NEW YORK – The Garden went to the dogs Monday and Tuesday with the Westminster show on in full force, but the Rangers came home last night determined not to let their game continue on the canine route.
And in the end, the Rangers were able to come through. A 5-4 shootout win, against a strong Washington team, allowed a desperate Ranger squad some breathing room and maybe a lifeline to build upon.
“I thought it was the most desperation we have shown in a long time,” said Ranger captain Chris Drury. “We kept battling back. We were down one, kept battling back. We had some good chances in the third period.”
Maybe this will be the watershed game for the Rangers, one that will drive them the rest of the season. As much as the team needed any kind of win, this was a quality affair by the home team. The scoring came from the young, talented Lauri Korpikoski and Ryan Callahan, while the top line of Scott Gomez, Markus Naslund and Nigel Dawes shoed some real life against Washington.
“It means a lot, especially coming back home,” said Callahan, who was pretty much the Rangers top player of the evening, with a goal, an assist and the ultimate shootout tally. “We haven’t been playing our best hockey, that’s no secret. Five losses in a row, so coming home with the home crowd and getting a win like this – I think it is a real motivation for us to get going here.”
The Rangers showed how fired up they were right off the bat. Almost five minutes in, the heavy weight bout of Colton Orr and Donald Brashear came to a draw, with the undercard of Aaron Voros fighting Mike Bradley following just a few seconds later. It fired up the capacity crowd, looking for anything to cheer.
“We are the physical presence on the team, along with [Callahan] and [Dubinsky],” Voros said. “Hopefully it gave our team a little bit of a jump.”
It may have with Callahan scoring the first goal a few minutes later. But Washington came back with two goals of their own to take the lead after one.
Yet, to their credit the Rangers came back with Korpikoski scoring on the Rangers first shot of the second 8:49 in and then having Naslund and Paul Mara score later in the period. Only Mike Green – who tied Mike O’Connell’s mark of goals in seven games in a row, set for the Boston Bruins back 1984 – had two in the second to allow the Washington to tie it.
And there it stayed, only because the Rangers seemed content to enter their power play in the dog show. Unable to score on five third period extra mans, the game went to overtime, where the Rangers finally came through in the shootout.
“We needed that,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 26 of 30 shots on the night. “We needed that confidence. We needed those points. We battled, we played hard. You get a lot of energy and confidence from scoring. I don’t remember the last time we scored four goals. It’s definitely good for our confidence.”
Notes: Although they lost five games in a row, the Rangers gained points in eight of their last 13 games (6-5-2) and are now 30-20-5 overall…The Rangers are 17-6-2 when scoring first… Callahan had his second multiple-point performance of the season, having registered two goals vs. the Capitals on December 23… Korpikoski notched his second career multiple-point effort with one goal and one assist to earn First Star honors; he has recorded three points (two goals and one assist) in the last three home games… Lundqvist improved his record to 25-16-4 overall and 15-8-3 at home; he is now 8-2 in the shootout this season with a .800 save percentage (24-for-30).