In an already intense Original Six match-up against the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers’ winger Brandon Prust decided to deliver a new level of intensity one second into the game by dropping his gloves and challenging Travis Moen.
“I just gave him a little push off the start. There wasn’t much talking,” Prust said. “We both wanted to get our teams going and he mentioned the electric atmosphere in the Garden. “
But while Prust threw a few good punches, it was a combination of five other Blueshirts who issued the Canadiens the knockout punch by scoring five goals in the opening period as the Rangers rolled to a 6-3 victory last night at the Garden.
It was the Rangers’ highest-scoring first period in 11 years and it all started with Artem Anisimov. Anisimov got the Rangers on the board after he blocked a Yannick Weber shot and scored a backhanded goal on a breakaway.
The 1-0 lead was short-lived as Habs P.K. Subban tied the game 1:43 minutes later. But little did the Habs know the Rangers were just getting warmed up.
“Lately I think that has been the key for us, having great starts and then playing good hockey from there,” said Vinny Prospal. “Except for the Anaheim game, our starts the last five, six games have been really, really good. And tonight we just started rolling there in the first period.”
Dan Girardi got the Blueshirts back on top when he blasted a snap shot from the right circle at 10:25. Then came the Rangers’ three-goal frenzy.
Within a minute and seven seconds Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle all put one past Habs goaltender Carey Price. Callahan scored after a scramble in front of the net. The play was originally ruled no goal, but after review was overturned. Thirty-two seconds later Gaborik fired a wrist shot near the top right corner. Boyle ended Price’s night as he sent the goaltender, who is tied for the NHL lead with 34 victories, to the bench after he notched his 21st goal of the season.
With 1:44 left in the first period the Rangers had a 5-1 lead and the Habs sent in backup goaltender Alex Auld. It wasn’t looking good for the Canadiens.
But the Habs wouldn’t give up without a fight as they closed the scoring gap slowly in the next two periods. James Wisniewski added some excitement to an otherwise mundane second period when he scored his fourth goal of the season and Habs Captain Brian Gionta pulled the team within two after he netted a power play goal in the third.
“It’s encouraging in a sense, but disappointing,” Gionta said of the Canadiens’ ability to stage a semi-comeback. “If we didn’t fall asleep for three or four minutes in the first period, it would’ve been a close game.”
Even with the Canadiens slowly inching their way back into the game, the scariest moment of the third period occurred when Benoit Pouliot barreled into Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The collision was so intense Lundqvist flew back into his net and his head snapped backwards. After being immediately checked out by Rangers’ trainer and staying down a few minutes on the ice, Lundqvist regained his composure and finished the game strong.
“I haven’t really seen the play or know what happened,” Lundqvist said. “I was always clear, and we checked the X-rays and that was good it’s just that my neck is very stiff and sore. We’ll see how it is when I wake up tomorrow, but I’m sure it will be sore for several days.””
The collision, although giving most Ranger fans a conniption, led to another scoring opportunity as the Rangers were on a power play. With 2:42 left in the game, Prospal took advantage of their 5-on-4 opportunity as he scored the team’s sixth goal.
With the win the Rangers inch closer to the sixth place Habs, closing within five points in the standings with 10 games left in the regular season.
“We’re gaining momentum and playing with great energy,” said head coach John Tortorella. “But we are also still fighting for our lives.”
The Rangers now look to keep their three-game winning streak alive as the face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.
“You can’t rest for a second,” Callahan said. “Our emphasis in here is to look ahead. We have to keep going.”