueshirts greats Mike Richter, Gump Worsley and Chuck Rayner with his 25th career Rangers shutout.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Last week the Rangers arrived in Toronto seeking to snap a three-game losing skid, which they did with an impressive 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs nine days ago.
On Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, the circumstances were similar, as the Rangers entered play coming off back-to-back home losses to the Thrashers and Hurricanes. Their method to success was similar as the Oct. 21 contest, however, and the result was equally as good as the Blueshirts skated to a 2-0 victory over the Maple Leafs.
In their first visit to the Air Canada Centre this season the Rangers largely controlled play with a superior forecheck and strong play in the neutral zone, combined with some timely saves from Martin Biron
in his Blueshirts debut.
On Saturday, in their second contest in Toronto, the Rangers were outplayed for stretches by the Maple Leafs only to be saved by Henrik Lundqvist
’s brilliance in goal, a strong effort on the penalty kill, and opportunistic goals by Brian Boyle
and Ryan Callahan
“It all starts with Hank from the goal on out,” said Boyle. “If we keep pucks out of our net we are going to be successful. Simple as that. This was a great builder for us.”
Boyle scored the only goal of a first period which was evenly played between the two Original Six teams. After the Rangers killed off his roughing minor penalty, Brandon Prust
emerged from the penalty box to accept a long pass, chipping the puck to a speeding Boyle on right wing. Boyle did the rest, barreling to the net and chipping a gorgeous backhand shot past the gloved hand of Jean-Sebastien Giguere at 13:12 of the opening period.
The goal was Boyle’s fourth already this season. Last year, he scored four times in 71 games, never displaying the confidence with which he has played so far this season.
“He’s a pretty important guy for us,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Boyle. “I was even double-shifting him there in the second period. So he’s become a pretty important guy for us. What he’s getting, he deserves.”
The Rangers’ penalty killing unit was put to the test later in the first period when, first, Steve Eminger
was whistled for interference at 18:15 and then Brandon Dubinsky
went off for slashing during that PK at 19:44.
With defensemen Marc Staal
and Dan Girardi
spearheading the kill, and Boyle switching off with Callahan up front, the Rangers survived Toronto’s 5-on-3 power play. Lundqvist then took over during the 5-on-4 portion of the power play, making two huge saves on Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin.
“Those (kills) were really big,” said Callahan. “Boyle came up with a huge shot block there on the 5-on-3, then we killed off the rest of it. It’s a big thing for us because we have to get our PK going. And this was a big night for us on the penalty kill.”
Those early second-period saves by Lundqvist set the tone for his stellar play in the middle stanza where, at times, he was the lone difference between the Rangers holding on to their 1-0 advantage and losing it altogether.
Lundqvist stopped all 18 shots he faced in the second period. He denied Luca Caputi and Nikolai Kulemin on separate point-blank chances, and was extremely strong with his right leg keeping the puck out of the net when Tyler Bozak had three free whacks at the puck to the side of the cage midway through the period.
His heroics set the stage for the outplayed Rangers to double their lead late in the second period, which they did with 1:25 to go.
Callahan intercepted a Phaneuf pass at center ice and took off on a seeming breakaway, only to be hauled down by Toronto’s Phil Kessel. Dubinsky picked the puck up and was denied on a partial break by Giguere, but the referee immediately signaled for Callahan to take a penalty shot.
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan scored on a penalty shot at 18:35 of the second period to give his team a two-goal lead and extend his career-high goal-scoring streak to four games. Callahan has also tied his career-high point streak at six games. |
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Granted a huge opportunity, Callahan took advantage by beating Giguere with an-tight shot for his fourth goal of the season, and fourth in as many games, to give the Rangers an important two-goal lead.
“I had planned a couple moves in my head depending on what (Giguere) did,” explained Callahan. “I eventually tried a backhand-forehand move and fortunately it went in.”
The penalty shot attempt was the second of Callahan’s career. He had been stopped by Detroit’s Jimmy Howard last season in game played on Dec. 6, 2009. His successful penalty shot goal on Saturday was the Blueshirts first since Sean Avery
beat Mike Smith of Tampa Bay at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 14, 2010.
So just like their first visit to Toronto, the Rangers carried a 2-0 lead into the third period. Nine days ago, Biron made that lead stand up, and on Saturday Lundqvist did the same.
“A game can change so fast, so I knew I had to keep it at 2-0 or else we could have trouble,” said Lundqvist.
Lundqvist finished with 36 saves to earn his 25th career shutout, moving him past Mike Richter, Gump Worsley, and Chuck Rayner into fourth place on the Rangers all-time list. The only former Rangers netminders ahead of him are Ed Giacomin (49), Dave Kerr (40) and John Ross Roach (30).
“I’m happy with the way I played, but the guys did a great job of blocking guys out and blocking shots, too,” said Lundqvist of his teammates who were credited with a season-high 35 blocked shots. “They came really hard at us the last 10-15 minutes, but we got skates and sticks in the way, which was huge.”
Now the Rangers will try and emulate what they did after their first win this season up in Toronto by putting together another winning streak. That victory on Oct. 21 sparked a three-game run.
The Rangers will look to piece back-to-back wins together when they host the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night at The Garden.