New York Hockey: Erik Christensen
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Sean Avery was sent packing Tuesday.
As reported Tuesday morning, the New York Rangers intend to waive Sean Avery.
Avery has been locked in a battle with Erik Christensen for the Blueshirts' final forward spot, a battle it appears he has now lost. With Christensen apparently earning the nod, it's worth looking briefly at why the axe fell on the perennial pest.
Avery’s role on the ice was no secret. He was, is and always will be an agitator. While his playmaking skills may be a little underrated, his penchant for provocation was his best asset. But how effective was he? According to the fancy stats at BehindtheNet.ca, Avery drew 1.4 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. That’s pretty darn good -- second on the team in fact to Ryan Callahan (1.7). The rate also ties him for 23rd in the NHL among players who appeared in 50 games or more last season.
The only problem, as you may have guessed, is that Avery hurt the Rangers nearly as much as he helped them, personally taking 1.3 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. That nearly puts him in the league’s top 30 for that category as well. And it’s worth noting that ledger is filled largely with enforcers like Jody Shelley and Zenon Konopka.
When you take the bad with the good (and assuming I’ve done my math correctly) Avery only gave the Rangers about an extra power play and a half over the course of the season. Apparently the Rangers thought Christensen provided more than that.
Last season, Christensen outproduced Avery (27 points to 24) in 13 fewer games. But Christensen’s best value comes from the shootout, where he converted a team-high 62.5% of his attempts last season. He sports a 53.5% mark for his career, the best rate of any NHL shooter with 40 or more attempts. His 23 shootout goals are tied for the sixth most all-time.
You only need to look at 2010-11’s season-ending scrape into the playoffs to know how important those extra points in the standings can be. And, given the Rangers’ decision, the team certainly seems to think they look more valuable than a few extra minutes of power play time per season.
With Game 4 on deck Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Garden, the Rangers are focused on making sure they once again bring the energy and hard-hitting play right from the start as they try to even the series at 2-2.
“We got to raise our bar again, we know they’re going to come back and they’re going to be ready to play and ready to play hard,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “We have to be ready to match or beat their work ethic and be prepared ourselves.”
While the Rangers didn’t score a goal in the first period of Game 3, they believe that an inspired effort helped galvanize them for the rest of the game. The team came out with energy, played hard and made hits as they set the tone early.
Forward Erik Christensen said that in the team’s video session, he and his teammates saw effective forechecking and that when they finished their hits, they came up with the puck, sometimes leading to aggressive plays at the net. He said there were plenty of clips of the team being physical.
A key role in that energetic start was the play from the line of Sean Avery-Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle, which Rangers coach John Tortorella specifically mentioned as a catalyst for the team. Boyle echoed Dubinsky’s belief that the team has to match the intensity the Capitals will bring as they try to avoid dropping two straight.
“We gotta really bring it for Game 4 and sustain it. It’s really easy to get up for a playoff game, the crowd’s going nuts, everyone’s going nuts, but to sustain it is tough,” Boyle said. “You have to keep your head about you but to keep playing with that energy is something we can do and that’s what our gameplan is. We just have to go out and do it.”
THEY LIKE THEIR FANS: A new group of Rangers commented Tuesday on Washington coach Bruce Boudreau’s claim that Madison Square Garden’s reputation exceeds the actual experience and the fans don’t get that loud during the game. Just like Monday, the Rangers didn’t fire back any shots, instead just commending their fans.
“I heard about it but I don’t have anything to say about it,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “We all had a great time playing at home and it was loud enough for us and I said after the game that it was a great feeling to be back in the playoffs, play at home in New York and feel the atmosphere and the excitement and we definitely feed from that and we’re going to feel that again tomorrow.”
Added Dubinsky: “I don’t care. It’s that time of year when we have to focus on playing. Us as players, we love playing here at home and we feel like our fans are the best and the most passionate, so I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
THE MUSTACHETEERS: There’s a third member of the Playoff Mustache Club: defenseman Brian McCabe. The veteran sported a new mustache with handlebars during practice Tuesday morning, joining Boyle and Dubinsky.
“It worked for Dubi so I told him if we had a good game and won I’d do it too,” McCabe said. “Man of my word.”
The players who have not grown mustaches seem to be having a good time laughing at their teammates' new facial hair. Lundqvist said Dubinsky’s mustache is “so bad it’s good” and called it one of the uglier mustaches he’s seen. Tortorella called them “those silly mustaches.”
Dubinsky was just pleased to see a new member of the club.
“I told (McCabe) to get rid of the handlebars. I think just the regular mustache is where it’s at but he insisted on the handlebars so I’m just happy he jumps on board,” Dubinsky said. “I guess it’s my plea for everyone to jump on board, get a muzzy. It’s the cool thing to do and it’s a lot of fun.”
MAKE OR BREAK?: As much as it was important for the Rangers to finally get one game in this series, it might be even more important for the team to get Game 4. Were the Rangers to lose tomorrow, they’d be down 3-1. As cliché as it may sound, there’s a huge difference between 3-1 and 2-2 in the series, and Boyle recognized that.
“This is the biggest game so far. Big stage and it seems like everything is getting more intense,” Boyle said. “We’re trying to get better, they’re trying to get better, seems like each game is ramped up. It’s a huge game for us and we know they’re trying to get at us and win one in our building. We want to even the series.”
ZUCCARELLO TO AHL: Tortorella explained to reporters Tuesday about the decision to send rookie Mats Zuccarello down to the AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale. He said the team is confident with its lineup right now, which included Avery over Zuccarello for the last two games of the playoffs, and the team has to keep an eye on allowing Zuccarello to develop. The Whale is currently in the playoffs, so the rookie will get to play in those games.
“To [not] skate Zucc every day here is counterproductive to him when he could be playing in the American League playoffs,” Tortorella said. “That’s part of the process for him. He’s doing some really good things for us here but we have to find exactly what he is as we continue growing as a hockey club here.”
Recap | Box score | Photos
NEW YORK -- Here is a quick take on the New York Rangers' impressive 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Rangers won their third straight and picked up two crucial points as they try and lock themselves into one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. New York (38-30-4) entered the game seven points behind Montreal (39-26-7) for sixth place in the Eastern Conference and is starting to create separation with the teams on its heels in the standings.
WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS: The Garden was buzzing during the game, particularly in the fist period, with the Rangers and Canadiens fans both making lots of noise. The energy in the building was palpable and the Rangers fans seemed to love the early thrashing of Montreal, giving the Blueshirts a standing ovation with 30 seconds left in the first period. The fans chanted "USA!" at the end of the third period.
HANDFUL OF GOALS: The Rangers are not known as a high-powered offense, but they have their moments where they just have an offensive barrage. Tonight was one of those nights and it came against one of the best goalies in the league in Carey Price, who entered the game with the most wins in the NHL.
Leading 2-1 late in the first period, the Rangers scored three goals within a span of 67 seconds to boost their lead to 5-1. Ryan Callahan started the rally, Marian Gaborik followed with a goal 39 seconds later and Brian Boyle finished the scoring 28 seconds later to make it 5-1. Each goal was scored by a different player, with Erik Christensen contributing two assists.
The five goals in one period were the most by the Rangers since March 17, 2007, vs. Boston, and the first time the Rangers scored five in a first period since Dec. 15, 1999, vs. the Kings. The Rangers are now 13-0 when they score at least five goals.
A SCARE: With 3:39 left in the game, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was knocked in the head by Montreal's Benoit Pouliot, who was charging the goal and trying to score. A trainer had to come out and check on Lundqvist, who eventually got up and played out the remainder of the game.
HOLDING ON: While the Rangers had a fantastic first period, they left something to be desired for the rest of the game as the offense stalled and they let Montreal creep back into the game.
FIGHT NIGHT: It didn’t take long for this game to get chippy, One second into the game, Brandon Prust and Travis Moen dropped the gloves and exchanged blows. Later, the referees broke up what seemed to be a looming fight between Michael Sauer and P.K. Subban.
UP NEXT: The Rangers will hit the road and try and win their fourth straight when they face Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Rangers are 3-2 against the Penguins this season, having won both contests played in Pittsburgh.
Tuesday night, the Rangers got a return on their investment. McCabe scored his first goal with the Rangers on a 5-on-3 power play during the Rangers' 6-3 win over the Islanders. The goal came in McCabe’s eighth game with the Rangers.
