NEW YORK – In an emotional sport, the Rangers got perhaps their most emotional win in years Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Brandon Dubinsky tied the game with 3:48 remaining in the third period, and Michael Sauer slid a puck past Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas 51 seconds later to give the Rangers (43-32-5, 91 points, seventh in East) their biggest win of the season.
“That was unbelievable,” said Sauer. “I never scored a goal and it got that loud, that’s for sure. The boys were excited and the fans went nuts. We got the two points and that’s what it’s all about.”
“It was emotional, and right now I’m pretty tired,” said Dubinsky, who screamed in excitement while taking his victory lap as the game’s third star. “We just kept coming. We were relentless, I thought the guys battled. Even when we were going down by a couple, the energy was there, the effort was there, we just had to get more shots and traffic, and we did that.”
Derek Stepan added an empty netter in a game Boston (44-24-11, 99 points, third in East) originally led 3-0 in the second period.
But the Rangers clawed back later in the middle stanza, getting two tallies within eight minutes from veteran assistant captain Vinny Prospal to close the gap and set the stage for Dubinsky and Sauer’s theatrics.
“Everybody’s collecting points, so for us to come back after basically trailing the entire game, and getting the winner with three minutes left is huge,” Prospal said. “Humongous – every point is humongous right now.”
“The team has balls,” head coach John Tortorella said. “It’s had balls all year long, right from camp. I think a little bit of that is innocence, as far as youth. It’s good to be around. I couldn’t be happier for them as far as how they stayed with it. The building was getting ugly pretty early, and they just stayed with it.”
The win moves the Rangers into seventh-place in the East, one point ahead of Buffalo for eighth, and four points in front of Carolina for ninth. New York’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to three.
“We responded in a big way when we needed it most,” said goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “Big credit to all the guys, they kept working hard. Our third periods have been really good this year. We believe in each other, we believe we can do it.”
When Sauer’s soft forehand flick slid about a foot past the goal line, it set off a wild celebration inside Madison Square Garden — sending the 18,200 nervous fans into absolute delirium.
“They’re a big part of this. Going into the game, you could feel the excitement,” Lundqvist said. “Then they get two goals in the first, and you definitely didn’t feel that excitement. As soon as we got the first one, it changes. On the ice, in the stands, they got going and we got going.”
“I remember at the beginning of the game when they booed us,” Prospal said of the fans, who booed the Rangers off the ice after a lackluster opening period. “The chills are for us, for the hockey players, for the bench, for the coaching staff, for whoever believes in us. Just an hour-and-a-half ago, they booed us. It’s great that they cheer, but holy smokes, give us some help when we’re down! Nothing against them, it’s easy to say right now, because there are times when they have the right to express their opinion, but we’re fighting for big points right now.”
“You can’t ever think you’re out,” Sauer said of the emotions when the Rangers trailed 3-0. “If you think you’re out, you’re done. You have to be the one person in the stadium that believes you can do it, if nobody else does. We all did, our leaders stepped up – Vinny went out there and got us some key goals. Those goals put some more pressure on them and lifted our spirits.”
“It’s not just one guy. This is not a one guy team, it’s a collective group,” said Tortorella. “That’s the way we have to play. We’re not a terribly gifted hockey club. But they find a way. I’m not a big love-fest guy here, but I just like how we stuck to it, and we showed balls. It was really good stuff.”