Carrying the weight of a six-game winless streak, the longest since 2006, the Rangers fell behind 2-0 to the Penguins in the first 5:06 of yesterday’s game. The Garden crowd was moaning and directing jeers toward Henrik Lundqvist and the Blueshirts, and coach John Tortorella called a timeout.
“What I told them was---you could feel it---it was getting a little hinky in the building,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t the greatest start we wanted, it was probably the worst thing we wanted. I said we just have to stay together and chip away, not get too excited and try to close everything off. We needed to score our first goal before they got anything else and we did.”
Just 37 seconds later, Brian Boyle won a faceoff, went to the net and deflected Marc Staal’s point shot past Marc-Andre Fleury and the mood shifted, both in the building and on the bench. Ryan Callahan then scored the first of his two power play goals at 9:20, and it seemed that the clouds around the Rangers had parted.
“We settled ourselves down, and all of a sudden, I’m not going to say it’s confidence, but we were back in the game again,” said Vinny Prospal, who buried a bounce from alone at the doorstep that put the Rangers ahead for good at 1:34 of the second period. “You get the crowd back on your side again. It made a difference.”
The two points were the first for the Rangers (30-24-4) since gaining one in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins here on Feb. 1.
The Rangers scored two more goals in the second period after Prospal’s---Callahan’s second of the game at 11:04 and Artem Anisimov’s 12th at 15:23 on another power play---to surge to a 5-2 lead after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Penguins closed the gap on a power play goal at 5;12 by Brett Stirling, one of the players getting an opportunity for the Penguins, who are down nine forwards to injuries and suspensions. When Michael Sauer went off on a double-minor for high-sticking at 9:29, Tortorella said he thought, “Here we go again.” But the penalty-kill thwarted the man-advantage, as it had in the first when Brandon Dubinsky was off for four minutes for holding and high-sticking.
“We scored three power play goals but our penalty-killing was even more important,” said Tortorella.
Lundqvist savored the win, his first since a 3-2 shootout defeat of the Thrashers on Jan. 22, no matter the opponent. “They work hard, but when (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeny) Malkin are there, it’s a different level on their power play and offense. It’s just a big relief. We’ve been working hard the last couple weeks and coming up short.”
In all, eleven Rangers hit the scoresheet on the five goals, with Staal recording two assists. The stuggling Blueshirts, who remained in seventh place in the East, two points ahead of Carolina and four ahead of Atlanta, hadn’t scored more than three goals in 19 of the last 20 games.
“It’s definitely good to stop the bleeding now,” said Callahan, who had a season-high three points. “We put ourselves in a bit of a bind standings-wise losing all those games in a row, but now that we’ve got this one under our belt, we can start looking at games ahead of us, not teams behind us.”