Sunday, April 21, 2013
Rangers repay favor, continue rolling
By Katie Strang
Ryan Callahan finished with two goals in the Rangers' 4-1 win over the Devils at the Garden.
A little less than 11 months since the Rangers were bounced from the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Devils, they got to repay the favor and send their division rivals packing.
By dismantling the Devils 4-1, the Rangers officially eliminated New Jersey from playoff contention, and fans at Madison Square Garden relished the opportunity to serenade them on their way out the door.
With a 4-0 lead and nine minutes left in regulation, Rangers fans taunted the Devils, chanting "Sea-son's O-ver!" as the Blueshirts put the finishing touches on their third consecutive win.
More important than playing ouster to the Devils, however, is the fact that the Rangers seem to be on the upswing at exactly the right time.
Outscoring their opponents 18-6 over their past three games, the Rangers roll into the last week of the regular season with a stern grip on eighth place and their confidence the highest it's been all season.
The Rangers remain in eighth place with 52 points and three games left, all against nonplayoff teams.
"I think we're playing our best hockey that we've played all year," captain Ryan Callahan said. "Now's the time to do that, with us battling for a playoff spot."
Callahan led the way with two goals, including one on a tone-setting, physical first shift that ended with him tucking the puck at the left post to bank one in off goaltender Martin Brodeur's right skate just 34 seconds into play.
"[Callahan] scoring a goal the first shift like that really helps get the crowd into it. It got us into it," alternate captain Brad Richards said. "Especially an afternoon game, sometimes the longer they can lull the crowd to sleep, it can work against you. It woke us up quick and got everybody going, and we played a good, solid game."
Working a 2-0 deficit in the second period, the Devils briefly swung momentum with a jolt of energy before Taylor Pyatt halted a personal 26-game goal skid with a critical goal to put the Rangers up 3-0.
Richards, who now has seven points in the past three games, intercepted a pass from Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov and dished off to Pyatt, who scored his first goal since Feb. 26.
"It's been a while," Pyatt said, while donning the team’s MVP Broadway Hat. "To score a big goal in an important game, it feels good."
That goal served to be the turning point of the game, as it seemed to sap the Devils' spirit. New Jersey was on the receiving end of some questionable calls throughout the game, and the second period ended with coach Pete DeBoer livid about a too-many-men penalty on the Rangers that went unnoticed. DeBoer was tossed with a little more than 10 seconds remaining in the game for jawing at officials.
The frustration boiled over for the Devils and provided a stark contrast for a Rangers club that seems to have reclaimed it’s swagger in the waning weeks of the season.
Starved for goals through stretches this season, the Rangers are now getting them in bunches.
Callahan and Richards connected in the third period for a 4-0 lead when Callahan lifted the puck over Brodeur, who was sprawled face first in the crease.
Brodeur was the recipient of taunts and jeers all game, beginning with the goal surrendered to Callahan in the first minute of play.
"It's always different, playing them," Richards said. "It's always nice to beat them, and it's a big win for us. I know they're out now, but that's not why we’re playing. We're playing because we need to stay alive."
Henrik Lundqvist pitched in with 26 saves, though his shutout bid was spoiled with 6:30 remaining in regulation, when Andrei Loktionov's wrist shot from the left circle got the Devils on the board.
Still, Lundqvist has surrendered two goals or fewer in 14 of the past 17 games.
"We're doing a lot of good things," Lundqvist said. "You can tell guys are making great plays right now, and it all starts with confidence."