NEW YORK – John Tortorella may not be ready to admit it, but the Rangers are starting to prove themselves as one of the East’s elite units.
“No. Wrong question,” the Rangers coach responded when asked if his team can be considered elite. “We still got a ways to go. We’re just going to continue to work at our game.”
After a chaotic 4-3 win over Pittsburgh (14-7-4) Tuesday night at MSG, the Rangers have taken seven straight home games, and three consecutive against Washington, Philadelphia, and the Penguins — three of the best teams in the conference.
“They’re all big, but Washington was a big game in their building, then Philly at home, Pittsburg here… I talked about it all summer, it’s fun to be in a hockey environment,” said Brad Richards, who scored once and added two assists. “No disrespect to the other places I’ve played at, a lot of fun, but this is a little different. It is what it is – it’s Original Six and you’re getting big rivalries. It makes playing these games a little easier.”
New York, which stands at 13-5-3 at the quarter pole, had a short two game losing streak last week, inducing panic amongst their supporters. Including that two game blip, they’re 10-2-0 in their last 12 games.
“I think the key for us is we’re not thinking too much,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves for his 10th win of the season. “We’re playing pretty good and working hard. I think we try to play the same way and right now we’re making great plays. A lot of guys are making big plays.”
After the last two seasons ended with the Rangers talking about needing to play better at home, they’ve backed up that talk this season. Seven straight home wins have the Rangers at 7-1-1 at the partially renovated Madison Square Garden.
“Obviously we have to take care of home ice, especially in division games,” Richards said. “It’s huge. We’ve been confident at home. For me, it’s new and great to be in front of the home fans, I’m sure the other guys like it too, and we like putting up wins.”
Against Pittsburgh, the Rangers took 17 minutes of penalties in the first period, and trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes. Ryan McDonagh’s holding the stick penalty 5:34 into the third period was the only other penalty taken by New York, and the Rangers scored on two second period power plays when the Penguins couldn’t stay out of the box.
“You get up for these games. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” said Richards. “Tonight we didn’t score first, which sometimes has been a problem for us this year. We’re responding well. We’ve had different types of tests; different types of games here at home that we’ve had to win.”
“I liked the way we kept our composure after taking three penalties in the first period,” Tortorella said. “We found a way to surge in the second period. Made some mistakes along the way, but still found a way to win a game against a pretty good hockey team.”
Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby, playing his fifth game since returning from a concussion, had two assists. It’s his fourth multi-point game.
The Rangers scored two power play goals for the third time this season, (October 24 at Winnipeg, October 29 vs. Ottawa) and have scored four power play goals in their last three games (4-13, 30.8%).
All four Rangers goals came in the second period. It’s the fourth time this season they’ve scored four second period goals.
Carl Hagelin has scored at least one point in each of his first three games. He’s the first Rangers rookie to start his career on a three-game point streak since Steven King in 1992-‘93