It was another big night for the New York Rangers’ top line made up of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Artem Anisimov as the trio accumulated six points and led the Rangers to a 3-2 win in an Original Six match up against the Chicago Blackhawks last night at Madison Square Garden.
For any team, facing the defending Stanley Cup Champions is a daunting task. And last night the Rangers had the added pressure of taking on the defending champs on home ice. While most might not see the problem in playing at home, the Rangers have struggled to bring home the ‘W’ on the Garden ice only being able to win two games.
But no amount of pressure would stop the Rangers from finally playing as a team rather than a group of individuals.
“Everyone contributed, and the biggest strength to me is that this is a team and everybody is playing for one another,” said Rangers head Coach John Tortorella. “That’s a good thing here early in the year, and we have to keep building on it. This was a good one to win.”
Tight defense, aggressive offense, forechecking and smart plays allowed the Rangers to create opportunities and grab the win. Not to mention another solid performance by Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who had 33 saves on the night.
But the Rangers best player of the night was without a doubt Callahan.
Although he didn’t have any goals on the night, Callahan was able to extend his point streak to seven consecutive games after he tallied two assists.
Yet, it wasn’t his offense that made Callahan shine brighter than the rest of the Blueshirts, but instead; was his ability to play consistently in all three zones and sacrifice his body while blocking shots. Callahan had a total of six blocked shots. Near the end of the second period Callahan blocked a shot that ricocheted hard off his leg.
Leaving the ice immediately after, Callahan made fans hold their breath in hopes he would make a third period appearance. He would return, fashionably late after adding a few new accessories to his body—stitches. He returned to the ice with the same determination and work ethic he began the game with and no amount of pain or stitches were going to prevent him from finishing out the 60.
His dedication and play haven’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s really becoming a leader, not only with his play but with his voice,” Tortorella said of Callahan. “He is really growing.”
Dubinsky also praised Callahan and believes the team’s recent success is because of everybody’s willingness to play hard and gritty hockey.
“You’ve got to sacrifice yourself in order to win games, and I think that’s been the key to our success when we win games, everyone is blocking shots and making desperate plays, and that’s what good teams do to win,” said Dubinsky.
The team did just that as they had a record high of 35 hits on the night.
Dubinsky, who now has a team-leading seven goals on the season, led the team’s offense last night collecting two goals to keep the Rangers in the game.
After Blackhawks’ forward Tomas Kopecky put Chicago on the scoreboard first near the end of the first period with a power play goal, Dubinsky made sure to answer back with 20.5 seconds left to tie the game. Callahan centered a pass in front of the crease to a waiting Anisimov who made contact with the puck but couldn’t direct it towards the net. Dubinsky, also waiting in front of the crease, was able to get the edge of his stick on the puck and slide it hard enough past Hawks’ goaltender Marty Turco.
The score stayed tied at one apiece until the third period when Dubinsky would strike again to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. This time Dubinsky struck 55 seconds into the third period on a power-play goal. Like Callahan, Dubinsky played just as hard defensively as he did offensively. His defensive moment of the night came in the final seconds of the game when Chicago had a 6-on-4 advantage because of a late penalty call of Dan Girardi and the extra skater after pulling Turco.
The Rangers were desperately struggling to hold onto their one-goal lead and Dubinsky made it possible by poking the puck out of the Rangers’ zone and securing the win.
“Dubi does it all,” said Erik Christensen. “I can’t think of any facet of his game that he needs to improve on. He thinks the game well. He really cares and has really stepped up to be one of the leaders in this room.”
With all the praise Christensen was circulating for his teammates he should have same some for himself as scored the Rangers’ game-winning goal 28 seconds after Blackhawks’ forward Patrick Kane tied the game at two.
As the final seconds ran out, the Blueshirts’ fans remained on their feet waiting for something they have only seen one other time this season—a center ice salute to the fans.
The Rangers have two days off before their resume play on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers. Tortorella and the rest of the Rangers hope they can continue playing smart and hard hockey as a team.
Although Sean Avery didn’t have any points on the night, he reached a personal milestone as he played in his 500th career NHL game.