The New York Rangers ended the Vancouver Canucks 17-game unbeaten streak in regulation time as they defeated the NHL-leading Canucks 1-0 last night at Madison Square Garden. The win also snapped Vancouver’s five-game road winning streak as well as a franchise best 10-game undefeated road streak.
Coming off an unfortunate loss against the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night, the Rangers bounced back playing strong throughout the entire 60 minutes. From the moment the puck dropped the Rangers played intense, smart hockey.
Even with the team’s minor slipups, nobody — not even the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel — could penetrate Henrik Lundqvist’s crease, who made 31 saves and recorded his sixth shutout of the year.
“Every shutout is important,” said Lundqvist who recorded his first career victory over Vancouver. “Even though there is a lot of hockey left, you want to keep your position in the standings.”
The score remained 0-0 until midway through the second period when newly acquired Ranger Wojtek Wolski scored on a rebound after Marian Gaborik’s quick shot of the faceoff win was denied by Canucks’ backup goalie Corey Schneider. The Rangers’ were on the power play as former Blueshirt Manny Malhotra was in the penalty box for hooking. The goal was Wolski’s seventh of the season and his first as a Ranger.
“This whole week has been a whirlwind so to have a moment like this is very special. The team played awesome, and I got my first goal, and it was amazing to get a shutout, said Wolski. “It was just so exciting. The fans were really into it, and our team was really into it. I’m just excited to get the win.”
While Wolski’s goal was the deciding factor in the game, it was the Rangers penalty kill that led to their victory. The Rangers only went on the penalty kill three times, but when you are facing the team who has the league’s best power play even one time on the penalty kill could be deadly. The Canucks’ fired shots at Lundqvist but most didn’t get through as over 11 Blueshirts sacrificed their bodies to block shots.
Vancouver even had a two-man advantage for 47 seconds, with the faceoff in the Rangers’ end of the ice, but Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi and Brian Boyle were able to deny all of the Canucks’ attempts.
“That was a huge momentum swing right there for us,” said Girardi. “They’ve got a really good power play, and to shut them down on the 5-on-3 was a big spot for us in the game.”
“Henrik” cheers filled the arena as the tense, nail-biting action continued in the third period.
“The atmosphere was something pretty close to the playoffs, I think,” said defenseman Marc Staal. “The fans were pretty into it and pulling for us all the way. No better feeling than a big cheer at the end of the game when you end off the game like the way we did.”
But even with all the excitement surrounding the Rangers shot to beat Vancouver for the second time in the regular season since Feb. 1994 (the other victory came Feb. 2, 2004), Ranger fans still took the time to chastise Gaborik for his inability to put the puck between the pipes on a breakaway opportunity late in the third period. Gaborik is unable to get back in the good graces of the New York fans, even though he had an assist on the night, due to his decreasing presence on the ice. Fans expect Gaborik to be a scoring powerhouse, but he has not been playing up to fans’ expectations lately as he has been posting a lot of zeros in the goals and assists columns.
However, the Rangers have players like Boyle, Brandon Prust and even second-year defenseman Matt Gilroy who compensate for Gaborik’s struggles as all of these players have created scoring opportunities and delivered hard hits on opponents. With players stepping up while others struggle, the Rangers are proving their growth as a single unit.
“We are growing as a team,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “Everyone contributed to this win. And it was a real good answer to a very tough loss to Montreal the other night. That’s what I liked most about tonight’s game.”
The Rangers have a chance at redemption this Saturday night with a match up against the Canadiens in Montreal.