Sunday, December 15, 2013
Blueshirts show spark in shootout win
By Katie Strang
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has been searching for signs of a spark within his wayward club, proof that his new charges hadn't flat-lined on the table less than halfway through the season.
Sunday night, he finally got the response he had been hoping for as the Rangers rallied from behind twice to ultimately knock off the Calgary Flames4-3 in a shootout win that snapped a demoralizing four-game losing streak.
Henrik Lundqvist celebrates the Rangers shootout win over the Flames.
After Chris Kreider notched his second third-period game-tying goal in eight days, Benoit Pouliot tallied the shootout winner in the seventh round to give the Blueshirts their first win of a nine-game homestand.
Heading into Sunday's match against the Flames, the Rangers had earned only one of eight possible points through the first four games at Madison Square Garden, squandering valuable ground in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division standings.
"You look at the games this year and you talk about a kick-back or a push-back and tonight was a good night for us to push back," said Derek Stepan.
Stepan, who halted his own skid with a first-period marker that cut a 2-0 Flames lead in half, scored his first goal in 11 games and picked up an assist on Kreider's late equalizer that pushed the game into overtime.
The Rangers had the chance to put the Flames away in regulation with 1:21 of 5-on-3 power-play time with less than four minutes remaining, but Kreider took an ill-advised four-minute hooking penalty that negated the team's best chance man-up opportunity of the night.
The Rangers delivered with an inspired penalty-killing effort to preserve the 3-3 tie and run out the remainder of Kreider's double-minor in overtime, leading the team to its first shootout of the season.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made a season-high sixth straight start, had two chances to end it in the shootout before he denied Mikael Baklund in the seventh round.
It was a morale boost not just for the team, which entered the match a dreadful 13th in the conference standings, but also for Lundqvist.
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner, whose play has dipped this season, seemed relieved to finally secure two points.
"When you are in a position like this, you can feel sorry for yourself and just lay down, but we kept working really hard. We wanted this one," he said. "Every game now we can see as an opportunity for us to turn this around."
Vigneault was encouraged to see the type of fight from his team that has been so obviously lacking in recent weeks. He praised his players for both their character and resilience.
"There were quite a few moments that tested us," he said. "We were down by two early and had a kill to make at a critical time. We found a way, twice, to come back in this game, which is something we haven't done often this year. There are quite a few elements that, hopefully, we can build on."
The Rangers have four games remaining on this homestand, with the injury-ravaged Pittsburgh Penguins next on the schedule this Wednesday.
The team hopes Sunday's victory serves as the first step towards turning things in the right direction.