Sunday’s Bruins-Rangers matinee was more graffiti than Monet, yes it was.
This was hard work and nastiness and grit. Or, as Brian Boyle put it in non-PC terms, “it’s a man’s game.”
In a renewal of hostilities between the two Original Six rivals, the Rangers beat the Bruins, 1-0, at the Garden. The Rangers are now 9-5-1, good for 19 points and second in the Atlantic, trailing league-leading Pittsburgh by three points. Boston fell to 6-6-1.
Marian Gaborik scored the game’s lone goal, a wicked snapshot past Tim Thomas with 4:09 left in the second. Henrik Lundqvist notched his 150th NHL win and his 21st NHL shutout by stopping 29 Bruins shots.
But yesterday’s win was more than the Rangers’ stars carrying the day. Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto and Christopher Higgins brought a physical edge to lead the Rangers’ workmanlike effort.
The Rangers finished October by losing five out of six, averaging 2.8 goals per game while allowing an even four goals against. During that stretch, John Tortorella repeatedly expressed concern about a lack of production from those whose job descriptions is to consistently put the puck in the net. Higgins did not score a goal in the month; Callahan last scored on October 12; Brandon Dubinsky had gone six games without lighting the lamp, while Chris Drury was goalless in five. None of the quartet recorded a point against Boston, but their work ethic against Boston was a key component to the win.
“It needed to be a patient, grinding type game. Cally…I thought Higgins had a real good game in the grinding part of it. We found a way to score a goal and we found a way to win,” Tortorella said. “I’m not sure how much offense was in his (Higgins’) game but it certainly stuck out how hard he played. That’s why he got on the ice in the last minute of the game, because of how he grinded: Blocking shots, killing penalties. I thought he forechecked well, holding onto pucks. He did some good wall work. If he continues going there, he’s going to get his chances. He played well. Those guys who are getting 14, 15, 16 minutes, have to grind. I thought we got that, Higgy included, and a few other people along the way.
“We almost tried to dumb it down a little bit and simply play up the wall and grind with them. Eventually that’s the way is going to be played; they force you to play that way. We said let’s join in with them. I thought we did a really good job,” Tortorella added.
After injuring his knee late in last Monday’s 5-2 win over Phoenix, Gaborik sat out losses on Long Island (3-1) on Wednesday and Minnesota (3-2) on Friday. The Rangers’ $37.5 million dollar man skated gingerly during warm-ups before deciding to play. He said that he decided “halfway through the warm-up” to play, although he termed himself at “probably 70, 75 percent.”
He looked completely healthy on his goal. Gaborik took a picturesque Vinny Prospal pass and used Boston’s Blake Wheeler as a screen as he ripped a bullet that Thomas never saw. The goal was Thomas’ lone mistake in a 22 save performance.
It was a killer. Lundqvist, in his best performance of the season, was otherworldly, especially in the third period. The Bruins had what amounted to a four-minute power play early in the period. Boston pressured an exhausted Rangers PK, but couldn’t solve Lundqvist, who stopped 547-goal scorer Mark Recchi on the door step and again with 45 seconds remaining.
“The key there was to be patient. It was good for me. I didn’t see him at first,” said Lundqvist. “This will definitely help us.”
The two points the Rangers earned were very important as the team will be on the road for the rest of the week, visiting Vancouver on Tuesday, touring Glen Sather’s and Mark Messier’s Edmonton stamping grounds on Thursday and in Calgary Saturday Night for Hockey Night In Canada. The next home game is the 12th against the Ilya Kovalchuk-less Thrashers.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the in-game debut of the goalie mask. Following an intentional wrist shot to the face from fellow Hall of Famer and Ranger Andy Bathgate that bloodied his face, legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender came back onto the ice with a mask. To commemorate the day, Henrik Lundqvist and Steve Valiquette had special masks made. Lundqvist was going to wear the new mask but decided after the warm up to go back to his regular mask
Bathgate, Gilles Villemure and Mike Richter were in attendance for yesterday’s matinee. Bathgate and Richter received standing ovations when shown on the video board.
P.A. Parenteau was sent down to AHL Hartford Saturday night.