NEW YORK – Suddenly, the New York Rangers are on a roll. The Blueshirts beat the Boston Bruins, the best team in the Eastern Conference, 4-3 in a Sunday afternoon matinee at Madison Square Garden. It was the Rangers’ third victory in a row and second in as many games since Tuesday’s NHL trade deadline brought them Sean Avery, Nik Antropov and Derek Morris.
Just like they did in the midweek victory over the New York Islanders, the new players made their impact felt. Antropov had a goal and an assist and Avery and Morris chipped in with one assist each. But it was old hand Nikolai Zherdev who got the game winner at 13:38 of the third period, after the Bruins twice came back to tie the game-once from a two goal deficit at the start of the final period.
The game was Avery’s first at Madison Square Garden since being reacquired early in the week and the Garden faithful gave him a warm welcome on his first shift back on home ice. “It felt good, certainly,” Avery said of the reception. “It felt like playing at home and when the fans show their appreciation it just makes you want to play even harder. It was nice.”
Asked if he was a different hockey player, Avery said “no.” A different human being? “Maybe.”
The goal he assisted was vintage Avery, who threw his body into producing a turnover behind the Bruins net before passing it to Ryan Callahan for the score. “Me, Korpi [Lauri Korpikoski] and Cally [Callahan], that’s just going to be our game down low,” he said. “Cally was in a good spot. I’ve played with him before and he kinda knows where I like him to be.”
The Rangers held on for the win in some frantic final minutes. Avery was sent to the penalty box for interference at 18:38 and the Bruins pulled Fernandez for the extra skater. Henrik Lundqvist made some key saves in the Rangers net and the Blueshirts were able to hold on for the win.
“I’m happy with the way the guys found their way and tried to regain some composure,” said head coach John Tortorella. “Hopefully this will be a learning situation for us as far as the momentum shifts in games.”
Momentum was clearly on the Rangers side at the end of the second period. After Callahan scored his 15th goal of the season at 16:26 giving the hosts a 3-1 lead. To that point the game was frankly not as close as indicated by the score. The Rangers dominated the Bruins through aggressive forechecking and had many opportunities-especially in the first period-to light up Manny Fernandez’ net. Still, the 3-1 lead seemed commanding.
Then Chris Drury and Dan Girardi picked up a pair of double minors in the closing minute of the second period, giving the Bruins nearly four powerplay minutes to start the third. “It ended up being costly because that’s when most of the goals were scored,” said Tortorella. Boston took advantage, with Zdeno Chara and Michael Ryder scoring goals in quick succession to tie the game at 3-3. The momentum had shifted in Boston’s favor.
“We got a little tentative,” admitted Tortorella.”You knew sooner or later they were going to make a push. It happened. We were tentative but we still found a way to win.”
The Rangers caught a break on the winning goal when Fernandez misplayed a puck that went off the boards behind his goal and Zherdev was there to take advantage. “Luck’s a big part of winning in this game-in any sport-but I also believe you need to work for your luck,” said Tortorella, who reminded reporters that the Rangers are hardly the first team to benefit from good fortune to win hockey games this season. “The teams that are rock solid in the playoffs right now, I’m sure they’ve gotten a few bounces along the way to get there,” he said.