NEW YORK – Knotted up at 2-2 in the second period, the New York Rangers tallied three unanswered goals in the last six minutes, and never looked back, as they notched their first home victory of the season, a 5-2 win against the San Jose Sharks in an inter-conference match on Halloween at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. As a result, the Rangers get back to over-.500 play on the year, at 4-3-3 overall. The Sharks had a five-game winning streak put to an end, and dipped to 6-4 overall.
Despite being outshot 9-8 in the first period, the Rangers held the momentum for the first 17-plus minutes. The action began from the get-go, as Brandon Prust and Ryan Clowe let the gloves go at 19:53. Over four minutes after they were sent to the box, Ryan McDonagh opened the scoring for the Blueshirts. McDonagh one-timed a pass from behind the net via Ryan Callahan into the short side for a 1-0 lead. After that tally, New York kept the pressure going, as they forechecked the Sharks in the offensive zone for nearly two minutes at one point.
Later on in the stanza, Martin Havlat came off the ice for a two-minute interference penalty with 6:35 to go. The Rangers, who came in with the 20th-best power-play system in the National Hockey League, punched home a marker on an extra-man opportunity, thanks to a 2-on-1 rush score by Derek Stepan. The one-time Wisconsin University Badger, who came into the game with no goals, got a pass from Brandon Dubinsky, and tapped the puck past San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi for a 2-0 advantage. Dan Girardi was also credited with an assist.
San Jose controlled the final three minutes of the period, including a marker by Joe Pavelski, cutting the Sharks hole to just a one-score advantage at the first intermission. Joe Thornton took over on a miscue by the Rangers back line, and made them pay for it. Andrew Murray put a shot off both posts, but Pavelski followed up for the Sharks, and made the deficit just one goal before the break. Overall, the Rangers sported an 11-8 advantage in hits, while the visitors held a 5-2 clip in blocked shots through one period. Both squads won 11 faceoffs each.
During the second period, there didn’t prove to be much action until halfway through, when Pavelski created a scoring chance yet again for San Jose. He notched his second point of the game, as he fed a one-timer off the stick of Logan Couture, finding the top-right corner of the netting, which tied the contest up at 2-all. During the goal-scoring play, the Rangers were unable to change, after staying on the ice for two-plus minutes. But, the Blueshirts answered, not once, not twice, but three times in the last six minutes of the period.
First, with eight minutes remaining, Colin White went off for San Jose on a delay of game for two minutes, as he put the puck into the crowd from the defensive zone. As time dwindled down on the extra-man opportunity, the New York captain, Ryan Callahan, one-timed a pass through the crease by Eric Christensen, putting the hosts back ahead by a one-goal margin. Then, at the 16:42 mark, the Blueshirts re-captured their two-goal lead, as a key Jeff Woywitka takeaway turned into a backhand tally over Niemi’s shoulder by Artem Anisimov.
New York wasn’t done there. With just 47 seconds left in the second, Brad Richards sent the puck towards the net, hoping for a rebound. He got what he wished for, as the puck caromed off Niemi’s right pad, and Callahan soon followed up. Skating in from behind the net with a San Jose defenseman, Callahan tapped the puck in, as he was being taken down in the process. The goal was his second of the game, and sent the Rangers into the break with a commanding 5-2 lead. New York also left the ice with an uncommon shot advantage of 24-19.
“I saw Dubi going to the net,” stated Richards. “However, Cally got to the front. That was a second, fourth and sixth effort, whichever you would like to call it.” Callahan complemented Richards on his words. “I saw that he (Richards) had the puck. I tried to get to the front, and lucky enough, the puck was there, and I put it home.”
In the third stanza, the hosts had a strong defensive prowess, as the Sharks attempted the first five shots of the period, all of which were stopped by Rangers’ goaltender Martin Biron, who made a game-high 18 saves. The Blueshirts also killed a pair of key power plays, after two-minute trip penalties by Michael Del Zotto and Ruslan Fedotenko. From there, New York closed up shop, and treated the Garden fans to their first home win of the year.
“The score is a big part of the game, but our play was greater,” stated Biron. “We got rewarded, scoring three goals in the second period.” In regards to the effort, Biron said: “I think we’ve played good hockey, but this has been the best day so far. The discipline was good against a skilled team that can make the plays.”
“Everyone contributed tonight,” Head Coach John Tortorella described. “We had one bad shift, which cost us a goal. But, the team played with confidence. Killing off that power play early in the third period was huge for us.”
Tortorella and the Rangers are back in action on Thursday (Nov. 3) when they host the Anaheim Ducks at the Garden at 7 p.m. Earlier this year, the two teams met up in a shootout in the second game of the season in Stockholm, Sweden. The Ducks took home the additional point, on a goal by Corey Perry.