“Against one of my former teams I started with, it was nice to get one here at home,” McCabe said. “Contribute that way and get a win.”
Before the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella said McCabe is dealing with a “hard situation” as he is not playing as much as he would like since being traded to the Rangers from Florida on Feb. 26.
Tortorella said that McCabe has helped the power play, but the coach is more comfortable using his top four defensemen on the ice and they are better suited for playing time. Still, Tortorella said he likes the way the 15-year veteran has fused with the team and how his personality meshes with the Rangers' team identity.
McCabe helped his cause Tuesday with his first power play, as he scored on a 5-on-3 advantage with 48.7 seconds left in the second period to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead. McCabe admitted it was good to finally score as a Ranger and his teammates were glad to see him get in the scoring column.
“I think guys respect him and when he’s not pounding it, he makes smart decisions and he moves the puck, he can pass the puck on his forehand or his backhand,” forward Erik Christensen said. “People respect him for how long he’s been around and what he’s capable of doing on the special teams.”
For the fifth time this season, Prust scored a shorthanded goal as he helped lead the Rangers to a 6-3 win against the Islanders. Prust is now tied for the league lead with five shorthanded goals, which would have him tied with or ahead of 14 teams entering Tuesday night’s action. The Rangers have 11 on the season.
“I think the most important goal was Prust’s goal,” forward Erik Christensen said. “Right off the bat we give them a power play somewhat early in the game and we go down and score and he’s had a lot of shorthanded points this year and it got us out of a jam.”
In scouting the Islanders, Christensen said coach John Tortorella had noticed that the Islanders used four forwards on their power play, so he told his team that if the opportunity presents itself, to challenge the opposing team’s forwards and make them play defense on the power play.
Early in the first period, the Rangers pushed the puck toward the Islanders' end while shorthanded. Ryan McDonagh took a shot that Islanders goalie Al Montoya could not corral and the puck fell into the lap of Prust, who scored the first goal of the game just three minutes, 47 seconds into the action.
“He is made of steel,” Christensen said about Prust. “He is one of the toughest guys who I have played with especially being his size. He is not a big guy out there. He blocks shots, finishes his checks and he fights. He has more skill than people think he does. He is a big part of the team.”
While the Rangers were 19th best in the league on the power play entering Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders, Callahan said the team still believed in its capabilities.
“We knew that if we kept banging away we were going to get chances,” Callahan said.
Against the Islanders, the Rangers found some good chances to score on the power play -- and cashed in on their opportunities. The Rangers scored on their first three power plays and added a shorthanded goal in their 6-3 win over the Islanders on Tuesday. The three power play goals tied a season high.
“I think special teams were huge, right off the bat we get a shorthanded goal from (Brandon) Prust somewhat early in the game and then I score on a power play a few minutes later and that kind of got our team off to a nice start,” forward Erik Christensen said. “We’ve been focusing on that for the past few games here at the Garden trying to get our fans into it and our starts have been the key.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella said he feels the Rangers power play has been “OK” for a little while now and the team had been coming along. Entering Tuesday, the Rangers were just 42-of-249 with the man advantage, but they looked efficient against the Islanders.
The Rangers scored their first power play goal on a wrap-around pass to Christensen at the 14:52 mark of the first period to give the Rangers a 2-0 advantage. On the squad's second opportunity, Marian Gaborik sniped a laser shot past Islanders goalie Al Montoya to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead early in the second.
Bryan McCabe followed a little more than four minutes later on yet another power play with his first goal as a Ranger to give the squad a 5-2 lead and all but seal the game. The Rangers converted on three of their five power plays.
“You get one [power play goal] early, that’s definitely a momentum changer,” McCabe said. “It got some confidence going and I thought the power play did a great job.”
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NEW YORK -- Here is a quick take on the Rangers' 6-3 win against the rival Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
WHAT IT MEANS: On a night in which four other playoff contenders were battling, the Rangers picked up two important points against the Islanders. The Rangers are now 4-1 against their New York rivals this season. The Islanders put themselves in a deeper hole with just 11 games left in the season as they try and steal one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders entered the night 11 points out of a playoff spot.
