ST. LOUIS---John Tortorella sounded like a disgruntled major league baseball manager talking about a starter after a 3-0 loss. Goaltender Martin Biron, he said before last night’s game, had played well enough to win last Sunday in Florida, “we just didn’t give him any run support at all.”
Last night, the Rangers bats---er, sticks---were not quite silent again, but they didn’t make it easy for Biron against the Blues, barely preserving a 2-1 lead in the third period for a sweep of the two-game road trip.
The veteran, signed in July to a two-year contract, has spelled Henrik Lundqvist superbly in the first half of the season, posting a 6-3 record and a 2.39 goals-against-average in 11 appearances, and held his ground last night, especially in the second period, when the Rangers took a 2-1 lead. And along with Biron, who finished with 24 saves, the penalty kill secured the game in the third.
The Blues controlled play for the first 10 minutes of the final period, but the Rangers collapsed in front of Biron, taking away centering passes and the goalkeeper absorbed shots by Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo to preserve the narrow lead.
Then came the turning point. When Sean Avery was whistled for bloodying Alex Pietrangelo in the Blues’ zone at 10:20, the forward was assessed a double-minor. But led by defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, and six forwards rotating on short shifts, the Blueshirts allowed just one shot on the four-minute power play and the Blues were 0-for-6 with 5:35 left in regulation.
“We took the wind out of their sails with the four-minute penalty kill,” said Tortorella. “That’s huge. We weren’t spot on, our team’s tired, we’re a little bit beat up, but we grinded, that’s who were are.”
With the win, the Rangers (25-15-3) lifted their league-leading away record to 15-7-1 and are now 10-1 in the second games of back to back this season. It was the first win here in regulation since 2000.
“We played extremely well in the third period,” said Biron. “In the four-minute kill we didn’t give them anything. What’s been working is playing hard, showing resiliency, the third periods have been our best.”
The Blues certainly weren't at their best in the first period, with just two shots on Biron. They did not have a shot in the final 16:18 of the period. But in the second, on their fourth shot of the game, the Blues struck first as Eric Brewer’s low wrister from the left point was tipped by Brad Winchester past Biron at 2:13 for a 1-0 lead. Biron kept it 1-0 with a glove save on a shorthanded breakaway by B. J. Crombeen. “Key, key save,” said Tortorella. “The backup’s there not just to spell, he’s there to win games. He’s done his job and kept us in the hunt here.”
The Rangers responded when Mats Zuccarello, whose lone goal in the shootout in Dallas gave the Rangers a 3-2 win on Saturday, found Derek Stepan heading to the net and the rookie center deked Jaroslav Halak and went five-hole to tie the game at 9:12 in the second. Avery then jumped on the rebound of Marian Gaborik’s shot from the doorstep that hit the crossbar and dropped on the line behind Halak and poked the puck in at 15:26. That turned out to be just enough.