|Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky, who scored the game's only goal at 7:49 of the third period, acknowledges postgame cheers from the Garden Faithful as he is announced as the No. 1 star.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Patience and perseverance have been two of the Rangers’ most important qualities as a team this season, and both were on full display once again Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden when the Blueshirts extended their winning streak to a season-best five straight games with a 1-0 shutout victory over the Florida Panthers.Henrik Lundqvist
turned aside 22 shots to earn his league-leading 10th shutout of the season, equaling his single-season career-high from the 2007-08 season, and Brandon Dubinsky
snapped a scoreless tie with his career-best 22nd goal 7:49 into the third period to lift the Rangers.
“I thought it was very important to win a game like that,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “You could see that (Florida goalie Tomas) Vokoun was solid and it was going to be one of those games. But I was happy with the patience of the team to stay with it. Hank made some big saves at key times, but I thought we defended well. To win a game like this is a big step in the right direction.”
Vokoun put forth a sterling performance in goal for the Panthers. He stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced as the Rangers dominated Florida territorially all game long, in particular during the second period when they fired 17 shots on goal.
“They played a pretty patient game, as well, and Vokoun played great,” said defenseman Steve Eminger
, who once again had a strong game filling in for the injured Marc Staal
on the Rangers’ top defensive pairing alongside Dan Girardi
. “But we didn’t get frustrated or get away from our game plan. We didn’t try any high-risk plays. We just stuck with it, and we knew were going to get one eventually.”
|Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist sets himself to make a save against Florida's Marty Reasoner. Lundqvist finished with 22 saves for his fifth straight win and his NHL-leading 10th shutout of the season. |
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The Rangers finally broke through after 47 minutes worth of hockey had been played when Dubinsky converted a gorgeous pass from Ryan Callahan
for what turned out to be the game’s only score.
Callahan earned his 24th point in the 22 games he’s played since returning from a broken hand on Feb. 1 with his assist on Dubinsky’s goal. The hard-nosed alternate captain made a deceptive move to pull Vokoun slightly out of position during a scramble in front, and then fed Dubinsky in the slot. Dubinsky buried his second goal in as many games to give the Rangers a hard-fought and well-earned 1-0 lead.
“When I first got the puck I looked at Vokoun right away and he was pretty square with me so I saw Dubi coming down the slot and I tried to buy as much time as possible without totally giving away I was passing it to him,” said Callahan.
Not only did Dubinsky, Callahan, and center Artem Anisimov
-- who also assisted on the goal -- combine on the only score of the game, that line set the tone for how the Rangers were going to play all night with a tenacious forecheck and a consistently diligent backcheck.
“That line played well all night long,” said Tortorella. “They came up empty a number of times, but they grinded. I tell you, to beat Vokoun tonight it was going to have to be a play like that, with lots of patience. That line, deservedly so, gets that point.”
Lundqvist was not tested as often -- or with as many difficult shots -- as Vokoun, but when called upon he came up big while making his 18th consecutive start for the Blueshirts. His lunging glove save on David Booth’s left-wing rocket in the second period was as crucial as it was spectacular because it kept the game scoreless in a contest the home team was controlling and could not afford to surrender the first goal.
In the final minute of play -- with Vokoun on the Panthers’ bench for a sixth attacker --Lundqvist made two more sensational stops to preserve another important victory as well as his shutout.
“You know, I think he’s certainly underappreciated and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves,” Dubinsky said of Lundqvist. “To have 10 shutouts in a season is a great feat, let alone with a 10th of the season left. He’s had to be unreal to keep us where we’re at. In my eyes, and I’ve shot on all the goalies, he’s the best in the league.”
The Rangers now have 84 points on the season. They sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind sixth-place Montreal and three points up on eighth-place Buffalo following the Sabres’ 2-0 win over the Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Looking to stretch their winning streak to six straight games, the Rangers will host the Ottawa Senators at MSG on Thursday night before traveling up to Boston for a tilt with the Bruins on Saturday afternoon.
“This is fun right now,” said Lundqvist. “We are finding different ways to win. Plus you can feel the intensity of every game. But we’ve been good at only looking at that next game, never too far ahead or behind. It’s always about that next game.”