RALEIGH---That noise rising from Tobacco Road tonight was a sigh of relief. Rangers winger Wojtek Wolski scored with 1:50 left in regulation to tie the Hurricanes, then netted the lone goal of the three-round shootout last night to give the Rangers a hard-fought 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes to maintain a slim hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Henrik Lundqvist, who made stopped Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov in the shootout.
"We're never going to quit and that's something you need going into the playoffs and definitely during the playoffs," said Wolski, who had four of the Rangers 46 shots. "We weren't rewarded before in the last couple games even though we were getting the opportunities." Michael Sauer, who was initially credited with the tying goal, created traffic in front of Cam Ward, and Wolski threw the puck to the net and it appeared to hit defenseman Jay Harrison and flutter in.
Then, after Erik Christensen, who had been 4 for 4 in the shootout this year, was stopped by Ward and Mats Zuccarello missed wide, the game was on Wolski's stick.
"When they miss, I thought I really have to bear down here," said Wolski, who also scored Sunday against Philadelphia. With the two points, the Rangers remained in 7th place, with 68, Carolina has 65 points and a game in hand. "It was a gutsy effort," said coach John Tortorella. "They should feel good."
Wolski, acquired from Phoenix on Jan. 10, "was our best forward the other night and probably one of our best tonight," said Tortorella."I thought we were goign to be saddled in for a long one (shootout), but Wooly comes through with a big one."
The Rangers won their 32nd game without Marian Gaborik (concussion), who did not make the trip, which concludes Friday in Washington, and without Marc Staal, who twisted his knee early in the first period, continued playing, but went off for good at about 3:30 in the third period. He was blasted by his brother Eric’s shoulder to the chin with 36 seconds left in the second period. "He took a pretty good run at him," said Ryan Callahan, who had put the Rangers ahead 2-1 on the ensuing power play with a deflection of Zuccarello's shot with 13.8 left. "I don't think it was the cleanest hit."
In the first, Sean Avery’s wraparound try from the left post slid across to Brandon Prust, who beat Ward for a 1-0 lead. Prust’s goal, at 2:08, was a career-high and marked the second straight game that the Rangers had scored first. Defenseman Jay Harrison took a short pass from Brandon Sutter just outside the blue line when Prospal overskated the puck and bore down on Lundqvist. His wrister hit the left post, bounced behind Lundqvist and in for the tie at 16:35.
Lundqvist, who faced 33 shots, was clutch, stopping Eric Staal and other Canes on breakaways and two-on-ones and denied Jeff Skinner on a wraparound in OT. "It's a big relief and a great feeling." said Lundqvist, who had lost three of this last five starts. "Mentally, you feel like you're playing well, but you're not getting the points. You have to stick with it and try to stay positive."
The Rangers and Capitals are negotiating to start next season with two games in either Moscow or St. Petersburg as part of the NHL’s European opening-night block of games. A decision could come next month. Six teams have been invited to participate.