|Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi hugs Henrik Lundqvist in celebration of Lundqvist's 31-save shutout vs. Vancouver on Thursday night at MSG just after time ran out on the 1-0 Blueshirts victory.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Prior to facing the team with the most points in the NHL on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, Rangers head coach John Tortorella said his team was “gonna need some goals” because there was” no way” that the Blueshirts could beat the Vancouver Canucks by the score of 1-0.
Never has the coach been happier to be proven wrong by his own team.
In a thrilling contest, played in a rollicking playoff-like atmosphere at The Garden, the Rangers did exactly what their coach said they could not, shutting out the Canucks 1-0 as Henrik Lundqvist
backstopped the 30th shutout of his career.
“I was hoping they’d tie it up there at the end, just so we could win it in overtime and I wouldn’t have to hear it from you guys,” Tortorella joked with the media in his postgame press conference.
“We are growing as a team,” Tortorella said in a more serious vein. “Everyone contributed to this win. And it was a real good answer to a very tough loss to Montreal the other night. That’s what I liked most about tonight’s game.”
Lundqvist stopped all 31 shots he faced -- including 11 in the third period when Vancouver turned up the heat in the game’s final five minutes, desperately trying to score the tying goal. He is now tied with Boston’s Tim Thomas for the league-lead in shutouts with six.
“It’s pretty funny (Tortorella) said that before the game,” said Lundqvist. “But I didn’t expect a 1-0 game against this team either. That’s a really great team, a great-skating team. Our guys worked so hard, we shut down their top line, we just did a really good job playing our game. It’s a great win for us.”
The Rangers have now won four of their last five games and are 9-3-2 in their previous 14. They handed Vancouver its first loss in regulation since Dec. 5, a span of 18 games (14-1-3).
|Rangers forward Wojtek Wolski, obtained in a trade three days earlier, celebrates his first goal as a Blueshirt with teammates at the bench. Wolski's goal was all the Rangers needed to beat the Canucks, who had been the NHL's hottest team. |
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“Obviously they were on a pretty incredible streak, and it feels nice to stop that,” said defenseman Marc Staal
, who along with defense partner Dan Girardi
and the line of Brian Boyle
, Ruslan Fedotenko
, and Brandon Prust
did an outstanding job shutting out Vancouver’s No. 1 line headed by the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel. “We responded and played well against a very good team, so it’s a really good feeling right now.”
After a fast-paced, and largely evenly-played, first period in which neither team was able to score a goal, the Rangers pieced together one of their best periods of the season in the middle 20 minutes.
Although they scored only once in the second period, the Rangers imposed their will in all three zones, playing smart and with an edge, while outshooting Vancouver 16-9 along the way. As a result, the Blueshirts carried a well-deserved 1-0 lead into the second intermission.
Wojtek Wolski scored a power-play goal at 7:18 of the second for, what turned out to be, the game’s only score. After Marian Gaborik
’s quick shot off a Rangers’ faceoff win was denied by Canucks goalie Corey Schneider, Wolski muscled his way to the goal mouth to hammer Gaborik’s feed into the back of the net.
The goal was Wolski’s first as a Ranger -- and seventh of the season -- after being acquired from Phoenix on Monday. It was also only the second goal scored by the Rangers on the power play in their last eight games.
“It was an incredible night,” said Wolski. “The team played awesome, and I got my first goal, and it was amazing to get a shutout. It was just so exciting. The fans were really into it, and our team was really into it. I’m just excited to get the win.”
After largely controlling play and peppering Schneider with quality scoring chances after Wolski’s goal, the Rangers were whistled for a pair of questionable penalties in succession which left them two men short for 47 seconds late in the period.
First, Staal was whistled for tripping Vancouver’s Alex Burrows at 14:53, although only after Burrows had speared Staal in the groin during their intense battle in front of Lundqvist.
|Rangers All-Star defenseman Marc Staal fires a shot on Thursday night. Staal and his defense partner, Dan Girardi, managed to shut down the Canucks' top line that features the high-scoring Sedin twins. |
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“I snapped there and tried to get him back the best I could,” said Staal. “I thought it was going to be a coincidental minor penalty, but I guess the official behind the net didn’t see the first one. He plays that way, and tries to draw penalties. It’s unfortunate I got the only penalty there.”
Then Chris Drury was sent to the box at 16:06 for a delay-of-game penalty which was called after the Rangers’ captain had the puck deflect off his stick and over the glass. The Blueshirts contended -- to no avail -- that Drury should not have been penalized because he did not actually shoot the puck over the glass and into the crowd.
Nonetheless, Vancouver’s league-best power play had a two-man advantage for 47 seconds, with the faceoff in the Rangers’ end of the ice, but the home team threesome of Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky
, and Girardi -- along with goaltender Lundqvist -- frustrated the Canucks and killed off the two-man-advantage portion of the power play.
“That was a huge momentum swing right there for us,” said Girardi. “They’ve got a really good power play, and to shut them down on the 5-on-3 was a big spot for us in the game.”
With Staal back on the ice, the Rangers proceeded to kill off the remainder of Vancouver’s power play as MSG rocked to the thunderous roar of The Garden Faithful saluting the Rangers with a long and loud standing ovation.
That ovation was mirrored by the one in the game’s final minute as the entire sold-out crowd was on its feet at The Garden cheering Lundqvist’s final saves with Vancouver’s goalie pulled for a sixth attacker.
“The atmosphere was something pretty close to the playoffs, I think,” said Staal. “The fans were pretty into it and pulling for us all the way. No better feeling than a big cheer at the end of the game when you end off the game like the way we did.”
A huge two points secured, the Rangers now head to Montreal where they will face the Canadiens for a Hockey Night in Canada contest on Saturday night. After that game the Rangers return home to host the Flyers in another important Eastern Conference battle on Sunday evening at MSG.