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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Before Henrik Lundqvist
could secure his 200th career NHL victory, he was forced to make one more save in the overtime shootout Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. And when his glove hand flashed up to deflect Anze Kopitar’s forehand shot away to put the final touches on a 4-3 win over the Kings, not only did Lundqvist reach a career milestone, he also helped the Blueshirts snag another two very important points in the standings.
With the victory, Lundqvist joins Mike Richter, Ed Giacomin, Gump Worsley, and John Vanbiesbrouck as the only goaltenders in Rangers’ history to win 200 games.
“It’s a great feeling to reach that, it’s a milestone for me,” said Lundqvist, who made 25 saves during regulation and overtime and another pair during the shootout. “I’m happy I’ve been able to be here for almost six years now. I just hope I get the opportunity to stay here and get another 200.”
Lundqvist and his teammates faced quite a bit of adversity before being able to celebrate Thursday’s victory. The Rangers let a pair of third-period leads slip away -- the last on Dustin Brown’s goal from the side of Lundqvist’s net with 2:21 left to play -- and then did not take advantage of an extended power play in overtime when Alexei Ponikarovsky was assessed a double minor for high-sticking Marc Staal
at the end of regulation.
But Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello
both scored for the Blueshirts during the shootout against Kings netminder Jonathan Bernier, and Lundqvist surrendered only a second-round tally to Jarret Stoll before nailing down the win by denying Kopitar, LA’s leading scorer.
“I’m happy for him,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Lundqvist following the game. “It was good that he could make that big save after that fluky goal there tied the game. He’s won 200, and that’s great, but he needs to win more. He needs to be our guy in this stretch run here.”
|Rangers forward Marian Gaborik celebrates his 17th goal of the season, which gave the Rangers their first lead of the night at 6:10 of the third period. |
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Although Tortorella admitted after the win that his team was far from perfect in its play, he was very pleased in how the club battled and found a way to earn two crucial points -- giving the seventh-place Rangers 66 on the season.
“I just think we’ve got some (guts), and I think we’ve been like that all year long, and I like that about our club,” said Tortorella. “I just hope this keeps transforming and we keep finding ways to win hockey games in the grind that is going to come up here. I really like the mental makeup of this team.”
Tied 1-1 entering the third period, the Rangers grabbed their first lead of the night on Marian Gaborik
’s 17th goal -- scored off a right-wing snap shot from the top of the circle -- at the 6:10 mark of the final stanza.
However, that lead was short-lived when Matt Greene scored his first goal in 73 games dating back to Jan. 10, 2010 on a slap shot that tipped off Brian Boyle
’s stick and changed direction on Lundqvist at 7:50.Brandon Dubinsky
and Artem Anisimov
combined for a gorgeous goal with 3:08 left to play, giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead. The puck was touched by Anisimov as Dubinsky completed a wrap-around move. The goal was Anisimov's career-high 13th of the season.
Brown, however, cut the home team’s celebration short by tying the game just 47 seconds later.
“We faced a ton of adversity tonight,” said Christensen. “We got down early, and then it went bang-bang-bang with blown leads in the third. But it was a great hockey game, I thought, and a good test for us, because they are a really good hockey team. The big thing is, I think, that we have a thick skin when something bad happens. And you saw that again tonight.”
The Rangers and Kings exchanged a goal apiece over the first two periods of play to set the stage for the exciting third period. Brown provided the Kings an early 1-0 lead in the first period, and Ryan Callahan
answered back to pull the Rangers even early in the second.
Brown finished off a Kings’ rush by whipping a spinning shot past Lundqvist from the slot just 5:25 into the game.
The Rangers were fortunate not to be trailing by two goals at the first intermission. Ten minutes after Brown’s goal, Greene blasted a long slap shot from the right point through a screen in front, and the puck hit the base of the far post and bounced out of harm’s way. Another inch or two to the right, and the Kings would have had a two-goal lead.
|Rangers rookie Derek Stepan fights for position against Los Angeles rookie Kyle Clifford in the neutral zone. Stepan set up the Rangers' first goal by getting the puck over to an open Ryan Callahan. |
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Instead the Rangers trailed by just one entering the second period, and they wiped out that deficit in just 4:01. Derek Stepan
slid a pass untouched through the crease and Callahan -- on right wing by the post -- shed his check to hammer the puck past Bernier to tie the game 1-1.
The goal was Callahan’s 15th in just 39 games played this season. He has scored three times in the past two games, and has five goals in seven games since returning from his broken hand on Feb. 1.
“We had a lot of ups and downs throughout the game, but I thought we stayed pretty even-keeled and we never let the momentum spin in their advantage,” said Callahan. “We showed a lot of character and kept with it. It was a big two points this time of the year.”
In typical Callahan fashion the goal was only part of his inspired performance on Thursday night. He had a string of good scoring chances, including one late in the second when he stripped Kings defenseman Drew Doughty of the puck as the lone forechecker in the offensive zone and proceeded to blast a left-wing shot off the crossbar behind Bernier.
And perhaps most impressive was Callahan’s effort in helping kill off a Kings power play midway through the middle period. Callahan was shaken up blocking a shot -- also losing his stick on the play -- but stayed on the ice, even attempting to block two more shots. When the Rangers finally gained control of the puck, Callahan collected his stick, accepted a head-man pass, and helped kill 25 more seconds off the clock by ragging the puck in the offensive end of the ice.
Callahan’s effort on that penalty kill prompted a standing ovation from the appreciative Garden Faithful.
“It’s just a great feeling when you see that, and it really gives the team a boost,” said Zuccarello. “That’s a huge thing, and then the rest of the team is sacrificing, too. It goes through the whole team, which is so key.”
Two consecutive wins, and four important points, in their back pockets from the past week, the Rangers will face the hottest team at present in the NHL when they skate against the Devils on Friday night in Newark.
“We just have to try and squeeze everything out of ourselves because this is a tough weekend for us,” said Tortorella. “I’m really happy we found a way to get the two points to start the weekend.”