Rangers 2, Flames 1

What transpired last night at the Garden was not for the faint of heart.

Simply, it was, to quote the estimable Hanson Brothers, “old-time hockey.” It was a game in which the Hansons would have been right at home as the Rangers and Flames spent the evening trading heavy hits, punches and insults.

“It was” as Brandon Prust would deem the evening’s events and the Rangers’ 2-1 win “fun.”

Perhaps for the players and those who appreciate mean hockey. For those who were weaned on Gary Bettman’s vision of hockey, it was 60 minutes of the trapping Flames clogging the neutral zone against a forechecking, skating Rangers team, then counter attacking.

The game was scoreless for the first 22:08 spanning the first and second periods until
Brian Boyle’s ninth goal of the season opened the scoring. Ruslan Fedotenko forced a turnover at center ice by planting the mobile-as-a-Michelangelo’s-David Anton Babchuk into the boards. Dan Girardi snared the loose puck and sprung Boyle for a breakaway. Boyle and Fedotenko came in on a 2-on-1 and Boyle snapped a shot under Miikka Kiprusoff. Calgary’s goaltender yielded two goals on 24 shots.

Jarome Iginla tied the game 3:16 later with his ninth of the season when he converted a Jay Bouwmeester feed past Martin Biron. It was Biron’s lone mistake as he improved to 5-2-0 with a 31 save performance.

Dan Girardi’s power-play slapper goal with 7:19 remaining was the game-winner. It was his second goal of the season and his first since Oct. 11 against the Islanders. The Rangers had the man advantage because Curtis Glencross high-sticked Ryan Callahan at center ice.

Rookie center Derek Stepan won the faceoff directly back to Girardi, who threw a slapshot towards Kiprusoff. The puck hit the tip of Kiprusoff’s catching glove and rolled into the net.

“It is a type of win where you are grinding,” John Tortorella analyzed. “We just have to play behind their net, try to grind it and get scoring chances that way.”

One of the reasons the Rangers have been successful in the first two months of the season—they are 12-9-1—has been the nightly efforts from the grind line of Fedotenko, Boyle and Brandon Prust. The trio has combined for 26 points, 94 penalty minutes and is plus-seven after the Rangers’ second win in as many games.

Fedotenko was a free agent signing, brought to provide secondary scoring. Boyle was thought to be the odd man out during training camp and pre-season. Rangers General Manager Glen Sather and Calgary GM Darryl Sutter consummated a deal on Jan. 31. In return for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik, the Rangers would get Prust and Olli Jokinen from Calgary.

As a team, the Rangers play a simple, grinding game, which dovetails perfectly with Prust’s game. The third-year right wing from London, Ontario, is tied for fourth on the team in hits with 47, tied for ninth in blocked shots with 14, and averages 1:22 of penalty kill time a game. He has skated in all 22 games this season.

In his first game against his former team since the trade, Prust was plus-one with three hits in 14:44 of ice time and drew a penalty. “Every win is special, but it’s always good to beat your friends,” Prust said with a wide smile on his face. “I’m going to go over and say hi.”

Prust admitted that during skirmishes he chatted with some of his former teammates.
“There was a couple times, if there was a melee, a couple of the guys I knew (traded) chirps. It was fun.”

It was old-time hockey.

Three things we saw last night

Biron back in net
— John Tortorella decided to start Martin Biron again last night because Henrik Lundqvist has lost three of his last four starts. King Henrik’s given up 12 goals on just 98 shots in that span. Biron, who started in the Rangers’ 5-2 win in Minnesota on Saturday night, was only pierced once on 31 shots. Biron was absolutely spectacular in the final period, stopping all 15 Calgary shots. Sniper Jarome Iginla was limited to only one goal on five shots after netting five in the previous two games.

2 Pick a fight — Losers of eight of 10 entering the contest, Calgary was looking for fights to swing its momentum. Mike Sauer fought Tom Kostopoulos and Stefan Meyer in first period bouts, while Brandon Dubinsky face-washed Curtis Glencross after the Flames’ winger high-sticked Ryan Callahan in the second. Then, Derek Boogaard challenged nearly every Flame in the third period after they expressed their displeasure with Marc Staal’s open-ice hit on Matt Stajan.

3 Second-period flurry — Dan Girardi sprung Brian Boyle for a breakaway goal that opened the scoring 2:08 into the second period. Iginla tied it five minutes later, but Girardi slapped in a power-play goal with 7:19 remaining to retake the lead. The puck bounced off the tip of Mikka Kiprusoff’s glove and bounced into the goal. The offense went quiet after that, but it was just enough.