NEW YORK, N.Y. (Jan. 17, 2012) – Trying to bounce back from Sunday night’s miserable 4-1 loss versus the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers got all that and more on Tuesday. Three different players for the hosts recorded tallies, while Blueshirts’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 26 shots he faced to send the Rangers to a 3-0 blanking against the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. As a result, New York improved to 29-11-4 overall. As for Nashville, it dropped to 26-16-4 on the season.
Nashville got off to a good start in the opening period, attempting the game’s first three shots. From there, the Rangers picked up play, and kicked off the scoring just 6:15 into the stanza. After Marian Gaborik and Ruslan Fedotenko each had quality chances knocked away by Preds’ goalie Anders Lindback, Dan Girardi struck the back of the netting for a 1-0 lead. On the tally, Gaborik gave a pass to Girardi, who played the puck toward the net. His send-in subsequently deflected off Jack Hillen’s stick, and fooled Lindback for the early goal.
“We tried to create opportunities in the offensive zone. I wanted to throw it to one of my teammates, but got a good and fortunate bounce.” Girardi then had comments on the effort. “We just want to get back to the way we play. During the Montreal game, we were horrible defensively. We had opportunities, and took advantage. The message was simple tonight, get back to basics defensively…It was good to get right back at it tonight.”
New York, coming off a single-goal effort on Sunday night at Montreal, was still hungry for more after Girardi’s marker. However, the Blueshirts, who were on the doorstep several times over the last 10-plus minutes, were unable to put another puck behind Lindback. Fedotenko and Carl Hagelin, who also recorded an assist on the goal by Girardi, each had shots in front that were stopped by the Nashville goalie. The Rangers, who held an advantage of 10-2 in blocked shots through one period, soon held the same 1-0 lead going into the break.
During the second stanza, New York held most of the momentum early on, but was not able to cash in. Brad Richards took a low shot from between the circles at 2:40, which was stopped by Lindback, while Brian Boyle missed a wide-open net, just after a Nashville power play kicked off after a John Mitchell tripping penalty. The man who committed the penalty, Mitchell, would make it up to his fans soon after. With 9:18 remaining in the period, he found the short side of the goal from the circle. The goal was credited as an unassisted tally.
“I just stayed up high, and chipped it in,” said Mitchell, who netted the insurance tally. “Haggie (Hagelin) had a good beat on the defense. I just tried to get the puck on net as quick as I could.”
Hillen, whose stick deflected home the Rangers’ first score, looked to put the Preds on the scoreboard, but his near tap-in opportunity was stopped by the left pad of the New York goalie. The stanza came to an end with a pair of penalties. After Martin Erat was sent to the box for crashing into Lundqvist, Gaborik was saddled with a high-sticking infraction seconds later. Despite the teams finishing up 4-on-4 to close the period, the Predators gained an additional 2:17 of power-play time, as Gaborik’s penalty was a four-minute double-minor.
During the third, the Blueshirts came in with a slight 2-0 cushion, but were down a player for just over two-plus minutes in Gaborik. New York’s penalty kill was outstanding in stopping the third-ranked power-play unit in the National Hockey League, holding Nashville to no shots during the man advantage. As the period reached the halfway mark, the Predators upped the action. However, the Swedish brick wall, that was Lundqvist, stood in Nashville’s way, as the visitors were held off the board to preserve the Swede’s fourth shutout of the year.
Prior to the game coming to a close, with Lindback being pulled for the extra skater, Ryan Callahan was on a breakaway, and had a chance for a quick tap-in. Erat brought down the Rangers’ captain from behind, and the referee signaled toward the empty net for the goal, despite the fact that the puck didn’t cross the goal line.
NHL Rule No. 57.4 clearly states: “If, when the goalie has been removed from the ice, a player in control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone is tripped up or otherwise fouled with no opposition between him and the goal, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, the referee shall award a goal to the attacking team.”
Between the pipes, Lundqvist stopped a game-high 27 shots. Lindback made 26 saves. The Rangers held an advantage of 29-27 in shots, a 36-27 margin in hits and an 18-7 favor in blocked shots. Meanwhile, the Preds sported a 6-5 edge in takeaways. At the dot, both teams finished with 26 faceoff victories apiece.
Lundqvist was high on the win. “To get back and win here, it’s great. We know how we have to play. If we lose any of our focus, we try to correct it real fast. Some real good things have happened because of that…We are more mature this year, and expect more from each other. We have challenged each other, and know that we have to be better. That is why we are winning more games.”
Head Coach John Tortorella was happy with his team’s efforts tonight. “Both the defensive structure and the goaltending were great. I truly thought we defended much better, and Hank (Henrik) played well if there were breakdowns…We have to go take care of business one day at a time. It will help us with gaining momentum.”
Tortorella and the Rangers are back to the ice on Thursday (Jan. 19) when they take on their Atlantic Division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, at Madison Square Garden. The puck drops at 7 p.m.