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Rangers play -- and win -- for each other

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky's performance this season has been inspirational to his teammates. The two goals he scored on Monday were an added reward for his relentless work at all points on the ice.

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Prior to Monday’s game at Madison Square Garden against the Chicago Blackhawks, almost to a man the Rangers said that playing the defending Stanley Cup champions would be a major test as to where the Blueshirts stand as a team so far this season.

Consider then that after 60 grueling hard-fought minutes, the Rangers passed the test with flying colors, skating to an exciting 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks, doing so the only true way possible -- as a team, not as a group of individuals.

It is, in part, what made the win so rewarding for the Blueshirts.

“Everyone contributed, and the biggest strength to me is that this is a team and everybody is playing for one another,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “That’s a good thing here early in the year, and we have to keep building on it. This was a good one to win.”

The Rangers’ No. 1 line of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Ryan Callahan did much of the offensive damage, combining for six points on the night, with Dubinsky leading the way with a pair of goals. And goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took yet another star turn with a 33-save performance.

But it wasn’t just the top end of the roster that helped produce this victory. Erik Christensen scored the game-winning goal, assisted by the hard-working Brandon Prust; Steve Eminger had a team-high six of the team’s 35 recorded hits on the night; Dan Girardi joined Callahan in leading the Blueshirts with six blocked shots apiece on a night the team blocked another 33 in front of Lundqvist.

The list of those who contributed something important to the win over the champs ran the entire lineup, something that is quickly becoming the Rangers’ trademark early on in the 2010-11 season.

“You’ve got to sacrifice yourself in order to win games, and I think that’s been the key to our success when we win games, everyone is blocking shots and making desperate plays, and that’s what good teams do to win,” said Dubinsky, who now has a team-leading seven goals on the season.

Dubinsky, who tied the game at 1-1 with 20.5 seconds remaining in the first period and then put the Rangers ahead 2-1 with a power-play tally 55 seconds into the third, epitomized the gritty and determined team-wide effort put forth by the home team on Monday when he dived headlong to poke the puck out of the Rangers’ zone in the final seconds of the game with the Blueshirts not only clinging to a one-goal lead, but facing a 6-on-4 disadvantage with Girardi in the penalty box and Chicago goalie Marty Turco on the bench for an extra attacker.

“Dubi does it all,” said Christensen. “I can’t think of any facet of his game that he needs to improve on. He thinks the game well, and I know what kind of person he is, he really cares and has really stepped up to be one of the leaders in this room.”

Both of Dubinsky’s goals were assisted by his linemates Callahan and Anisimov. Callahan now has points in seven consecutive games, and he leads the club with 13 points on the season.

That threesome not only inspired with their offensive play, but probably more so with their impassioned and extremely physical effort that covered all 200 feet of the ice. Clearly their teammates were inspired and followed suit, relentlessly blocking shots and taking the body shift after shift.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist continued his history of outstanding play against Chicago on Monday, making 33 saves to improve to improve to 4-0-2 in his career starts against the Blackhawks.

And Lundqvist was there behind them to put forth another rock-solid outing in goal. Fresh off his first shutout of the season Saturday in Toronto, Lundqvist made a pair of game-saving stops on Chicago’s Tomas Kopecky over the course of the final minute of play.

The one time Lundqvist did falter -- allowing an admittedly savable shot from Patrick Kane to slip through his pads and tie the game 2-2 at 6:08 of the third period -- the Rangers picked up their star goalie when Christensen scored the eventual winner 28 seconds later.

“I think we owe Hank a couple still,” Prust said with a laugh. “He saves our butts a lot, and that’s why he’s the best in the league. So it’s good to get one for him.”

The winning goal came about after Prust chipped the puck into the slot and Christensen made a neat move before rifling his second goal of the season -- and first since opening night -- into the top right corner of the net.

“That was a big-league goal he scored there,” Tortorella said of Christensen’s shot.

“It was huge because you could feel the air being sucked out of the building (when Chicago scored), but this gave us a second chance and we held our own after that,” said Christensen.

Adding to the impressive nature of the victory was the fact that the Rangers were playing their fourth game in six nights. But no matter how tired their legs might have been, they did not waver in their effort and persevered in the end.

“A lot of work goes into a win, especially against a good team like Chicago,” said Lundqvist. “Everyone pulled together (Monday) night for a great win.”

The Rangers will receive a well-deserved day off on Tuesday before returning to practice on Wednesday. Their next game will come Thursday down in Philadelphia against the Flyers, a contest that precedes Friday’s match with the Devils at the Prudential Center.
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