The big question entering their final game of a three-game homestand today was would the stumbling Rangers fall into another bad losing streak with seemingly no end in sight drawing even more boos from a crowd which had seen them win only nine of their first 21 on Garden ice? Aside from that though, the other question was how would they respond after almost rallying from five down in the third before falling to Ottawa even though there was controversy?
Tom Renney's club provided both answers by playing one of their better overall games from start to finish in a much needed 3-1 triumph over the Bruins in an Original Six matinee match-up on NBC today. More workman like, they outhustled and outplayed the B's most of the game and were rewarded for it. And that's how it should be with this team that too often has left fans wondering wtf is going on.
Before I talk about the goalscorers in this one, it's worth noting that there were changes up front and on the blueline. Most notably, Jason Ward and Adam Hall were healthy scratches. They were replaced by waiver pickup Jason Krog and ex-Bruin Colton Orr, who returned after serving a five-game suspension for the incident against the Caps on December 30. Meanwhile, Thomas Pock replaced Darius Kasparaitis on a D where all the pairings were changed. Pock played with Michal Rozsival while Marek Malik teamed with Aaron Ward and Fedor Tyutin worked with Karel Rachunek. For the most part, the changes paid off as they rarely panicked in their zone and did a better job now allowing rebound shots. They made Henrik Lundqvist's day easy. The second-year Swede finished with 24 saves.
Meanwhile, one-time Isle Krog was brought in to center the fourth line and help solidify the center position. I wasn't crazy about this move because once again, this organization is looking to a vet to solve a problem instead of showing some confidence in a prospect. Jarkko Immonen was sent back to Hartford. I guess he's been blackballed. Anyway, Krog started anchoring Orr and Cullen but finished the match with Marcel Hossa and Jed Ortmeyer as Renney switched all four lines after the first period. I'm going to give kudos to Krog, who played with spunk in his first game and fit in well. We'll see if it continues Tuesday night when the Blueshirts visit first place New Jersey.
As for the goalscorers, Michael Nylander, Martin Straka and Jed Ortmeyer supplied the offense. Starting with the same players he finished the other night with, Nylander made the hard work of Hossa in front pay off by backhanding a rebound past Tim Thomas to give his club a lead at 10:34. Hossa picked up an assist to make it points in consecutive games. But as has been the case much of this season, the Bruins came right back 38 seconds later thanks to a fluky goal by ex-Blueshirt Marc Savard off a faceoff win. A Zdeno Chara point shot deflected off Pock's leg and off Savard's skate to tie it. Replays showed that it wasn't intentional. So it stood.
The Rangers would dominate the second outshooting the Bruins 21-3 but only had one goal to show for it thanks to Straka. Reunited with Nylander and Jaromir Jagr, he rebounded home a Nylander shot at 5:52 to tie Jagr and Brendan Shanahan for the team lead in goals with 24. The Blueshirts also had a couple of power plays but couldn't extend the lead and took the one-goal lead to the locker room.
The third was more back and forth as the Bruins lifted their level somewhat to try to tie things and nearly did a couple of times in the final half of the stanza. But P.J. Axelsson somehow didn't get a wide open look from in front on Lundqvist. The Bruins would get one more big opportunity when Pock went to the box with 3:14 left. But a hustle play by Ortmeyer proved to be the difference. Poking the puck past a Bruin, he turned it into a clear shorthanded breakaway and was hauled down forcing a penalty shot. It set the stage for the popular 28 year-old American to be the hero with 2:47 remaining. In only his sixth game back from a pulsonary embollism, Ort faked a shot and then deked Thomas beating him to the forehand to score his first goal of the season and receive congrats from a joyous bench which included his buddy Ryan Hollweg. Before he took the shot, Hollweg gave him some advice. But Ort wisely didn't listen:
"He was telling me that the goalie likes to take away the bottom half of the net away and to try to get it up in the air. He must have saw it on SportsCenter...I just wanted to fake a shot. Blocking shots, hitting and bringing energy is what night in and night out I can contribute to the team. Something like that is just a bonus."
And that's what makes No.41 number one in Ranger fans hearts. He might not have the most talent but night in and night out, you know what kind of effort you're going to get from the gritty kid from football country in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the epitome of a team player. And now that we've seen what he's already added, who thinks him being out cost this team a few wins? Just being in the right spot on the PK or forechecking aggressively makes a difference. And already he is. Good for Ort!
Third Star-Tim Thomas (35 saves)
Second Star- Michael Nylander (goal, assist)
First Star- Jed Ortmeyer (SH penalty shot goal)
Shanahan Selected For All Star Game: Today the rest of the All Star rosters were announced. Only one Ranger will be representing the club in Dallas. That will be 37 year-old veteran Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan will be making his eighth appearance. Previously, he's represented the Blues once, Whalers once and the Red Wings five times. Signed as a UFA last summer, he's played very well in his first season as a Blueshirt, tied with Jagr and Straka for first with 24 goals while pacing them with 12 PPG. It was during their Opening Night win over Washington that Shanahan scored twice to become the 12th player to reach the 600 Goal Club. He was later joined by teammate Jagr, who accomplished the feat in a home win over Tampa Bay. His 46 points (24-22-46) rank fourth on the team. But it's not all about points as he's provided leadership as well and is deserving of the honor. As expected, Jagr will not go to the All Star Game, opting instead to use the week off to further rehab his repaired shoulder. If there were two Rangers who were snubbed, that would be Straka (24-31-55) and Rozsival (5-19-24) who have flown under the radar in a mediocre season. Nylander (15-37-52) also was a candidate. But whenever you have All Star selections, players will always be snubbed to make sure every team is represented.