Rangers coach John Tortorella can’t explain why the Rangers are 10-4 on the road, yet struggle at Madison Square Garden. He does have some answers for why the Blueshirts are 7-0-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
“When you start getting some success, you start believing you can do it, and it ends up being kind of a mindset,” Tortorella said before the Rangers dispatched the Islanders 2-0 for their second win in two nights and sixth victory in the last eight.
The game was far tighter than Thursday’s 6-5 ping-ponger at Nassau Coliseum, when the Rangers surrendered two, two-goal leads and needed a rare relief appearance from Henrik Lundqvist and a hat trick from Marian Gaborik to seal the deal. Last night, it took a strong defensive effort and Brian Boyle’s empty-netter with 2.6 seconds left to lock it down after Marc Staal’s power play slapper in the second provided a 1-0 lead.
“I was hoping for a different game (than Thursday),” said Lundqvist, who made 17 saves for his fourth shutout of the season. “The focus for us was to play solid defensively and wait for our chances. The first period wasn’t entertaining for the crowd, but right now the purpose is to get wins. Two different games, but four points, so we can win in different-type games, which is important going forward.”
In one way, the result wasn’t unexpected: In the last 17 Rangers-Isles games at Garden, the Rangers are 13-1-3.
Through 40 minutes, the Rangers (16-11-1) had just 14 shots and the Islanders 10, but Staal’s high point blast that zipped past Dwayne Roloson’s glove with Alex Frolov setting a screen in front at 4:33 of the second period was enough. Jon Sim was in the box for interfering with Lundqvist, his second such infraction of the game.
“The thing with Sim,” said Brandon Dubinsky, who crosschecked Sim at the seven-minute mark of the second to keep him away from Lundqvist. “I don’t even like talking about him because he’s such a pest. We were there for Hank. It’s a one-goal game, he did it a second time, Mike Sauer was willing and ready to go, but we know Sim’s not gonna fight. He’s willing to run the goalie and talk a lot, but he doesn’t want to engage or drop the gloves and we didn’t want a five-minute penalty. If Hank got hurt, that’s a different story.” Overall, the Rangers are 9-2-1 in one-goal games and 13-0-0 when leading after two periods.
Derek Stepan and Dubinsky had set up Staal’s fourth of the season.
Dubinsky, who also got the puck to Boyle, was one of three different Rangers who hit the iron behind Roloson in the period: Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov were the others.
Sean Avery wasn’t as much as an offensive factor one night after tying a career-high with three assists, but more of an irritant. He was whistled for roughing and boarding penalties and a misconduct in the first and second periods. But he was around the puck enough to draw a questionable tripping penalty on Roloson with 3:57 left in the third. Roloson argued to no avail. “We have to live with some of that stuff,” said Tortorella. “But he is where he should be.” And so are the Rangers.