The New York Rangers tallied their third consecutive victory last night at Madison Square Garden when they came from behind to force overtime and edge out the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout. Erik Christensen scored the only shootout goal as Rangers’ goaltender Martin Biron was able to stop all three of Phoenix’s attempts.
Both teams were playing their second game in as many days; the Rangers coming off a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Phoenix a 3-0 loss against the New Jersey Devils. The win continues the Blueshirts perfect record of 9-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back games.
The Coyotes led throughout the entire game until Derek Stepan scored the game-tying goal with 5:43 left in the third period off a second rebound. Rangers’ Captain Chris Drury, who played only his third game this season and second since coming off of injury reserve, won the faceoff in the offensive zone and Rangers’ defenseman Michal Rozsival gathered the puck.
“I knew he was going to win that faceoff,” Stepan said of Drury. “I just had a feeling, and told him to win it back and have the D get it down to the cage and we would crash the net. When I saw he won the faceoff I just thought here we go! It’s a great feeling that it went in.”
Netminder Jason LaBarbera stopped Rozsival’s shot as well as Drury’s rebound attempt. But Stepan was able to tip the puck in at the left post. LaBarbera start was a last minute decision as the Coyotes’ No. 1 netminder Ilya Bryzgalov came down with the flu shortly before the game.
Having no time to call up a goalie from the minors, the Coyotes signed 26-year-old Tom Fenton, a former Division III player who now works in the communications department at Manhattanville College. Fenton spent the entire game on the bench, but still got to enjoy the experience of being a part of a NHL team.
Even with the team’s last minute scramble to find a backup goalie, the Coyotes came out strong drawing first blood by scoring twice in the first six minutes of the game. Taylor Pyatt scored a power play goal 11 seconds after Brian Boyle was penalized for interference. Adrian Aucoin scored four minutes later to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
Dan Girardi sliced the lead in half after he scored on a power play at 12:07 in the first. The Coyotes regained their two-goal lead when Martin Hanzal netted his eighth for Phoenix 9:43 into the second.
The turning point of the game for the Rangers came with just 5.1 seconds left in the second period. While on the penalty kill, Girardi cleared the puck down the ice as Brandon Prust broke down the right wing. LaBarbera, who misplayed the puck and couldn’t touch up for an icing as the puck was out of the trapezoid area, could not get back in position in time to stop Prust’s shot.
“A bunch of the guys were saying that was a big goal, and it definitely was because it was huge to go out in the third down one instead of down two,” said Prust.
Even though the Blueshirts missed opportunities and turned the puck over numerous times, head coach John Tortorella was still very pleased with the way his team won the game.
“This is just as big a step for us as a young team than it is beating the Capitals the way we did or coming back the other night against Pittsburgh,” Tortorella said. “You’re not always going to play error-free or disciplined or just dead-on games. So you’ve got to find a way to win these types of games.”
The Rangers’ will have another tough test on Saturday as they face the Atlantic Division leading Philadelphia Flyers.
With Ryan Callahan out with a broken hand for at least six weeks, the Rangers’ offense is going to have to fill the void his injury has left. Callahan has proven to be a constant presence on the ice for the Rangers and has immensely stepped up his game this year scoring 10 goals, tallying 13 assists, and forechecking. While the Rangers will definitely miss him, they have recently found an approach to their game that works.
“We are going to go out and just keep working at it,” said Prust. We’ve learned how we need to play to achieve success.”