|Defenseman Michal Rozsival beats Boston's Tim Thomas for the game-winning goal on a power-play at 3:07 of the first period on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
|Renney on the Rangers' Game Plan vs. Boston ||WMP |
|Lundqvist on Shutting Down the Bruins ||WMP |
|Avery Discusses the Rangers' Effort ||WMP |
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There have been games this season when the Rangers had some trouble putting away their opponent after taking an early lead.
Saturday night's game against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden certainly wasn't one of those games.
The Blueshirts completely dominated the B's, erupting for six goals in the second period and riding a 30-save effort by goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to a lopsided 7-0 win.
Now that's a Happy St. Patrick's Day for Rangers fans. The seven-goal margin of victory was the Rangers' largest since a 10-2 win at Tampa Bay on Nov. 10,1998, and the biggest at MSG since an 8-1 win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 16, 1996. The six second-period goals were the most by the Rangers in one period since Dec. 15, 1999.
Everything simply went the Rangers' way on Saturday. Their power play was perfect through two periods at 4-for-4, ending up 4-for-7. Their goaltender was also perfect in earning his fourth shutout of the season, and 21-year-old rookie Ryan Callahan thrilled the crowd with two goals in just his fourth NHL game.
"It was amazing to watch," said Lundqvist. "The guys that are coming in right now are doing a great job. The young guys look confident. We really need the speed they have."
Callahan wasn't the only big scorer for the Blueshirts, as four different Rangers had multi-point games. Leading the way was Sean Avery with a career-high four points, all in the six-goal second period. Avery had a goal and three assists. Right behind him was Matt Cullen with two goals and one assist, and captain Jaromir Jagr with three assists.
"I feel pretty good," said Avery of his four-point night. "I certainly knew I was a pretty good player. I am not looking for praises. I just want the team to win. We are winning. Let's get into the playoffs. We have 10 games left so let's win 8 or 9 of them."
As important as the win itself was the fact that it lifted the Rangers back into the playoff picture. In other games on Saturday, final scores broke the Blueshirts' way.
Losses by both Toronto and the Islanders enabled the Rangers to end their night in sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining in the regular season. They'll have a chance to move as high as seventh in the tightly-packed conference by beating Pittsburgh on Monday night at the Garden.
"I don't want this to sound the wrong way but we just say, "bring it on;" whatever is going to happen, let it come because we are ready for it," said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. "We can't control anything other then the way we play and how we how we chose to handle all of that."
The second-period outburst was a sight for sore eyes, particularly those that had seen the Rangers struggle to score in a 2-1 overtime defeat at Atlanta on Friday night.
"Every game is huge. It was a tough loss yesterday," Lundqvist said. "We felt like we had to get two points (tonight), especially against Boston right now because we are (ahead of) them. It was a great game by all of the guys, especially the special teams."
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Rangers never relinquished control on Saturday and really lowered the boom in the opening minutes of the second period.
"Sometimes that is just how it is," said Cullen. "Sometimes you might have an unbelievable power play and the puck just won't go into the net whether it is goaltending or just bad breaks and then there are times where the puck finds the back of the net no matter what. Hopefully, it will go that way (the latter) down the stretch."
Avery, Petr Prucha and Callahan broke open the game with an early second-period blitz that drove Boston starter Tim Thomas to the bench and left backup Joey MacDonald, an relatively untested rookie, completely overwhelmed. MacDonald gave up four goals on 11 shots and did not come back for the third period. Thomas made 13 saves over the final 20 minutes to finish up a game in which the Rangers outshot Boston 39-30.
""If you stay with the blueprint you are going to get chances," said Renney. "It's about directing pucks to the net, going there and working hard in traffic and being responsible coming back."
The Rangers' domination of the Bruins on Saturday wasn't a total surprise, since the Blueshirts have really had Boston's number in three games this season, outscoring them 16-2. Their overall winning streak against the B's is now at seven games, dating back to their last loss on March 4, 2004.
The knockout punch came very quickly, as the three-goal outburst buried Boston with nearly 35 minutes left in the game. After killing off the Bruins power play that had carried over from the first period, the Blueshirts made it 2-0 at 2:41 of the middle period, then 3-0 at 5:07 and 4-0 just 30 seconds after that.
"I don't remember anything like that in the last couple of years, that's for sure," said Blair Betts, who assisted on the goal that made it 4-0. "It was nice to break out offensively and get everybody involved in the scoring."
Cullen, who finished the evening with three points, started the avalanche with a tricky shot at Thomas from the right faceoff circle. Thomas managed to kick it out to his right, but with their goalie caught off balance, Boston's defense failed to pick up Avery, who was charging in from the left side for an easy goal. Jagr also picked up an assist on the play, which was the 900th assist of his NHL career.
The second goal in the middle-period surge came on a power play from Prucha. Jagr created the goal by skating into the crease against Thomas and leaving the puck at the doorstep for Prucha, who swept a shot from the slot into the right side of the net for a commanding 3-0 lead.
"That was big," said Cullen. "Everybody talked about it on the bench, how the next goal was huge. I thought we did a really good job of staying on the attack after that second one."
