|Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and defenseman Marc Staal played huge roles in the Blueshirts' win at Boston on Saturday night, as Lundqvist stopped 35 shots and Staal scored the game-winning goal.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Right from the early stages of Saturday’s contest at TD Garden, the Rangers showed that they would have plenty of fight, both literally and figuratively, in their collective game against the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers not only withstood the fierce physical play of the Bruins, but they initiated quite a bit of the physical play themselves. And when it came time for the gloves to come off, the Rangers were more than willing, engaging in three rousing fights in the first period alone.
As a result, the Rangers secured a 3-2 victory over the Bruins, providing the Blueshirts their first two-game win streak of the young season as well as an emotional lift heading into Sunday’s home contest against the Devils at Madison Square Garden.
“Guys have been stepping up and we’ve been playing better, and we’ve come together more as a team, playing a better team game,” said defenseman Marc Staal
, who scored the game-winning goal and logged more than 21 minutes of ice time. “It’s good to see.”
The Blueshirts showed much grit and passion by scoring the game’s first two goals in a hostile road environment. And although they handed the Bruins’ six power plays, the Rangers were able to battle through that self-created adversity by killing off all but one, including 47 seconds of a 5-on-3 during the opening period.
The tone was set by the visitors 4:20 into the game after Boston’s Mark Stuart leveled Ruslan Fedotenko
with a thundering open-ice hit. In an eye blink, Sean Avery
challenged Stuart and engaged in a heated fight.
Although Avery received 17 minutes worth of penalties -- two minutes for instigating and a ten-minute misconduct to go along with the five-minute fighting major -- the Rangers had thrown down the gauntlet that they would not be pushed around on this night.
“We’ll take that penalty any day,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
. “We want to stand up for each other, and it sends a message to them and to us as a group.”
When Brandon Dubinsky
was penalized for slashing during that penalty kill, Boston had 47 seconds worth of a two-man advantage. But the Rangers showed plenty of fight and mettle by surviving both ends of the kill as Ryan Callahan
, Dan Girardi
, and Staal starred in front of Lundqvist, who made two saves in that stretch.
Goals 27 seconds apart by Artem Anisimov
and Alexander Frolov, the latter at 12:01 of the first, provided further example that the Blueshirts would not be intimidated playing one of the hottest teams in the league, one that had won its previous four games, allowing only three goals in total during that span.
Both goals were scored from right out in front. Anisimov batted the puck out of midair and into the net after Tuukka Rask made a save on Dubinsky’s rising shot. Video review upheld the goal, and 27 seconds later Frolov chipped a bouncing puck up and over Rask’s shoulder to make it 2-0.
The inevitable rough stuff followed soon after, and the Rangers were up for the challenge. Derek Boogaard scrapped with Shawn Thornton at 12:37 and Brandon Prust
did the same with Milan Lucic at 15:17.
There were more gut checks along the way for the Rangers, and the team showed it was up for the fight.
After Zdeno Chara scored a 5-on-3 power play goal with 4.3 seconds to go in the opening period, the Rangers followed by killing off the remainder of the power play to start the second, and Staal screamed out of the penalty box to collect a loose puck and proceed to score on a pretty breakaway 48 seconds into the middle stanza to put the Blueshirts ahead 3-1.
“Obviously that made me a feel a little better after putting us down on a 5-on-3,” said Staal, whose goal was his first this season. “We battled back all game long and kind of stuck with it and got the two points.”
When Boston gained momentum from Nathan Horton’s goal at 12:27 of the second, they proceeded to pepper Lundqvist with a vast array of shots -- 16 in total during the middle 20 minutes -- but the Rangers’ No. 1 goalie refused to let his team down, looking extremely sharp between the pipes. Making his first start since Monday, Lundqvist finished with 35 saves in a solid outing.
There were would be more challenges the rest of the way before the Rangers could bring victory home. Prust was clipped near the eye with a high stick by Gregory Campbell late in the second and did not return for the remainder of the game, removing a vital cog of energy from the Blueshirts already injury-riddled lineup. And the visitors failed to score and put the game away on Campbell’s double-minor penalty nor on Chara’s slashing penalty 6:25 into the third.
But persevere they did in a well-played, and more disciplined third period, and now the Rangers carry a 3-2-1 record back to The Garden, seeking their first home victory of the season on Sunday.
“Our third period was great,” said Lundqvist. “The whole game as long as we were 5-on-5 we played really well. It was important going into the third that we stayed disciplined, and we did that. We really played smart. It’s a great feeling to get the win here.”
Following the game, Tortorella said that Prust was at the hospital to have his eye examined, though the coach was hopeful that no serious injury had occurred.
“We missed him on the bench, I’ll tell you that,” Tortorella said of Prust.
The impassioned effort put forth by the Rangers on the road Saturday night will need to be repeated at home on Sunday against a desperate Devils team. New Jersey is just 2-5-1 to start the season, and its star player, Ilya Kovalchuk, was a mysterious healthy scratch for Saturday’s shocking 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.