Rangers 4, Kings 3
No one knows Ryan Callahan better than Dan Girardi.
The two sit next to each other in the Rangers’ dressing room. The duo shares the same sheet of ice during all phases of the game, every game. They were teammates for three seasons with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.
So nothing surprises Girardi as it pertains to Callahan. Not even when the alternate captain authors the kind of second period that he did in the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win over Los Angeles Thursday night at the Garden.
“When big plays are made and guys show a little second, third effort, it really picks up the team, picks up the bench. You feed off a guy like that,” Girardi said of Callahan’s tour de force second period. All the Rangers’ alternate captain did during the period was swat an in-tight rebound of a Derek Stepan shot past Jonathan Bernier (34 saves) to tie the game 1-1, just missed on a second goal when he hit the crossbar, and played a key role in killing two Los Angeles power plays. Callahan finished with a goal, an assist, was plus-one, threw four hits and blocked two shots in 21:16.
“He played the same way. He was big goal-scorer in junior. He hit, blocked shots, was relentless on the forecheck. That’s why he’s here and wearing the ‘A.’”
What took place at the Garden will not be taught at many coaching clinics. The Rangers twice had one-goal leads in the third period only to give up tying markers to Matt Greene and Dustin Brown. Brown’s second goal of the game—he opened the scoring with a power play strike 5:25 into the match—came with 2:21 remaining.
Because of a four-minute minor to Alex Ponikarovsky to start the overtime period and a two-minute minor to Brandon Dubinsky for high-sticking, the teams played three-on-three in the extra period for two minutes.
With the win, the Rangers lead Carolina by four points for the seventh spot in the East and have a six-point cushion over hard charging Atlanta and Buffalo. The win was critical as last night’s match was the first of four that the Rangers will contest over six days. The Rangers will be in Newark tonight for a date against the Devils. They host Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Sunday afternoon before traveling to Carolina Tuesday night.
“I just think we have some balls. I think we’ve been like that all year long. I like that about our club. Are we playing our best hockey now? No. Did we make some mistakes? Yes,” praised John Tortorella. “But we do. We have some b—ls. I hope that keeps transforming and you find ways to win hockey games in the grind that’s going to come up here.”
Tortorella recognizes his club does not possess the kind of skill and talent that can afford nights off and still record points. The 2010-11 Rangers season has been defined by an all-hands-on-deck attitude.
Still, he wouldn’t mind more production from his top-end players in the final seven weeks of the season. He got that from Marian Gaborik (17th goal), second year center Artem Anisimov (13th goal) during regulation. Erik Christensen and Mats Zuccarello scored for the Rangers in the shootout, while Henrik Lundqvist (25 saves) only yielded Jarret Stoll’s snap shot in the one-on-one to earn his 200th win of his career.
Zuccarello’s goal was the shootout—and game—winner. He bore down on Bernier, then stopped. Los Angeles’ goaltender jabbed the paddle to the right. Zuccarello snapped the puck left and into the net. A few minutes after Lundqvist stoned Anze Kopitar’s wrist shot to end the game, 18,2000 roared their approval for first star Ryan Callahan.
Even if they don’t know him as well as Dan Girardi does.
What went right …
1 Another milestone — Henrik Lundqvist’s 200th career victory appeared to be on hold as he blew a pair of one-goal leads in the third period Thursday against the Kings. The 28-year-old netminder, though, who has looked more fatigued this season than in any of his previous four, rose to the occasion in the shootout, turning away Anze Kopitar’s attempt to secure just his second win since Jan. 22. The 4-3 victory was the Rangers second in a row after losing six straight games.
2 Mr. Reliable — Just in case anyone wondered what Ryan Callahan means to the Rangers, or why he should be the next captain, just take a look at what he did in the physical second period. Callahan energized what had been a dead building by killing two penalties, including one in which he did not have his stick for 30 seconds, and scored the goal that tied the game at 1.
3 Powerless — For as good as Callahan was, both he and Marian Gaborik failed to connect on wristers on an OT power play.