NEW YORK – With the Winter Classic behind them and the mundane grind of the regular season on the road for the next three months, you would understand if the Rangers had a letdown last night against the Florida Panthers.
And for the first 10 minutes of the game, it looked that way with the Cats taking advantage of a Ranger hangover.
But Anton Stralman was able to tie the game up knot the game up late in the first period and the Rangers were able to come alive taking a 3-2 Overtime win over Florida in Marion Gaborik’s game winner.
“Obviously the beginning of the game was quiet, and there wasn’t much going on,” said goaltender Martin Biron who had 19 saves on the night. “It was a big goal by Stralsy (Anton Stralman) to get us going and get the building going. From that point on, I think we played a really good game. That made the difference. I think we played well down low. That was the kind of game we needed to play. The confidence was there as soon as we found the right tune up later in the first period. I was pretty confident our team was going to play well.”
With the win the Rangers continued their dominance in the Eastern Conference, with the juggernaut Boston Bruins in close pursuit. Unlike the Bruins, though, these Rangers are winning the right way, outplaying opponents on a nightly basis, so when the Blueshirts come into a goaltender like Scott Clemmensen, who was having a vintage Marty Brodeur type of night, they can hold tough because they peppered him with 41 shots.
Since the Rangers are so deep now both up front and on defense, they can get scoring for the unlikely sources, such as Stralman and also the big guns like Gaborik, Ryan Callahan – who had the second goal – and Brad Richards.
“We have a lot of push back on this team,” Callahan said. “We have guys who will step up when need be, and guys that like to throw the body around. We have been trying to build this identity over the past couple of years where we’re a tough team to play against, and I think we are seeing that more consistently this year than we have in the past.”
That allowed the Rangers to have 54 points on top of the NHL. Of course John Tortorella is always cautious, saying it’s only 37 games, but the points you get now are the points you don’t need later and with Boston blowing out opponents by touchdown like scores, the Rangers definitely need a top spot this year in the east.
And with Boston still on the menu for the Blueshirts with four games coming up over the next four months, they certainly will need all the points they can get now.
Notes: Former President Bill Clinton was at the game… New York improved to 25-9-4 (54 pts) on the season, including a 12-3-2 mark at home. The Blueshirts have now won each of their last four games at home, and five of their last six at Madison Square Garden…The Rangers now sit atop the NHL standings with 54 points. Their .711 winning percentage ranks second in the league, while their 25 wins are tied for second and their nine regulation losses are the fewest in the NHL…This is the latest the Rangers have been in first place of the Eastern Conference standings since the 1995-96 season, when New York held the top position through games played on Mar. 15, 1996 (game #68). *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau…New York has registered at least one point in 24 of their last 30 games (22-6-2), dating back to Oct. 29, after beginning the season with a 3-3-2 mark. The Rangers have out-scored their opponent, 97-63, during the stretch…The Rangers completed their season series against the Panthers with a 3-1-0 mark. New York has won eight of their last 11 games against Florida, having out-scored the Panthers, 31-16, over the span…The Rangers’ .711 winning percentage is the team’s best start through 38 games since their 1993-94 Stanley Cup Championship season (26-9-3, .724 win%), and is tied for fourth best start in franchise history. *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau