The war cry reverberated up and down Seventh Avenue a full half hour before the Rangers and Flyers renewed their blood feud Sunday afternoon.
“Let’s Go, Rangers!” screamed young and old as they walked into The Garden with a purposeful intensity for the nationally televised matinee. They knew what this game against the National Hockey League’s second-best team meant. The Rangers entered the match with 72 points, one ahead of eighth-seeded Carolina. Ninth-seeded Buffalo only trailed the Rangers by two points.
In short: The denizens recognized that it was an important game with potential playoff ramifications. So did the players, who played with the necessary desperation to be successful in the spring.
“It’s really important. Against one of the top teams in the East, it wasn’t a hard game to get up for. It’s a big win for us,” Ryan Callahan said after the Rangers’ 60-minute domination of the Flyers, 7-0. The was the most lopsided in MSG history. The previous record was a 5-0 Rangers win on March 21, 2007.
Callahan recorded his first National Hockey League four goal game and finished with five points. It was the fifth time this season that a Ranger scored three or more goals in a game. “It was my first five point game and my first four goal game in the NHL. I was happy we got the two points and I was happy I was able to contribute in that way.”
The heart and soul and conscience of the Rangers was the recipient of good natured ribbing from his teammates after they learned he'd been named the game's first star. “Grinder of the game?” Dan Girardi asked, while Derek Stepan queried, “First star, two-four?”
"When it rains, it pours," Callahan fired back.
Callahan deflected a Brandon Dubinsky backhand attempt 51 seconds into the game past Brian Boucher (four goals allowed on 18 shots). Callahan increased the lead to 2-0 12:07 later when he lasered a power play goal over Boucher’s shoulder. Mats Zuccarello ripped a beautiful snap shot off the rush that froze Boucher 5:06 into the third. Callahan gathered a Flyers turnover near the net and snapped home his first NHL hat trick to give the Rangers an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
The goal caused Peter Laviolette to pull Boucher for Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky wasn’t particularly stellar in his 33:11 of ice time, as he yielded three goals to Callahan, Artem Anisimov and Zuccarello on 18 Rangers shots.
“Today was not a good day,” a terse Laviolette said. “We’ve got to find a way to win a hockey game. I have the confidence in this group that we’re going to win hockey games. It didn’t happen today. We didn’t have the jump we needed.
Coaches, by their nature, are programmed to find—or create—flaws in their teams’ performances. But it will be impossible for John Tortorella to uncover failings following his team’s best performance in weeks. The Rangers skated and created chances. They moved the puck smartly. They limited Philadelphia to . They hit the Flyers and stood up for each other. Now as the Rangers head to Anaheim and San Jose, it is a group that feels good about itself.
“We got some confidence from (the Ottawa and Philadelphia wins),” Henrik Lundqvist said following his NHL-leading ninth shutout. “Every time you win, you get confident and feel better about yourself.”
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