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Rangers prove they've got the power

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan reacts to the first of two power-play goals vs. the Pens, which he scored at 9:20 of the first period for a 2-2 tie.

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By Jim Cerny,

On Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers spotted the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-0 lead just five minutes into the contest, but following a timeout called by head coach John Tortorella, they exploded for five unanswered goals en route to a very satisfying 5-3 victory.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak by the Rangers, as well as a six-game winless skid in which they were 0-5-1. Pittsburgh, which played without star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has now lost four of its last five games.

“It’s a big challenge, especially being down two goals during a six-game slide,” said center Brian Boyle. “It was really impressive to watch all the guys answer. You can go into a shell pretty quickly when you are reeling like we were, but we came back and answered. I think that’s going to do a lot for us in the long run.”

Ryan Callahan paced the Rangers with three points, including two of the team’s three power play goals. The Rangers had not recorded more than one power play goal in a game since their 7-0 victory over the Maple Leafs on Jan. 19, and the three they scored on Sunday were the most they had scored in any game this season.

“The games we were losing, I think special teams were a big reason why we were losing them,” said Callahan, who leads the Rangers with six power play goals this season. “This is the NHL now, where if you win the special teams battle, you’re going to win the game more often than not. And I thought we did that (Sunday).”

Things did not look so good for the home team when the Penguins -- coming off a 9-3 defeat to the Islanders on Friday night -- scored twice on their first four shots Sunday to storm out to a 2-0 lead after just 5:06 worth of play.

Deryk Engelland scored with Henrik Lundqvist down on the ice, mere moments after Rangers defenseman Matt Gilroy had cleared a loose puck off the goal line at 2:06. And three minutes later, seconds after killing off a Rangers’ power play, Pittsburgh struck again when Nick Johnson scored his first of the season.

Rangers forward Brian Boyle deflects a Marc Staal shot past Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the Blueshirts' first goal of the afternoon at 5:43 of the opening period. The goal was a big response to a Pittsburgh goal scores just 37 seconds earlier.
“I think the most important part of our game was our mental grit,” said Tortorella, who used his timeout after Johnson’s goal put the Rangers in a 2-0 hole. “We didn’t get down. We didn’t get frustrated. We weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we settled ourselves and just found a way.”

Clearly Tortorella settled his rattled team down as the Blueshirts answered back with Boyle’s 19th goal just 37 seconds after the timeout. And before the first period was over, the Rangers had pulled even on the scoreboard when Callahan reached behind himself to deflect Dan Girardi’s slap shot past Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for a gorgeous goal at 9:20.

“Obviously it wasn’t the start we were looking for, but on the other hand we had a lot of time and we settled ourselves down after that timeout,” said Vinny Prospal. “We get that first goal on a deflection, then the second goal on the power play, also on a deflection, and all of a sudden we have ourselves even again.”

The Rangers seized control of the game in second period by scoring three times to increase their lead to 5-2.

Prospal handed the home team its first lead of the afternoon by scoring his second goal in five games since returning from knee surgery just 1:34 into the second period. Camped at the side of Fleury’s net, Prospal had an easy slam-dunk score after strong work by Brandon Dubinsky down low and a quick cross-crease pass from Marian Gaborik.

A rejuvenated power play then went to work at putting the game away for the Rangers in the second half of the middle period. Callahan scored his second power play goal of the game and 14th goal of the season at 11:04, rifling a slap shot from the top of the left circle through Dubinsky’s screen in front to make it 4-2.

Rangers forward Vinny Prospal plays the puck in the Pittsburgh zone ahead of two Penguins defenders during the first period. Prospal would later score a goal that gave the Rangers the lead for good at 3-2 just 94 seconds into the middle period.
Then a hustling Artem Anisimov cashed in on the rebound of Callahan’s right-wing shot for a power play goal with 4:37 to play in the second. The goal was Anisimov’s 12th of the season -- equaling the total he scored as a rookie a year ago. He also recorded his 29th point of the season on the goal, establishing a new career single-season high in that category.

“It was being said in here that we needed to go hard to the net, get deflections, get rebounds, and that’s what we did today,” said Prospal. “We got some dirty goals and that’s what makes a difference. Plus we got our power play clicking, and basically that is what won us the game.”

After the Penguins scored a power play goal of their own 3:58 into the third period to cut the Rangers lead to two goals, the other half of the Blueshirts’ special teams helped save the game midway through the period.

Defenseman Michael Sauer was handed a double-minor for high-sticking Pittsburgh’s Tyler Kennedy at 9:29 and the Rangers expertly killed off both penalties, effectively finishing off Pittsburgh for the day. It was the second four-minute power play the Rangers successfully killed off during Sunday’s victory as they also came through in the same situation with Dubinsky in the penalty box back in the first period.

“We scored three power play goals, but I thought our penalty kill was even more important,” said Tortorella, whose club killed off five of six Penguin power plays.

The Rangers will now have three days off before they next play on Thursday at MSG against the Kings. That game will start a three-games-in-four-days stretch with a contest in New Jersey against the Devils on Friday followed by next Sunday’s Garden matinee against the Flyers.

“It was definitely a sigh of relief to stop the bleeding and get that win under our belt,” said Callahan. “At the same time, we’ve got to get another win now and start building them together. I don’t think this is over until we start winning two or three in a row.”
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