CERTAINLY SPECIAL: The Rangers aren't known for their power play, but the Blueshirts had a night to remember. The Rangers scored on their first three attempts, with goals coming from Erik Christensen in the first period, and scores by Marian Gaborik and Bryan McCabe in the second. Gaborik's goal increased the Rangers' lead to 4-2, while McCabe's score, his first as a Ranger after being brought over in part because of his play on the power play, boosted the edge to 5-2.
The Rangers also added a short-handed goal to open the game when Brandon Prust scored on a rebounded shot in the first. The Rangers have now scored 11 shorthanded goals on the season, second best in the league behind the Flyers.
QUITE CHIPPY: There's no love lost between these two teams. There were plenty of penalties and several occasions where the teams seemed like they were going to come to blows before Michael Sauer and Matt Martin eventually exchanged punches. They combined for 18 penalties, including six in the first period. Ultimately, the penalties came back to hurt the Islanders, as the Rangers scored on three of their power plays compared to one for the Islanders. The Islanders were whistled for 10 penalties.
POOR AL: Islanders goalie Al Montoya started Tuesday against the team that originally drafted him, but didn't fare too well, yielding five goals. Montoya had been drafted sixth overall by the Rangers in 2004, but the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist made him expendable and the Rangers eventually traded him to Phoenix. Montoya was pulled after the second period, but did make 31 saves.
SHOWING FIGHT: The Islanders showed some resiliency in this game by battling back to tie it early in the second period. The Rangers led 2-0 after the first, but goals by Matt Moulson and P.A. Paranteau tied the game at 2-2 just three minutes, 50 seconds into the second period.
UP NEXT: The Rangers will look to win their third straight when they play host to Montreal on Friday night. The Canadiens entered Tuesday night in sixth in the Eastern Conference and seven points ahead of the Rangers. The Islanders will head to Carolina for the third game in a four-game road swing.
The reason for their sub-par play, which drew the ire of fans Thursday with a smattering of boos, is quite obvious.
"You can call it bad luck, you can call it whatever you want, we simply have to score some goals," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We had some breakdowns, but we didn't certainly give up many chances tonight."
As the Rangers try to hold on to to their claim to a playoff spot -- they have fallen to eighth place in the Eastern Conference -- they will look to score their scoring woes as they head into the final 16 games of the season. The Rangers scored just four goals on a homestand in which they lost each game in regulation.
In the last 15 games, the Rangers have scored 37 goals, but that statistic is deceiving. In the Rangers' four wins, they have scored 19 goals, leaving them with just 18 goals in their 11 losses. They haven't scored more than two goals in a loss since falling to Pittsburgh 4-3 in overtime on Feb. 1.
"Lately it feels like we're chasing in a lot of games and it's tough," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "Teams just back up and make it really tough for us. We get the chances, we don't bury them. You don't score, you're not winning."
While the Rangers never held a lead in their first two losses in this three-game home stretch, the Blue Shirts appeared to have righted the ship Thursday with a goal by Sean Avery just 3:13 into the game. Instead, that goal would be the Rangers high point of the game, as they failed to score on their next 39 shots and were just 1-of-41 on the night.
Tortorella thought a key stretch in the game was his team failing to get the second goal on two power play opportunities in the first period while leading 1-0. The Rangers had some good chances, including a near-goal by Ryan Callahan that was stopped by a falling Jose Theodore, but came up empty. In fact, the Rangers were 0-for-4 on the power play on the night and just 11-of-59 in the past 15 games.
As the Rangers faltered with a man advantage, Minnesota tied the game up on its only power play of the game.
"We are getting chances, goalies are making saves, but at the same time, this time of year, you have to find ways to bury them," Callahan said. "I had a pretty open net. We are playing good hockey, we just have to get a goal when we need it."
While the locker room was rather quiet and empty after this loss, the Rangers weren't shy in critiquing their lack of offense. Defenseman Marc Staal said he'd rather have 20 shots and score on four, similar to the Wild's line of four goals of 19 shots, then have the Rangers' line of one goal on 41 shots.
Brandon Dubinsky is taking it upon himself to score a big goal to galvanize this team. Callahan was critical on not scoring in the first to make it 2-0. They all realize their offense has gone into intermission in a critical point of the season.
Tortorella wants them to fight their way out of the slump -- one goal at a time.
"Guys that care end up pressing when they're not getting it done. They try to do even more, and that’s what pressing is," Tortorella said. "We've got to stay within our structure, stay together as a hockey club and try to find a way here."
