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Rangers get a character victory at Boston

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Sauer provides support for goalie Henrik Lundqvist against Boston's Nathan Horton on Saturday. Lundqvist turned in a truly remarkable performance, making 26 saves for his career-high 11th shutout of the 2010-11 season.

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By Jim Cerny,

In the aftermath of their 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators on Thursday night, the Rangers vowed to bounce back with a much more solid effort in their next game Saturday afternoon in Boston.

They certainly kept their word, playing with grit and passion in a 1-0 victory over the Bruins on Saturday, a win fueled by a tremendous defensive effort.

The Rangers now have 87 points on the season and are tied with the Montreal Canadiens for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Sith six games remaining in the season, the 87 points match last season’s total, which fell just one point short of a playoff berth.

Playing in his 400th regular season game in the National Hockey League, Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 26 shots he faced -- including 12 in the final period -- to earn his league-leading 11th shutout of the season, establishing a new single-season career-high in the process. He received plenty of support by a dogged Rangers team that limited the Bruins to only a handful of good scoring chances over the first 50 minutes of play.

“We were ready and we really wanted to play a good game after that last one,” said Lundqvist, who now has 35 career shutouts, including five against the Bruins. “I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know we were going to be able to win this 1-0, but the guys battled all game. It was great to see them bounce back and play so hard.”

Protecting a 1-0 lead early in the third, Lundqvist made his best save of the afternoon robbing David Krejci from the bottom of the left circle after Krejci had turned a pair of Rangers inside out with two pretty moves.

Later in the third, Lundqvist was under siege as the Bruins played at a desperate pace, but he refused to give in. He was also supported by a string of blocked shots with Dan Girardi, Brian Boyle, Ryan McDonagh, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Sean Avery making key blocks in the final minutes of play.

Rangers rookies Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh celebrate Stepan's 20th goal of the season at 6:39 of the first period on Saturday afternoon. The goal stood up for 53 minutes to become a game-winner.
“We need to do that to win games because that’s our style, one of the core foundations of our team,” McDonagh said of the blocked shots. “And Hank was unbelievable. The moment you slip up or give them an inch he’s there to back us up. It’s incredible having him as a goaltender. He is our backbone. Even when things aren’t going right for us, he keeps us in the game.”

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask also performed at a high level, stopping 22 of 23 shots. He was particularly sharp during the second period when the Rangers outshot Boston 13-6.

Derek Stepan provided the Rangers with an important early lead by scoring his 20th goal of the season just 6:49 into the game. Stepan started the scoring play by winning an offensive zone faceoff, and then finished it by deflecting Michael Sauer’s right-point slap shot past Rask to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

“That’s exactly the way we wanted to play, though in the third period we would have liked to have the puck a little more,” said Stepan. “We found a way to get the job done, and defensively we were real sharp. We had some key blocks from some key guys. It just shows our character.”

Stepan became the fifth Blueshirt this season to reach the 20-goal plateau, joining Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Marian Gaborik, and Boyle. And he also became the first Ranger rookie to score 20 goals in a season since Petr Prucha netted 30 during the 2005-05 season.

“During the game I didn’t really think about getting 20 goals, but now it’s something I am proud of,” said Stepan.

Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan works his way around towering Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara on Saturday afternoon. The Blueshirts did a tremendous job defensively against Boston and made Chara's big shot a non-factor in the game.
With Avery reinserted into the lineup and Mats Zuccarello scratched, Stepan was moved up to center a line with Vinny Prospal and Gaborik. Erik Christensen was moved off the line with Prospal and Gaborik and skated between Avery and Wojtek Wolski.

The slight juggling of lines worked well as Stepan created several scoring chances to go along with his goal, and the Christensen line played hard and physical against the Bruins. In fact Avery wasted no time making his presence felt, dropping the gloves with Boston’s Gregory Campbell only 2:44 into the game.

Both teams played a very physical brand of hockey on Saturday. Dubinsky and Milan Lucic -- a pair of No. 17s -- waged several wars against one another along the boards, and Prospal was rocked on a pair of second-period hits by Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk. In fact, Prospal was so shaken up by Boychuk’s hit late in the second that he headed off the ice and straight to the Rangers dressing room, though he was able to return to start the third period.

And Lundqvist was not immune to the rough stuff either. With three minutes remaining in the second period, Lundqvist was barreled into and briefly shaken up by Patrice Bergeron during a shorthanded break that ended with Bergeron crashing into Lundqvist and the Rangers’ goalie sprawled in the back of his net.

“I got hit in the same exact spot, so my neck is more sore now,” said Lundqvist. “It is very tight and sore, but it is what it is. Get some treatment and keep going. We still have some big games to play.”

The Rangers are off until Wednesday, when they travel to Buffalo to face the eighth-place Sabres. The following night they will skate against the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
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