Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Biron, Fedotenko spark Rangers past Jets

Sometimes, when you're not going good, someone steps up and makes a play that lifts a team. Such was the case during last night's Rangers' 2-1 win over the Jets at soldout Winnipeg- finally concluding their crazy seven-game trip around the world at 3-2-2. That they managed to go 3-1 on the Western part speaks volumes about the goaltending they received from Henrik Lundqvist and yesterday's hero Martin Biron, who sparkled with 27 saves in his first start since preseason.

If you look at it, we’ve played seven road games with a trip to Europe and a Western Canadian trip and we’ve only lost two games in regulation,” Biron said after keeping his team afloat with a series of saves early in the third when the Jets buzzed for 90 seconds. “We got points in five out of the seven. You win three of them, it makes a big difference going home.

As John Tortorella emphasized, they're ugly. But the bottom line is they survived by gutting out tough road wins in Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg and now finally come home for tomorrow's home opener at the newly renovated MSG versus an improved Toronto club. It'll be the first of a six-game homestand. The longest of the season and a chance for the Rangers to take advantage of overwhelming support along with the comfort of their own practice facility in Greenburgh.

Locked in a tie game following ex-Ranger Nik Antropov's blast off a forced Brandon Prust turnover, the Blueshirts were on their heels literally as Winnipeg began to dominate shifts. Despite a huge territorial edge in play, they couldn't get another one past a Biron, who was outstanding making several Lundqvist-esque clutch stops in tight.

While the capable backup got the job done, the Blueshirts had help from Ruslan Fedotenko. The hard working checking wing was the team's best forward, scoring and setting up two actual power play goals. The first came in the second following another meager start in which they had three shots. With nothing working for the top unit, Tortorella sent out Fedotenko, Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan, who finally played like the captain we love. With Dan Girardi also out, he took a Mike Del Zotto pass and then patiently waited for Fedotenko to flash open in the slot. With Boyle in front screening Chris Mason, the more conventional look worked as Fedotenko neatly tipped Girardi's shot pass past the Winnipeg backup for the lead.

With the team more assertive, it looked like maybe they'd pad the lead. But Mason made a few key stops before his team drew even thanks to their top unit. Trying to get the puck out, Prust was closed off by former Devil Johnny Oduya, forcing him to fumble the puck, eventually turning it over to Evander Kane. Kane and Alex Burmistrov combined to set up Antropov, who blasted one past Biron.

Getting plenty of support from a wild home crowd 15,000+ strong, the Jets made life difficult on the Rangers. They controlled play for the rest of the second and the first part of the third until a hustling Fedotenko got around the D and forced Chris Thorburn to take him down. All night, Tortorella mixed his lines, eventually sliding Artem Anisimov down to the fourth line while shifting Brandon Dubinsky to center Callahan and Wojtek Wolski, who received over 15 minutes in his return. There were some oddities with Marian Gaborik sitting for a long stretch for unknown reasons.

None of that mattered when Girardi and Fedotenko combined to spring Callahan, who was flying down the right wing. With Winnipeg scrambling back, he centered for Fedotenko right off Zach Bogosian's skate and in for the game-winner. A relieved Cally raised his arms in triumph with a wide eyed grin as teammates congratulated him. It snapped a six-game scoreless drought.

From there, the Blueshirts clamped down defensively- not allowing the Jets to generate much. Even if they pulled Mason for an extra late, making it dicey, a couple of clears allowed them to exhale with a nice win.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Ryan Callahan, NYR (PP GW- 2nd of season w/11:19 remaining in 3rd)
2nd Star-Ruslan Fedotenko, NYR (PPG, assist, penalty drawn)
1st Star-Martin Biron, NYR (27 saves, 1st win of season)

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