Henrik Lundqvist stood up to the challenge again. For a second straight game, the Rangers' emotional leader was strong stopping 36 of 37 shots in backstopping the Rangers to a hard earned 2-1 road win over old Patrick rival Philadelphia at a quiet Wachovia Center on Blizzard Day. Well, at least for Philly and parts of New Jersey, that holds true. But not so much here at the moment.
When you're trying to get out of a slump, they usually don't come easy. In the 5-2 win over the Isles, anyone who caught it knows. Today, it was again the case with it even tougher as Lundqvist made rookie Artie Anisimov's second period goal stand up, giving the Rangers a second win in a row for the first time since Nov.23-25 (CBJ, Fla). That he did so on a day he fought the puck along with a feisty Flyer squad says plenty. In fact, Henrik must've repelled the last 30-something offerings following a Chris Pronger power play tally that tied it. He saved his best work for a busy third in which the Flyers threw the kitchen sink at him, taking 16 shots to just five from the Blueshirts. It didn't matter because our goalie simply refused to allow his team to lose.
Despite being on their heels since late in the second which also saw Lundqvist deny all 12 his way (meaning he made 28 of 36 the final 40 minutes), the Rangers got what they came for ruining the Flyers' day as a foot of snow gets dumped there. Yeah. Our club ain't leaving for Raleigh until later tomorrow when it finally clears. At least they can be happy and should treat Henrik to a steak dinner for his performance. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. Especially with some of the rebounds he allowed off long Flyer shots. However, he still was plenty good getting a piece of a few dangerous Philly chances, including a tricky James Van Riemsdyk attempt thru traffic which he just got a stick on keeping his club ahead with over two minutes left. Though they got a last ditch power play, it was the last quality chance as the hosts dropped a third straight (0-2-1).
Playing with the same lineup as Thursday with Mr. Kleenex and Kota-leak out while an effective Erik Christensen and Bobby Sanguinetti remained in, the Rangers started quickly with four of the first five shots. Chris Drury, who remained on the fourth line at the start- made John Tortorella look smart again when for the second consecutive time he scored off a quick turnaround shot, doubling his goal total to four. It came unassisted but some excellent work was done by Michal Rozsival who started it and Sean Avery, who forced a turnover that allowed Drury to surprise Brian Boucher for the opening tally 5:16 in. Displeased with the fact four of his players simply watched, Peter Laviolette quickly burned a timeout ripping into them.
Continuing to dictate, the Blueshirts were hard on the puck sustaining a forecheck. However, Enver Lisin got nabbed for a late hit on Pronger a half second after they iced the puck. While Joe Micheletti had a point that the team was standing up to the Flyers, it was an undisciplined penalty. Off some nice work down low by returning Simon Gagne, Pronger took a pass at the right point and wristed one past Lundqvist for his fifth, tying it less than three minutes later. Claude Giroux added a helper. With some momentum, the hosts picked it up, coming close to going ahead but ultimately couldn't beat the goalie. It would only foreshadow the rest of a frustrating afternoon for the guys in bright orange.
After splitting 18 shots in a seesaw first, the Blueshirts reestablished themselves thanks to some nice work from Anisimov, Ryan Callahan and Avery. On a good cycle kept alive by Dan Girardi, Anisimov retrieved a puck from Callahan and then came out from the side and flipped a backhand in the vicinity for his teammate which caromed off Flyer defenseman Ryan Parent and in. It was the second straight Anisimov scored, putting him into sole possession of third in the goal department. Despite limited ice-time, the 21 year-old Russian's seven trail only Marian Gaborik (NHL best 24) and Callahan (9), who nearly had hit double digits on the play. Just being in front created the goal. Might explain why the constant has eight points (4-4-8) in his last five. Most notably, the trio of Avery, Anisimov and Cally were our best line on a day the Big Ticket was kept at bay by Pronger. Tort rewarded Artie with more shifts (22).
The Rangers had a chance to increase the margin but the Flyer PK did the job. However, they couldn't find a way to force overtime because of our real captain who stood in there taking every Flyer punch like Ali against Frazier, including a tough stop on the Flyers best forward Jeff Carter (8 SOG). His D also bent but never broke getting good contributions from everyone including Heineken and Sangs. Marc Staal had a standout game and Girardi was terrific. So too was Rozsival, who suddenly looks more confident. He's competing better and also getting more involved offensively. That's the guy who was a bargain on the Czech-Euro squads after the lockout. His partner Mike Del Zotto was brilliant logging big minutes. The Ranger top four all flourished with Tort picking his spots with the other two first-year players getting worked in well.
Even Donald Brashear competed after a few ugly shifts. Perhaps he was inspired facing a former team. In his third game, Brandon Dubinsky was better too, looking a lot more noticeable. Gaborik might not have had a point and just one shot but he played hard, pushing back when Daniel Carcillo tried to start stuff. It all resulted in another win with Lundqvist shining.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Marc Staal, NYR (SOG, 2 takeaways, blocked shot, +1 in 38 shifts-30:45)
2nd Star-Artem Anisimov, NYR (GW-7th goal, 2 SOG, 5-2 draws, +1 in 13:22)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (36 saves incl.16/16 in 3rd and final 28 last 40)