|Ryan Callahan is mobbed by excited teammates after scoring the winner in a wild finish.|
In every sense of the word, the Rangers are a T-E-A-M. Never was that more evident than in tonight's feel good 3-2 overtime win over the Pens. Our old Patrick rival is easy to loathe. Especially because Sidney Crosby does whatever he wishes on Bettman's sheet of ice. It's not enough that he's arguably the best. Perhaps the rumors about Colin Campbell's emails are true. Maybe he ordered refs Kyle Rehman and Dan O'Halloran to invent as many calls as possible to get a hard fought game tied.
Be that as it may, what a great character win for John Tortorella's resilient club that could've folded after Matt Cooke's go-ahead marker that looked offside- touching off a Cup-like celebration by the Pens who stunned Henrik Lundqvist with two straight in 38 seconds to suddenly lead 2-1 with 86 seconds to spare. While an irate Lundqvist slammed his stick leading to an unsportsmanlike conduct after they handed Pittsburgh every power play to tie it (even if technically our PK didn't allow Chris Kunitz' tying marker until six seconds expired), I couldn't take anymore shutting the TV. I had had ENOUGH of seeing the blind mice wreck a competitive game that saw our goalie at his best, making remarkable save after save leaving Crosby and Co. shaking their heads. Like they couldn't show any leeway after one of the worst officiated periods in history.
A funny thing happened after I went upstairs to my room and vented my frustration to cool Pens' tweep Bekah via text while lashing out on Twitter. I mean, when they handed Pitt their sixth man-advantage without one for our team with 93 seconds left, it felt over. I'd seen this script before but the games were in nightmarish Mellon Arena, which never treated our heroes kindly. The last thing I wanted to see was the Pens toy with us holding the puck before Tort pulled Lundqvist and they finish us off and laugh some more as if it were a sick, twisted plot arranged by the NHL version of Dumb and Dumber. :P As I noted in my final tweet on the nonsense, I don't normally lash out at reffing. Granted. It's been brutal. Devils-Bruins wasn't much better. We'll let Hasan divulge what went wrong in Beantown.
Anyway, as I was tweeting away and reading plenty of furious #NYR bloggers/fans who were just as incensed, suddenly Justin screamed at the top of his lungs through the wall: "Yeah!!!!!!!!!" At first, I didn't believe it. But then, I asked, 'They tied it?,' which he and the rest of the Twitterverse confirmed. Even Bekah texted me but I was still irked, fearing the worst. I didn't even see Marc Staal's shorty which was wonderfully set up by an attacking Brandon Dubinsky, who dropped the puck for No.18's high shortside shot which alluded Marc-Andre Fleury. That it came some 27 seconds later told the story. As I've noted, this is a T-E-A-M. Even if Sean Avery again ignited a brawl, there were plenty of teammates sans Erik Christensen who had his back. These guys fight for every inch as Al Pacino's Coach D'Amato said in Any Given Sunday. Quit is not in their vocabulary. Finally, a Ranger team we can get behind!
|Henrik Lundqvist was splendid all night finishing with 37 saves in the Rangers' 3-2 overtime win over the Penguins.|
I've never been prouder of a team. The heart they showed bouncing back from what would've been a bitter loss. Especially when King Henrik was easily the best player even if Evgeni Malkin flew all game until he and Crosby set up Kunitz' equalizer. When our guys couldn't get shots on Fleury with at one point the Pens holding a 20-7 edge, Lundqvist was there to deny the home team time and time again. If not for the 37 saves of which many were clutch, there's nothing to talk about. They'd have been down two or three after a first which the Pens controlled. I've criticized our goalie at times in this space but he has really risen to the challenge. For him to be that sharp after missing two games is a credit to Henrik. If not for a weak call on OT hero Ryan Callahan, it's likely his third shutout in the last six. Instead, we were left wondering if they'd even get a point after Cooke beat him shortside.
"I’ve got to stay cooler, obviously, but it felt like they got another chance after chance to get back in the game," he pointedly said while adding: “I’m still angry—even though we scored. ... I felt like it wasn’t fair, but the game is over and you just have to deal with it."Pretty much sums up the frustration. At least they didn't lose, instead saying a how do you do to what's become the standard in this dysfunctional league. When my brother yelled out another, "Yeah!!!!!!!!!!," I still had to ask if they won. It was like I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it didn't! Dubinsky again made a great play dancing around Paul Martin (can Hasan smile here) before feeding an open Callahan for what he termed, "easiest goal in the NHL."
There are games which define you. Some are more important than others. Case in point being the giant step up in competition after destroying Edmonton. In the first, you could see the difference in talent with only Lundqvist saving us. However, our team came to play and won the second game of a back-to-back against a division rival. They did it by playing an exciting brand of hockey, trading chances with the scarier Pens. That meant plenty of work for Lundqvist, who robbed Malkin two or three times while stoning Kunitz. It meant plenty of Staal, Dan Girardi and revelation Steve Eminger in Crosby's face, flustering him to the point where he bumped our goalie and then took down a player with of course nothing detected. Matt Gilroy pinched well and was rewarded with a helper on Christensen's third halfway through regulation which held up all the way until Kunitz stayed with a Malkin rebound, finally solving Lundqvist with 2:31 remaining. Mike Sauer continued to show poise in important situations. Only Mike Del Zotto struggled on the back end but he still blocked three of the team's 20 shots.
|You Want To Go? Ryan Callahan and Mike Comrie talk before the draw before going. Callahan's Gordie Howe hat trick included the OT winner.|
That kind of yeoman EFFORT is what we're used to. These guys care. They want to win for each other. I still can't get over Cally dropping the gloves with Mr. Hilary Duff (Mike Comrie). At that point, they were being badly outplayed. Maybe it was just a wake up call. They did talk before the faceoff and then you had an unlikely duo paired up. There's so much to admire about the future Ranger captain who never takes a shift off. No wonder it was fitting he got the winner, completing the Gordie Howe hat trick (G, A, fight). His dramatic fifth goal at 3:38 in the extra session was his first of the month, snapping a six-game drought. It couldn't happen to a better guy.
It didn't matter that Crosby got away with two infractions on the same shift. It didn't matter that the Pens led in power plays 6-0. It didn't matter that that punk Cooke swung his stick wildly after Lundqvist robbed Kris Letang with a quick glove through traffic. It didn't even matter that Sid won as many draws (25-7) as our entire roster (25-43). Something that continues to be a problem, which at least didn't hurt us thanks to Dubi (6-16) winning a couple of key ones late. What most mattered is that the guys wearing the home white, red and blue jerseys responded to adversity by getting the 'W.'
They'll go for their fourth straight against those Bruins tomorrow at home.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Evgeni Malkin, Pit (assist, game high 7 SOG in 27:28)
2nd Star-Ryan Callahan, NYR (OT winner at 3:38, assist, fight-Gordie Howe hat trick, 6 hits, 2 blocked shots, +1 in 20:14)
1st Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (37 saves incl. 24/24 first 40 mins)