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, 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,” and riding their best shutdown effort of the season, blocking 24 shots, and Henrik Lundqvist’s 31 saves, the Rangers made Wojtek Wolski's first goal in New York in the second period stand up for that hard-to-fathom 1-0 victory.
“I’m willing to eat those words,” said Tortorella.
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 in killing a 47-second 5 on 3 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 when Manny Malhotra hooked down Artem Anisimov driving to the net at 6:49 of the second period, they struck. Marian Gaborik, scoreless in five games, fired a wrister at Schneider from the right side 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.
The first period ended scoreless, but Vancouver controlled the pace and at one point, led in shots 10-3. In the second, the Rangers came out with more intensity. Tortorella successfuly 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 apiece. Daniel is third in the league with 25 goals. Henrik is leading the league with 46 assists.
After Staal slashed back at the vicious stab from Burrows at 14:53 of the second, and only he was sent off, the penalty kill erased 1:13 of the infraction. But Chris Drury's clearing pass went over the glass, and ruled that it was not tipped, and the Rangers were down two men to the team that is No. 2 is the league on the power play.
At that point, Boyle, Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Lundqvist took over. Boyle blocked two slappers from the point, with the second one from Ryan Kesler slamming off his ankle. “Boyle hung himself out there tonight,” said Tortorella. “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’,” said Boyle. “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 up a wall around Lundqvist to preserve the one-goal margin and the improbable win.