NEW YORK -- Rangers head coach John Torotrella admits he didn't know who Brandon Prust was when the Rangers acquired the left wing in a trade Calgary in February. Prust had scored just two goals in his time with Calgary and Phoenix, but had some toughness and grit according to Tortorella.
With Prust's fifth goal of the season Thursday night, Tortorella certainly knows who he is now.
"To do the things that he is doing, he is part of our core," Tortorella said. "He is not home grown from our minor league team but he has grown into us. He has been killing penalties, he will fight anybody. He is a big part of who we are. You look at Ryan Callahan, you look at Prust, that is who we are trying to be as a Rangers team."
Prust is especially coming on as of late, with all five of his goals coming in the last 11 games. Three of his goals have been short-handed, and he also has eight assists on the season. Thursday night, he galvanized the Rangers in their 4-3 shootout win over Phoenix, the team's first game since losing Callahan to a broken hand.
With the Rangers trailing 3-2 and short-handed with little time left in the second period, Prust raced after a clear at the other end and was able to take control of the puck after Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera couldn't grab control of it. While LaBarbera raced back to the net, he didn't have time to settle, and Prust beat him to slice the lead to 3-2 with 5.1 seconds left in the second period.
"I wasn't sure what [LaBarbera] was doing on that play," Prust said. "I knew he was having trouble getting to it. I knew he was going to take a penalty or I was going to be on the puck. The goalie was in between decisions."
Teammate Derek Stepan, who tied the game in the third, noted how Prust's goal changed the game.
"It was a big-time goal," Stepan said. "It wasn't that we weren't playing hard but we didn't have energy or pop. That goal gave us some energy. He has come up with some big-time goals. His game is exactly what we need."
Not bad for a player whose head coach didn't even know who he was when he was acquired.