It isn't often that John Tortorella makes predictions - and even rarer that he backtracks on his comments.
Before last night's game against the high-powered Vancouver Canucks, who hadn't lost in regulation since Dec. 5 - a stretch of 17 games - Tortorella bluntly declared that the final wouldn't be 1-0. "We need to score goals," he said.
But as Brandon Dubinsky said afterward, "Crazier things have happened." Riding their best shutdown effort of the season (24 blocked shots) and Henrik Lundqvist's 31 saves, the Rangers made a second-period goal by Wojtek Wolski - his first with the team - stand up for that hard-to-fathom 1-0 victory.
"I'm willing to eat those words," Tortorella said.
Lundqvist was at his best on lightning-quick reactions to deflections and earned his sixth shutout of the season before a raucous, appreciative crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The tipping point came while the Rangers successfully killed a 47-second five-on-three late in the second period, a splendid segment that resulted in a standing ovation and mirrored the tenacity that the Rangers (26-16-3) displayed all evening against a team that was on a 14-0-3 run and whose backup goaltender, Cory Schneider, was 8-0-2.
"We had a tough loss last game [to Montreal] and wanted to bounce back," said Marc Staal, the victim of a nasty second-period spear from Alex Burrows that went unpenalized. "It feels good beating teams that are ahead of us in the standings."
The Rangers had been 1-for-23 on the power play, but it finally struck in the second period. Marian Gaborik, scoreless in five games, fired a wrist shot at Schneider and Wojtek swept in the rebound at 7:18. It was the seventh goal of the season for Wolski, who arrived Tuesday from Phoenix in exchange for Michal Rozsival.
Vancouver controlled the pace in the first period and led 10-3 in shots at one point. In the second, the Rangers came out with more intensity. Tortorella matched the Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko line against Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Burrows. The Sedins were tied for third in the NHL with 55 points each. Daniel is third in the league with 25 goals; Henrik leads the league with 46 assists.
After Staal slashed back after taking a vicious spear from Burrows at 14:53 of the second, and only Staal was sent off, the penalty-kill erased 1:13 of the infraction. But Chris Drury's clearing pass went over the glass and the Rangers went down two men to the team that is No. 2 in the league on the power play.
At that point, Boyle, Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Lundqvist took over. Boyle blocked two slappers, with the second one from Ryan Kesler slamming off his ankle. "Boyle hung himself out there tonight," Tortorella said. "He had a huge impact."
Boyle, who played 18:35, enjoyed the battle after the line's flat showing in the Montreal loss. "I was saying to Dubi, 'That was a lot of fun to get a kill like that,' " Boyle said. "You get back to the bench and everyone is patting you on the back. I'm happy to be a part of that."
Vancouver pulled Schneider with just over a minute to play, but the Rangers threw a wall up around Lundqvist to preserve the improbable win.