Let’s just say John Tortorella does not have a future in prognostication.
The Rangers coach opened his post-game remarks by uttering, “I’m going to eat my words,” after his team beat the NHL's best team, Vancouver, 1-0, at the Garden Thursday night.
See, Tortorella had suggested it would be an impossible feat for his team to beat Vancouver by that margin during his pre-game press conference. “We’re going to need some goals tonight. We’re not going to win a hockey game tonight 1-0. We won’t. We’re going to need some goals. Not just get chances, we’re going to need some goals tonight,” said Tortorella. Vancouver came into the match without having lost in regulation since Nov. 21.
While his team has only 10 goals in the seven games this month, Thursday night they at least generated some offense. The Rangers leveled 35 shots toward Vancouver backup goaltender Cory Schneider. Vancouver, the NHL’s third-best offense, fired 31 shots at Henrik Lundqvist.
“We did a good job getting chances, getting rebounds. We were doing what we wanted to do offensively. They are a good team. When it comes down to it we have Hank in net,” Brian Boyle said. “It could have been a higher scoring game but I think the goalies played great. It was a fun game to play.”
Neophyte Blueshirt Wojtek Wolski scored the game’s lone marker at 7:18 of the second period with his first as a Ranger. Wolski won an offensive zone faceoff against Henrik Sedin, drove to the net and jammed a behind-the-net feed from Marian Gaborik into net.
“I will take them however I can get them. I don’t care how pretty they are,” Wolski said. “It helps that we won. I am excited.”
Among the myriad reasons the Rangers left the Garden with two points was the brilliant defensive play of the Boyle-Brandon Prust-Ruslan Fedotenko checking line and top defensive pair Marc Staal and Dan Girardi against Vancouver’s top line of Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows. The trio entered the game with a combined 43 goals, 90 assists and 133 points. The trio was only able to get off six shots at Lundqvist and three other attempts were blocked. The Rangers finished with 24 blocks.
“We were playing pretty solid. We weren’t really opening up too much. They took some chances and we were able to stop them,” said Staal, who was speared between the legs by Burrows late in the second period. “Hank made saves when we needed them. As a team defensively, we have always been pretty confident going into the third period with a lead.”
What may portend well for the rest of this campaign was Gaborik’s play. The sniper had six shots on goal, two blocked and whiffed on one. His best opportunity came on a third period breakaway in which he fired high over Schneider’s shoulder. More importantly to his coach, the right wing competed and skated. Coming off a masterful 42 goal season a year ago, Gaborik only has 11 goals in 23 points in 2010-11.
“It can’t be one of those years because this team won’t succeed if it continues. I think he’s close. I think his legs are moving. I think that’s the most important thing with Gabby. His legs and not letting the play getting caught up to him by gliding and looking for plays. More and more within his game, he’s trying to beat people and skate through the neutral zone with speed. That’s the most important part. I think that’s the most important part. I think that’s come back to his game,” Tortorella said. “This guy, he wants to do it. It’s just a matter of getting through it.
“I think he’s close. I really do.”
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