Higgins heroics lift Rangers

NEW YORK – The Rangers clearly outplayed Boston for large
stretches of their wild 3-2 victory Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Still, this was possibly their most improbable win of the season.

Why? Because they got goals from a guy who hadn’t scored
for 21 games, another guy who scored only his second goal of the season, and a
third fellow who scored his first goal at Madison Square Garden as a Ranger in
Ales Kotalik, Erik Christensen, and Christopher Higgins, respectively.

Higgins’ goal was the biggest, though. After Boston
scored twice in a 1:26 minute span starting at 14:33 of the third, Higgins streaked
down the far side and found a hole from a bad angle for his first goal at MSG,
and fifth of the season.

“It kind of figures that that’s the one that goes in,”
said Higgins, who had a crowd of players around his locker congratulating him
as the media were allowed into the locker room. “I’ve missed better scoring
chances than that. Fortunately, it came at the right time. Points have been
difficult to come by for a lot of players including myself this year, so to be
able to contribute obviously feels good.”

“Big contributions from those guys,” said Brandon
Dubinsky after assisting on the first two Rangers goals. “In respect for Chris
and Ales, those guys both can put pucks in the net. We know that here, and we’ve
known that all year. Hopefully this opens the door for them, gives them more opportunities,
and maybe a little more confidence to net a few more. We could use goals on
this team, we can’t rely on Gabby to score every single night and score every
single goal for us.”

Ales Kotalik was the first member of the not-many-goals
club
to net one for the Rangers, who won for only the eighth time this year
that Marian Gaborik has not scored. After Ryan Callahan impressively won a
battle on the wall, Kotalik took Dubinsky’s set-up and wired it past Boston
netminder Tuukka Rask for New York’s first goal.

“When you find yourself in this kind of situation, slump,
in a hole, you’re reaching for anything that can help you to get back,” said
Kotalik, who snapped a personal goal-less streak of 21 games. “I’ve been trying
to put the work in and trying to get some shots on the net. They’ve been there
in the slump, but the pucks haven’t gone in and they’ve been breakaways, open
nets for me and nothing was going in. Today, I was fortunate to get one in.”

“I thought we played real well in all facets of the game,”
Rangers coach John Tortorella said after breathing a large sigh of relief
before beginning his post-game press conference. “I thought our fore checking
was much better tonight, we were patient through the neutral zone as far as
getting through their trap.”

The home standing Blueshirts (20-17-5) scored the game’s
second goal when Brandon Dubinsky made a splendid tip pass of a Michael Del
Zotto head-man to Christensen, who broke in, protected the puck beautifully,
and one-handed the puck through Rask’s five-hole.

“It’s about being consistent and patient,” said Kotalik. “Against
a team like Boston, who’s jamming the neutral zone and waiting for your mistakes
and turnovers, it’s not pretty. You have to grind it out. Even though we let
them come back today, we found a way.”

“It’s someone else scoring a goal,” said Tortorella of
his team’s three secondary scorers. “I thought Koats [Kotalik] played better
tonight, not only on the power-play, but a lot five-on-five, and Higgy scores
the winner there. He’s a guy that’s been playing well in all areas but has just
not scored. He comes through with a big goal.”

Boston (21-13-7), playing for the first time since Friday’s
Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, looked lethargic over the first 55 minutes, and
that’s being kind. But they woke up with just over five minutes left, and with
the Rangers on a power play. David Krejci found Blake Wheeler all alone in the
slot. The blown defensive coverage allowed Matt Hunwick to score the Bruins’
first goal at 14:33 before Wheeler beat Lundqvist over the glove with 4:01 left
in the game to tie it.

“We can’t attempt to win hockey games playing the way we
are, just showing up for a period or a half period,” said Bruins coach Claude
Julien. “We get ourselves back into the game and get excited. We didn’t even
deserve a point tonight. We didn’t get it – we didn’t deserve it.”

“I was still angry from the first goal,” said goaltender
Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 26 shots. “At that time of the game, to give up a
shorthanded goal, that’s a tough one. Then the big scramble, I don’t know what
happened. I had a guy behind me, I couldn’t move in my crease, then they found the
net.”

But then came the heroics of Higgins, who told reporters
his 14-year-old brother has been chirping about his inability to score in this
building. His was a tally that sent MSG into delirium, and had his teammates
delivering platitudes they haven’t had a chance to deliver all season.

“I think everyone’s really happy for Higgy tonight,” said
Christensen. “There’s a lot of guys that are struggling – even Ales tonight,
you guys and fans can be critical of these guys, and they feel it. It’s amazing
what one goal, no matter how it goes in, what that can do for someone’s
confidence. We’re not robots, we sometimes feel a little down in the dumps when
things aren’t going well. It’s amazing what a goal, no matter how pretty or
ugly it is, your confidence can turn a 180.”

“That’s a big goal,” Lundqvist said. “It was a weird last
five minutes. We were still angry, even after we scored the third one we were
angry it was that close a game. We had five minutes left and a power play with a
2-0 lead. We should control that.”

“We played a strong game, let up a little bit, especially
on the shorthanded one,” said Higgins. “We were playing well. We were confident
we were going to win, even after they tied it up. People might not believe us,
but we felt it on the bench that we were still going to win.”

NOTES:

New York took a too-many-men penalty in the first period,
their seventh bench minor of the season. Only Phoenix, New Jersey, Boston,
Colorado, Ottawa and the Rangers have seven or more bench minors.

Dubinsky’s first assist gave him 100 points in his NHL
career.

Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 12
of his last 15 games, and has started 16 straight for the Rangers, his longest
streak since the 2006-’07 season (19 games).

The Rangers scored three goals in a game for the first
time since December 23 vs. Florida, a 4-1 win.

New York is now 4-1-2 against Original Six teams this
year.

POST-GAME AUDIO FILES:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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