NEW YORK -- This is a homestand the Rangers will want to forget. The Rangers lost for the third straight time at Madison Square Garden as they fell to the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Thursday night. The Rangers are now 4-10-1 in their last 15 games.
WHY THIS GAME IS IMPORTANT: The Rangers need to start picking up points if they want to get one of those eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. In their last 15 games, they have accumulated nine of a possible 30 points. Entering Thursday, they were just one point ahead of eighth-place Carolina and just three points ahead of ninth-place Buffalo, but both teams have played fewer games than the Rangers. With Carolina defeating Buffalo on Thursday, the Rangers settled for zero points while the Hurricanes picked up two -- and leapfrogged New York.
IT'S NOT HALLOWEEN: It's usually not a good thing when the home team is getting booed off the ice after the second period, but that's the sound the Rangers left the ice to as they trailed 2-1. The Wild scored two goals in the period, including one on the power play, to suck the energy out of MSG. The Rangers even held a 25-11 shots advantage at that point, but it didn't matter to the fans. the Rangers were also booed at various points in the third period after Minnesota took its 3-1 lead.
OUT IN FRONT: Before the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella said his team needs to get off to faster starts. In each of the last two losses, the Rangers have trailed after the first period and never led in either game. Thursday, the Rangers finally scored in the first period. Erik Christensen parked himself behind the net and found a streaking Sean Avery down for the score to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:13 into the game.
STAY OUT OF THE BOX: Another point Tortorella made before the game was how the Rangers need to stay out of the penalty box. It cost the squad Sunday against Tampa Bay and once again hurt the Rangers against the Wild. After Christensen went to the box for high sticking, Minnesota tied the game off a deflection at 4:36 mark of the second period.
BUT DO SOMETHING WHEN THEY'RE IN THE BOX: The Rangers had four power play opportunities, but couldn’t score on any of them and are now just 11-of-59 in their past 15 games. When the other team converts their only power play opportunity, and you can’t score on your multiple attempts, that’s not a good sign.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY: The Rangers outshot the Wild 41-19 but still lost by two goals. Wild goalie Jose Theodore stopped 40 shots.
UP NEXT: The Rangers head north of the border for a matchup against the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. Entering Thursday night, Ottawa was in last place in the Eastern Conference and had the second-fewest points in the NHL.
Bryan McCabe's team raved about the newest Blueshirt after Sunday's 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay, complimenting him for his veteran presence and what be brings to the power play.
“He has been a good defenseman his whole career and we are lucky to have him,” forward Dan Girardi said. “You saw he gets shots through, he almost scored. He has great poise and he was a great pickup for us.”
The Rangers acquired the 15-year veteran Saturday in a trade with Florida for forward Tim Kennedy and a third-round draft pick. He was immediately thrust into action Sunday, playing 17:35 and taking two shots on goal.
“There were nerves for sure,” McCabe said. “I was pretty excited and there were some butterflies before the game but obviously it will get better as it goes on and I’ll get more comfortable and get to know the guys a little bit and the system. It will be good.”
While he score, McCabe’s teammates were impressed with his slapshot. In the final minute of the game with the Rangers trailing 2-1 and the goalie pulled, McCabe blasted a shot at the goal but Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson made a tough save to preserve the lead.
The Rangers ultimately went 0-for-4 on their power plays Saturday, but believe McCabe will prove beneficial in man-up situations in the future.
"That’s a dangerous shot from the middle of the ice for a guy that’s known to have a pretty good slapshot, a pretty good one-timer, so it’s just another weapon on the power play,” forward Erik Christensen said. “I think people don’t think we have too many other than Gabby (Marian Gaborik) but it’s a nice addition.”
The Rangers believe they showed perseverance and overcame adversity as they picked up two important points with their win over the Kings. The Rangers overcame an early deficit and managed to win in the shootout despite blowing two third quarter leads.
“I think we showed a lot of character sticking with our gameplan and not letting the ups and down get to us,” forward Ryan Callahan said. “They tied it up twice and I feel we didn’t let them momentum swing and I think that was a big part of us having success tonight. We’re going to have tight games like this and games that are close coming down the stretch and to get this one under the belt and know we can do that and show our character is pretty important.”