That goal was also all it took to convince Boston head coach Dave Lewis to remove Thomas for MacDonald, but the 27-year-old former Red Wings draft pick fared no better. He gave up four scores over the next 14:23 before Lewis recognized that his goaltending switch was probably not such a good idea in the first place and brought back Thomas for the final period.
Callahan welcomed MacDonald to the game by notching his first NHL goal as he crashed into the crease to pick up the rebound of Betts' shot from the left side. The Hartford Wolf Pack's leading goal-scorer showed why he is such a bright prospect for the Blueshirts, depositing the puck into the net for a 4-0 lead.
"Avery made a good chip into the zone," said Betts. "It's something that we work on in practice. I had it at kind of a tough angle. I just threw it at the net and it was a nice rebound and he (Callahan) was able to get a stick on it"
Cullen took over just under five minutes after Callahan's goal, scoring the next two goals on the power play to turn the game into a 6-0 laugher. His first goal came off a cross-ice pass into the right circle from Avery at 10:05, and 32 seconds later, he did it again, scoring from the left circle with a hard shot that beat MacDonald to the stick side.
Callahan stretched the lead to 7-0 at 19:22 of the period, following a turnover in the Bruins zone. Brad Isbister picked up the coughed-up puck and worked it over to Avery, who fed it to Callahan as the rookie streaked into the slot. Callahan, who grew up a Rangers fan in Rochester, deked MacDonald to his backhand and lifted the puck into the net for his second goal.
"I was just hoping to get my first and I got my second," said Callahan. "I am happy I did it here in MSG, in this atmosphere, the feeling is second to none."
Callahan certainly made an impression on his new teammates.
"He is a pretty quick guy," Avery said of Callahan, who led the Rangers with seven shots on goal. "Even last game he had five shots. We just told him to keep shooting. It is a fast game, especially this time of year. To score your first and second goals in a game is a pretty good feeling. I told him to keep it going (because) we are expecting a lot."
Callahan had a chance to get the hat trick on a third-period scoring chance, but came up short.
"It would've been nice," Callahan said of his hat trick bid. "But we were focusing on stretching things out defensively. Lundqvist was playing great all night and we wanted to see his shutout intact."
At the other end of the ice, Saturday's Blueshirts hero was Lundqvist. Starting his second game in two nights, Lundqvist stopped 13 Boston shots in the first periods and was cool under pressure even in that period's final seconds, when the Bruins threw three tough shots at him in a desperate bid to tie the game. That was as close as the game would come to being competitive.
"We had a lot of energy in the first period, but didn't score," said Lewis. "In the second period, we just could not stop the flow of the game. I was hoping somebody would step up and try to stop it but we couldn't do it."
All three shots in the wild flurry came from rookie Phil Kessel, who had his best attempt with only six seconds remaining in the period. Lundqvist managed to deny Kessel from point-blank range in the slot and then made a sprawling stop on Kessel, who was open just outside the crease to Lundqvist's left.
"It feels good. It was a good game for us," said Lundqvist. "It didn't feel like a 7-0 game. We came up with some big goals with our power play. Moving forward, our special teams are going to be very important for us."
Lundqvist's victory was his 30th win of the season, enabling him to join Ed Giacomin and Mike Richter as the only Rangers netminders to win 30 in multiple years. Lundqvist is also the first goalie since Giacomin in the late 1960s to post back-to-back 30-win seasons.
The Rangers' red-hot power play got a chance to work early in the game and needed all of eight seconds to score the evening's first goal, which would end up being the game-winner. That power play resulted from a cross-checking penalty to Boston defenseman Dennis Wideman, drawn by Ryan Hollweg in the Bruins zone at 2:59. Wideman later took two more penalties that led to Rangers goals.
Controlling the puck in following the faceoff, Jagr sent a pass to Michael Nylander behind the Bruins net. Emerging from the area to Thomas' left, Nylander slid a perfect pass through the open slot area to Rozsival, who was pinching into the left circle. Collecting the pass in stride, Rozsival ripped a 16-foot slapshot past Thomas at 3:07.
Already battling several injuries that kept Brendan Shanahan, Marcel Hossa, Fedor Tyutin and Karel Rachunek out of the lineup on Saturday, the Rangers suffered another at 14:37 of the first period.
Blueshirts center Martin Straka got his skates tangled up with defenseman Andrew Ference's and fell backward with his leg fully extended. Favoring his knee, Straka had to be helped off the ice. He went straight to the Rangers locker room and did not return. He is listed as day-to-day with the lower-body injury. Renney said the injury did not look very severe.
"There are a lot of knee injuries right now and I don't know why," said Lundqvist. "It is tough. We are missing some key players right now. Like I said, the guys that are coming in here are doing a great job. We just have to stick together and stay confident."
Since flirting with missing the playoffs earlier this year, the Rangers have taken points from nine of their last 10 games, a stretch in which they have gone 6-1-3.
"I guess we are just trying to take this battle head on, take a good professional approach," said Renney. "We realize that: a) we can't feel sorry for ourselves b) nobody else is going to and c) we have to step up and do our work."
Lewis said his team took the loss hard.
"I am embarrassed for anyone who has ever gone to a Bruins game and has a Bruins jersey at home because this is not what the Bruins stand for," Lewis said of Saturday's performance. "It is totally embarrassing."