Richards scores at siren as Rangers win

New York Rangers players swarm teammate Brad Richards,

New York Rangers players swarm teammate Brad Richards, center, after it was determined he scored the game-winning goal in the final seconds of the third period. (Dec. 17, 2011) (Credit: AP)

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In the end, the Rangers were more dogged than the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night, as Brad Richards' goal as the horn sounded to end regulation at last separated the hockey antagonists, 3-2.

It was a game, prickly as Valley of the Sun cactus, that had the Rangers (18-8-4) wanting to howl at the moon.

In relief. Only after a video replay was it determined that Richards' desperation shot had found the corner of the net with 0.01 seconds remaining.

"We did a good job of staying with it," said Richards, who had come over the boards for a final shift with 20 seconds to go as his teammates held the puck in the Phoenix zone. "Not much time to get my head together. Puck came out to me there. I just spun. Try to throw it on net somehow. Had no idea that was going to happen."

From the opposite end, Rangers goalie Martin Biron said he was "ready for overtime. I didn't think it was a goal."

Then, with all the players milling around their benches, the night ended after a decided mix of good and bad.

In the good column for the Rangers:

Getting their first power-play opportunity in two games.

Marian Gaborik's quick strike on said power play, just 8:34 into the game, set up by defenseman Michael Del Zotto's precise lead pass.

Gaborik's second goal, his 17th of the season and 300th of his career, 1:09 into the third period, just when the Rangers were feeling particularly needy.

The return of wing Mike Rupp after he missed 22 games rehabbing a surgically repaired knee.

Some overall staunch work in goal by Biron, given his eighth start ahead of Henrik Lundqvist.

In the bad column:

Phoenix's tying goal with only nine seconds left in the first -- shorthanded, yet -- when Erik Christensen was beaten by Boyd Gordon on a faceoff to Biron's right, giving Lauri Korpikoski a clear shot at Biron.

Phoenix's go-ahead goal with only 52 seconds left in the second, that one on a power play when the puck, during a goal-mouth scrum, escaped from under Biron's glove for Cal O'Reilly to sweep it into the open corner.

Forward Artem Anisimov's absence because of illness, prompting coach John Tortorella to move Ruslan Fedotenko on to the Gaborik-Derek Stepan line, which has been the team's most productive offensively.

Fedotenko's brief timeout after taking a stick in the face at 1:35 of the second, forcing some Carl Hagelin double-shifting.

Defenseman Steve Eminger's right shoulder injury, suffered when he was bounced into he boards at 3:15 of the second period. He didn't return.

The Rangers had come to the desert hoping their recent feebleness on offense was a mirage, with Tortorella repeatedly insisting that emphasis on defense would bring scoring rewards.

"A lot of what we do as coaches is the defensive part of it," he said. "It's just playing away from the puck. That's how we have to play."

We have to work on our details of that part of the game. We don't do a lot of coaching of the offense. We just let them play. It's about getting the puck."

Whatever the answer, as the Rangers played the second of three off-Broadway shows -- just next door to the Arizona community of Peoria, prompting the question of whether their recent 2-3-1 act could play in Peoria -- with a certain degree of desperation/frustration.

But Phoenix, too, has been struggling, Saturday night losing their fourth in five games. Maybe it was the dry Arizona air.

Notes & quotes: Tim Erixon, called up to join the team in St. Louis on Thursday when the Rangers didn't want to be caught shorthanded on defense, was returned to their Connecticut affiliate.

before the team traveled here. Tortorella made it clear that Erixon, 20, "needs to play" and was summoned only when Eminger's availability was uncertain because of a bruised arm.

Defenseman Anton Stralman, signed as a free agent in November and playing only his sixth game with the Rangers in St. Louis, put in a season-high 20:18 of ice time in St. Louis after being moved from the third defensive pairing to second with Del Zotto.

Stralman finished that game as the only Ranger with a positive plus-minute rating (plus-1).

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