This was a night where the leaders led the way and the boys followed.
Hosting an Original Six rival following a week in which they could only account for one goal in three games, the Rangers got back to basics.
They battled all over the ice. They drove to the net. They limited shots against.
For one night, the 2009-10 New York Rangers looked like an elite team.
The Rangers thoroughly demolished Montreal at the Garden Sunday night, 6-2. With the win, the Rangers improved to 23-19-7 and are now sixth in the East with 53 points. The Rangers’ next game is Tuesday at the Garden against Tampa Bay.
Ryan Callahan tied a career high with four points (two goals and two assists); he had four points in the Rangers’ 5-2 win over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on December 17, 2009. Brandon Dubinsky (two goals and an assist) and Marian Gaborik (goal and two assists) finished with three points. Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal had two points each.
The Rangers and Montreal will meet this Saturday at the Bell Centre. It seems a safe proposition that the bad blood between The Original Six may not have subsided.
The Rangers and Montreal combined for 68 PIMS last night, including 50 in a wild second period—highlighted by middleweight bouts between Sean Avery and Josh Georges and Wade Redden and Benoit Pouliot. Redden’s scrap was the 21st in his NHL career and his first since January 3, 2009, against then-Capital Chris Clark.
“I think we’ve come a long way as a team. It’s great to see a period like that when we haven’t scored many goals lately. Hard work was the catalyst and everyone pitched in and ended up taking the game over,” said Redden. “I think everyone’s got to show each other that we’re in it together. We had big efforts from Cally and Dubi; they led the way. Everyone’s kind of got to get on board and play hard and good things are going to happen for us.”
Good things happened in what was arguably the Rangers’ best period of the season. The Rangers limited Montreal to two shots on goal while scoring three times. Callahan scored the first of his two goals 57 seconds into the second and Dubinsky scored twice in a span of 2:36. At the period’s end, the Rangers led 3-2.
“We had a couple goals that were (banged) in,” Callahan said. “I think it’s good for us. It shows we can do that as long as we stick to the game plan.”
“We were able to take the game over in the second. Big contributions from a lot of guys tonight,” added Dubinsky. “Tonight we were able to get six. Hopefully we can keep her going and find the back of the net.”
The Rangers’ momentum carried over into the third. Callahan’s second of the game, a power play stuff under an underwhelming Jaroslav Halak 4:56 into the third pushed the advantage to 4-2. Halak gave up six goals on 34 shots.
From there, the Rangers surged while the Habs appeared to want to be anywhere but the rink on 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.
Gaborik broke out of a mini-slump with his 29th of the season at 12:17 of the third, a one-timer that beat Halak high. It was Gaborik’s first goal in five games. He is now third in the league in goal scoring, three behind San Jose’s Patrick Marleau (32). Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby are tied for second with 30 goals. Gaborik is tied with Crosby for fourth in the league in points with 57, ten behind league-leader Henrik Sedin of Vancouver. Ovechkin is second with 64 points and San Jose’s Joe Thornton’s 63 points is third.
Drury ended the scoring with his seventh of the season with 4:11 left in the game.
Henrik Lundqvist had a relatively quiet night, making 18 saves on 20 shots. Michael Cammalleri (22nd) and Brian Gionta (13th) scored for the Habs. Both goals came in the first period.
Last night was Scott Gomez’s first game at MSG following his June 30 trade from the Rangers to Montreal.
Much like Alex Kovalev three nights prior, Gomez felt no sentimentality about Sunday night’s match against his former employer.
“Nah,” Gomez said in a pregame scrum after asked if he ascribed any significance to the game. “It’s nice to see certain people. After being in the (New Jersey) area for so long, looking (forward) to that.”
During his two year tenure with the Rangers, Gomez compiled 32 goals, 96 assists, 128 points, was plus-one and had 96 penalty minutes. However, he never skated with a scoring winger who could complement his puck carrying-and-distributing game.
The Rangers dealt Gomez and prospects Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto to Montreal for Chris Higgins and prospects Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko. By doing so, the Rangers freed themselves of an average $7.35 million cap hit for the next five years and were able to sign Marian Gaborik to a five year, $37.5 million deal in free agency.
Gomez has not exactly set the world on fire in his first season playing for Le Belle Province’s NHL franchise. Gomez has 32 points and 24 penalty minutes in 45 games with Montreal this season. Higgins hasn’t reminded anyone of Wayne Gretzky circa 1981-82, either. He has 11 points and is -11 with 32 PIMS in 47 games.
“It’s the same (as) New York. They want you to win. If you win, that’s great. If you lose, they’ll let you know about it. There are a lot of similarities. People are great, the organizations are great. The media are doing their job. It’s Original Six,” said Gomez.
The Anchorage, Alaska, native admitted to being “disappointed” that he was not selected to play for Team USA in the upcoming Olympic Games. Tortorella will be an assistant coach for Team USA.
“I wish those guys the best,” Gomez said. “You want to see them do well. All the guys on that team…congratulations.”
Gomez was booed every time he touched the puck.
Speaking of a lack of sentimentality, Tortorella shot down a Montreal reporter’s question about Higgins’ mindset going into the game.
“Oh, I don’t give a damn about what team we’re playing against, his former team. Chris Higgins played a good game last night (the Rangers’ 4-1 loss in St. Louis) on a couple different lines. He’s a guy we need to score a goal,” Tortorella said before the game.” I expect him to do the things that he’s been doing without scoring goals: Doing the job along the wall, kill some penalties, and hopefully chip in a goal.”
At 18.8 percent, the Rangers power play efficiency is tied for 13th in the NHL. However, Tortorella is concerned about a unit that was 3-for-37 in its last 10 games prior to last night. “We have to get something figured out there. Through the year, through our struggles scoring goals, the reason we were winning some games was that the power play was working. That’s very important for us to get going again.”
There were loud cheers when highlights from the Jets’ win in San Diego were shown on the scoreboard.
Rangers’ legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert received an ovation when introduced during a second period commercial break.
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This was a night where the leaders led the way and the boys followed.