Having lost six of the last seven games, things didn’t look good for the Rangers early as the Kings took a 1-0 lead just 5:25 into the game. Instead of letting the bad start take them out of the game, the Rangers stay composed and worked the puck on the Kings side and tied the game early in the second on a goal by Callahan.
In the third, the Rangers took the lead on two different occasions on goals by Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov, but goalie Henrik Lundqvist uncharacteristically yielded game-trying goals quickly after that sent the game to the shootout. In the shootout, goals by Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello led to the Rangers win.
“We had some adversity all throughout the game, getting down early and we come back,” Christensen said. “We take the lead late in the game and they tie it and it was back and forth and it’s really satisfying especially against a Western Confenece team where we like to get those two points.”
As Christensen said, the Rangers seemed especially proud of their resilient effort because of the two points it netted them. The Rangers entered the game in seventh place in the eastern conference, just four points ahead of the ninth-place Buffalo Sabres and two places in front of eighth-place Carolina.
If the Rangers are going to stay in the think of the battle for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they are going to need more games in which they overcome adversity and persevere as they did Thursday.
“I felt like it was a really important game for us to get two in a row and try to start a good streak,” Lundqvist said. “Teams are catching up so there are big games coming up.”
Recap | Box score | Photos
WHAT IT MEANS: The Rangers picked up two crucial points as they defeated the Kings 4-3 in the shootout at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers blew two third period leads, but scored on two shootout shots and Henrik Lundqvist stopped two of three. The Rangers improved to 31-24-4 and 6-2 in the shootout.
THE SHOOTOUT: Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello scored on the first two shots and Lundqvist stoned Anze Kopitar on the third shot to pick up the win.
2 GOOD: Lundqvist won his 200th NHL game.
SQUANDERED CHANCE: The Rangers had a four-minute power play to start overtime, but that penalty quickly ended when Brandon Dubinsky was penalized for high sticking. This led to a 3-on-3 segment of overtime that featured very little action. The Rangers had their chance to apply the pressure with the four-minute penalty, but wasted their golden opportunity.
THAT DIDN’T LAST LONG -- TWICE: Lundqvist didn’t do a good job of protecting his team's leads. Just one minute and 40 seconds after the Rangers took a 2-1 lead, the Kings tied the game on a long-distance goal by Matt Greene. After the Rangers took a 3-2 lead with just 3:08 remaining, the Kings scored the equalizer just 37 seconds letter. While Lundqvist was good for the most part, he gave leads up quickly and didn't allow the Rangers to play very long with an advantage.
WE FOUND GABBY: Marian Gaborik avoided his second eight-game goalless drought of the season with a third period goal that gave the Rangers a temporary 2-1 lead. After a turnover by the Kings, Gaborik beat Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier stickside from the right faceoff circle for his 17th goal of the season.
PUT A SPIN ON IT: The first goal of the game was worthy of making tonight’s top 10 plays. The Kings, on the power play, started behind their own goal and rushed up the ice, keeping the Rangers off balance. From the left faceoff circle Justin Williams passed to Dustin Brown in the middle who caught the puck, did a spin and fired a home a goal to give the Kings a 1-0 lead just 5:25 in the game.
ACTION PACKED: After a dull first period, which included some boos for the Rangers' poor power play, both teams went back and forth with shots, big hits and pressure. The Rangers tied the game in the second period when Ryan Callahan scored on a rebound at the 4:01 mark.
YOU CAN’T DRAW IT UP ANY BETTER: The goal that gave the Rangers a 3-2 edge was a fantastic play that worked to perfection. Callahan stole the puck in the Rangers territory and raced up the ice, eventually shooting the puck off the back wall right to Dubinsky. Dubinsky grabbed the puck, raced around the back to the right goal post and scored with 3:08 left in the game.
GIVE THAT MAN A STANDING O: Callahan received one of the loudest cheers of the night for gutting out a power play. Callahan lost his stick during the Kings' third power play, but stayed active, moving back and forth and dropping down to try and block some shots. He eventually regained his stick and brought the puck to the Kings side of the ice before heading to the bench to a huge ovation.
UP NEXT: The Rangers head to the Garden State to take on the red-hot Devils. Last time the rivals met, the Devils defeated the Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden.
