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Season full of big 'response' wins

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com


On Sunday afternoon, in front of a national television audience at Philadelphia, the Rangers will go after two very important points in the playoff race.

This will be the Blueshirts' final road game of the regular season and will be followed by three straight games at Madison Square Garden, where a playoff berth could be clinched next week.

A win over the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers on Sunday would enable the Blueshirts to tie their team record of 24 road victories, set by the 1993-94 Stanley Cup championship team, which in fairness did not gain any of its wins from shootouts. Nevertheless, 24 road wins from the 2010-11 Rangers would be a remarkable achievement.

There will be many wild cards in the mix on Sunday, including the Flyers' recent struggles on home ice. Philadelphia has lost its last two games to Atlanta (at home Thursday night) and New Jersey (on the road Friday), and the Flyers have won only two of their past seven games overall.

In fact, Philadelphia is an almost stunning 0-2-3 at the Wells Fargo Center since beating Edmonton there on March 8. In the just-completed month of March, the Flyers went 1-4-3 at home. The last time the Rangers played them at Philadelphia on Dec. 18, the Flyers had gone 4-2-2 over their previous eight home games.

Regardless of Philadelphia's record, the Rangers' 7-0 win over the Flyers in the most recent meeting and MSG, as well as their performance in high-profile "response" games such as the one coming up on Sunday speak volumes about what the Blueshirts can achieve in this game.

Here is a look back at five such victories from the 2010-11 season -- games in which the Rangers turned what had been negative momentum from losses to weaker teams into the kind of victories fans who watched them will remember long after the season ends.

DECEMBER 12 at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Rangers 7, Washington 0

The Set-Up: The Rangers came into this game less than 24 hours after losing 3-1 at Columbus on Rick Nash's fluke game-winner with just over five minutes to go. Afterwards, Rangers head coach John Tortorella said: "We’ve just got to move by it and bring the good things into the Washington game because that’s a very good club. We can’t worry about this now. We have to move on to the next one.”

How They Won: After taking a 1-0 lead on Brandon Prust's goal late in the first period, the Blueshirts erupted for three goals in the first five minutes of the second. Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik, and Brandon Dubinsky made it 4-0, and Marc Staal added a shorthanded goal midway through the second to make it 5-0. Ryan Callahan had two third-period goals to close out the scoring, and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves in goal for his fifth of 11 shutouts this season.

JANUARY 13 at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Rangers 1, Vancouver 0

The Set-Up: Two nights earlier, the Rangers lost 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens at home in Wojtek Wolski's Rangers debut just one day after he was traded to the team from Phoenix. The Canadiens broke a 1-1 tie in the third period, snapping a three-game Rangers winning streak. After the game, forward Brandon Dubinsky said: "Good teams find ways to win these games. We have to capitalize better on our scoring chances."

How They Won: In perhaps the most memorable game of the season to date, Wolski scored on a power play at 7:18 of the second period, and the Blueshirts held on for a 1-0 win over the 2010-11 Presidents' Trophy winners and current Cup favorites. Lundqvist made another 31 saves for his sixth shutout of the season. The Rangers also ended Vancouver's 17-game run without a loss in regulation time.

FEBRUARY 13 at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Rangers 5, Pittsburgh 3

The Set-Up: Two nights earlier, the Rangers had lost 3-2 at Atlanta when Evander Kane scored on power play with 2:20 to go. Kane's goal extended a Rangers' season-high losing streak to six games. After the game, Lundqvist said: "It seems like they always got to the rebound. They were hungry around the net. I’m disappointed and frustrated."

How They Won: Incredibly, the Penguins managed to build a quick 2-0 lead on goals at 2:06 and 5:06 of the first period. Brian Boyle responded to the second Pittsburgh goal just 37 seconds later, and Callahan tied the game on a power play at 9:20 of the first period. Vinny Prospal then delivered the lead for good when he scored at 1:34 of the second. Power-play goals from Callahan and Anisimov followed later in the period, as the Rangers ran away with the win, getting 26 saves from Lundqvist.

MARCH 12 at SAN JOSE'S HP PAVILION

Rangers 3, San Jose 2 (SO)


The Set-Up: After crushing the Flyers 7-0 at home on March 6, the Rangers opened a two-game California trip three nights later with a rough 5-2 loss at Anaheim. After the game Lundqvist said: "Obviously they got a couple of lucky goals, but that’s no excuse for how we played. We have to be better. I’m just really frustrated. But it’s over, and now we just have to move on."

How They Won: San Jose took the lead at 12:30 of the first period, but Erik Christensen got the tying goal just over four minutes later at 16:57. The Rangers went ahead early in the second on Michael Sauer's second goal of the season, but gave up the tying goal later in the period. The game went to a shootout, where Dubinsky beat Antti Niemi in the sixth round. Lundqvist finished with 31 saves, and the victory set off a season-high run of five straight wins.

MARCH 26 at BOSTON'S TD GARDEN

Rangers 1, Boston 0

The Set-Up: The Rangers' five-game winning streak that began with the shootout victory at San Jose had come to an end only two nights before the game at Boston, when Ottawa upset the Blueshirts 2-1 in an overtime shootout at The Garden. After the game, Tortorella said: "I didn’t see this one coming. We don’t play too many bad games, and we haven’t this year, but this was one.”

How They Won: Following a script that was stirred memories of the team's big home victory over Vancouver two months earlier, the Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal by Derek Stepan at 6:39 of the first period and then held on for victory behind 26 saves from Lundqvist, who was at his best in the third period, when the Bruins outshot the Rangers 12-1. The emotional and dramatic afternoon win at Boston was Lundqvist's career-high 11th shutout.
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