NEW YORK – John Tortorella had a message for a number of his players before tonight’s match against the Toronto Maples Leafs.
Time to step it up!
And when Eric Christensen heard his name on the coaches list, he knew the message was clear.
“It’s almost embarrassing when the coach calls you out like that,” Christensen said. “But I know how I have to play of I am going to be on the same line as [Marion] Gaborik.”
Christensen responded with a goal just 21 seconds into the match and then he lit the lamp again 10:35 later to put his club ahead 3-0 as the Rangers rolled 5-1 to control their own playoff destiny with two games left.
“This is the start you wish for,” said Vinny Prospal, who scored the Rangers second goal. “In the situation we are in, I thought the team responded and came out of the gate really strong. The start we had was the key to the entire game.”
“It was a key for us to give us that early lead,” said Defenseman Wade Redden. “We had a weak second but rebounded in the third.”
And thanks to their strong beginnings, the Rangers now can make the playoffs if they sweep their home and home against Philadelphia over this weekend, winning at least one of the games in regulation.
“We wanted to make the Philly games count and they do now,” Tortorella said. “We play them twice so it is within us. They are a good hockey club. We will practice a little bit tomorrow and get ready to play the game.”
“You can’t look further than the first one,” Redden added. “It’s in our hands. It’s playoff time and we have to be ready.”
All of this was thanks to a complete effort by a Ranger club, dominating the Maple Leafs. Christensen was obviously the star and Prospal helped in that first period, but later in the third, Olli Jokinen and Aaron Voros contributed goals to the cause.
“If you have scoring throughout the lineup, it takes pressure off the only guy scoring and that is Marion,” Prospal said. “He didn’t even score tonight and we had five goals.”
Of course, Henrik Lundqvist was his usual self in goal after letting in three goals on 16 shots in the 5-2 loss on Tuesday in Buffalo. The King has 26 saves en route to the third star of the night.
“It feels good to bounce back,” Lundqvist said. “We came our really strong in the first, that’s what we had to do.”
Now, the Rangers have the playoffs in their own hands, all they have to do if take two against the Flyers -a tough task, but not an impossible one.
Time to step it up.
- Brandon Dubinsky established a career-high for points in a season with two assists, giving him 45 points, and he has now tallied seven points (three goals and four assists) in the last eight contests.
- Marian Gaborik registered his career-high 84th point of the season with one assist, and posted a plus-two rating. Gaborik has now tallied 11 points (five goals and six assists) in the last 10 games.
- Olli Jokinen recorded his 12th multi-point performance of the season with one goal and one assist, and led all skaters with eight shots in the contest. Jokinen has tallied five points (two goals and three assists) in the last six games.
- Aaron Voros notched a goal at 12:35 of the third period, and has now registered four points (two goals and two assists) in the last five games. The Rangers have posted a record of 5-1-1 in games when he records a point.
- Brandon Prust recorded one assist to extend his point streak to four games, registering four points (three goals and one assist) over the span.
- P.A. Parenteau and Artem Anisimov each tallied one assist apiece for New York. Parenteau also posted a plus-two rating, and has now registered four points (two goals and two assists) in six games since being recalled from Hartford (AHL) on Mar. 26. Anisimov led all skaters with a career-high five blocked shots, and has now recorded five points (two goals and three assists) in the last eight games.
- Defenseman Michal Rozsival registered one assist on Prospal’s game-winning goal, and recorded four hits and a plus-two rating in 21:36 of icetime. The Rangers have now posted a record of 10-2-5 when he tallies a point.