Though Ruslan Fedotenko will still be shelved for a few weeks following an appendectomy, both Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen are back in the lineup. The pair has mounted just one point between them, a goal by Prospal, despite skating with the team’s most offensively gifted player in Marian Gaborik.
For his part, Gaborik has been notching a few more assists of late, but he’s still off his usual torrid scoring pace. In fact, disappointing Devils LW Ilya Kovalchuk is now tied with the Rangers sniper in points with 34 on the season, albeit Kovalchuk has played 10 more games than Gaborik.
Meanwhile Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist told Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record that he’s facing a minor crisis of confidence.
“I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of this than it is,” Lundqvist told Gross. “It’s just confidence, feeling comfortable out there. A lot of the time it’s just making better decisions.”
Aside from those minor glitches though, nothing seems too terribly broken, particularly considering the team has lost its last five games by a combined total of six goals. That includes one in a shootout and an empty-netter by the Montreal Canadiens that accounted for the lone multi-goal loss of the skid.
The Blueshirts will try to snap out of it Friday in a key game against the Atlanta Thrashers, who currently sit just four points behind the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Standings. The schedule will remain tough throughout February with only one game against a team out of playoff contention in a minefield that includes the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning, all of whom are ahead of the Rangers at the moment.
GIRARDI OUT: Defenseman Dan Girardi will miss his second straight game with a pulled rib muscle he suffered Saturday against Atlanta. Head coach John Tortorella said Girardi will be ready after the break.
ON THE ATTACK: Tortorella admitted the Rangers have been much more aggressive in trying to score a goal this season in overtime compared to last season. He said the team tries to forecheck more and tries to spend more time up the ice. The Rangers have played 10 overtime games this season, going 8-2 in those games.
SURVIVORS: It seems almost every week the Rangers lose a key player to an injury, yet New York has been able to stay afloat. Even without the services of Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Alex Frolov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ruslan Fedotenko and Girardi for the previous contest, the Rangers continue to rack up points. In their last two wins, the Rangers even managed to comeback from third period deficits.
“After last year, throughout the summer, in communications and camp started, we tried to create an identity in how we were going to play,” Tortorella said. “I think they have done that. I think they’ve had some success through some adversity, through injuries, of being down in the period and I think they are confident.”
LETS HEAR IT FOR THE CALLUPS: With the rash of injuries, the Rangers have had to rely on callups from AHL Connecticut and Tortorella commended them on their play. Players like Mats Zuccarello, Chad Kolarik, Kris Newbury and Brodie Dupont have all been called up and contributed minutes.
“I think the guys that have come up from our minor league team have done the job and I think it starts with the program down there,” Tortorella said. “I think they’re very well coached I think they are very well-conditioned and I always say that because I think they step right in here and are maybe able to play at a little bit higher level as far as speed. Through all the injuries we’ve had, this is going to help the organization in the long term.”
HOLD YOUR BREATH: Most of the Rangers will start their six-day break for the All-Star Break following the game. Tortorella hopes the team can keep its foot to pedal for one more game.
“I just don’t want us to exhale here,” Tortorella said.
GOING BACK DOWN: With the All-Star Break looming, Tortorella said some players will be sent down to Connecticut to play during the break.
HANK'S BACK: Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal tonight.
THE REINFORCEMENTS: Callahan is on track to return for the Rangers first game after the break against the Penguins on Feb. 1, Tortorella said. He is the closets to returning to action of all the injured Rangers.
The New York Rangers have scored 119 goals this season. Not bad. But if they want to contend with the Pens and the Flyers they need to rely on their offense more. That means Marion Gaborik has to be a star and stay healthy. If that can happen they should be ok.
Get Marty Biron playing well.
If Biron plays well, then John Tortorella will have no problem getting him some playing time. Down the stretch and in the postseason Henrik Lundqvist will be playing every game. He'll need his rest. The only way to get it is to rely on Biron.
Help Michael Del Zotto find his game.
Del Zotto was a super rookie. His sophomore year has been a struggle. He's been a healthy scratch way too much. They need him to get back to form.
The Rangers will be in great shape with Ryan Callahan and Erik Christensen back in the lineup. Callahan is the heart and soul. Christensen adds depth and is awesome in the shootout. They need them back.
I believe this a playoff team. With a little help, maybe even more than that.