Sunday, February 13, 2011

Callahan's Two Power Play Goals Lead Way As Rangers Snap Skid By Beating Pens

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Today was a game you must win.  The team needed the win for the playoff standings, to end the six game losing streak and because you have to take advantage of team’s when they are depleted like the Penguins were.  The fact that they got the win should allow Rangers fans to take a deep breath and stop looking for the safety raft for at least a day.  Give an immense amount of credit to the team for battling back and not folding when they went down two goals early because it would have been easy while riding a six game losing streak to do just that.  There are a lot of positives to take from the game from the battle back to the offense scoring five goals, and most importantly the special teams.  To get three goals from the previously horrific power play is a huge bonus for this club, and to combine it with some huge penalty kills and you find the reason they won the game today.
The Rangers could not have played any worse in the first five minutes of this game if they tried.  Just 2:06 into the game, Engelland would end up putting the Penguins on the board when the Rangers blew a goal mouth scramble in which Steve Eminger lost his stick and ended up having the shot, which would have gone wide, go off him into the net while Henrik Lundqvist was down.
The Rangers got a power play following the goal, but as the man advantage was ending the puck came around the boards and Ryan McDonagh failed to keep the puck in.  Pascal Dupuis sent the puck ahead to Jordan Staal and while the Rangers actually had a three men back to defend the two attackers, Nick Johnson beat Ryan McDonagh to the spot inside and finished off the goal.  The shot deflected off Lundqvist shoulder and he probably should have stopped it, but it was 2-0 Penguins just 5:06 into the game.
John Tortorella called a timeout following the second goal and instead of blowing up at the team, he remained calm.  Luckily for the Rangers they responded quickly with a goal from Brian Boyle just 37 seconds later.  Boyle won the offensive zone draw back to Marc Staal, Staal let go a wrist shot that was heading just wide, but Boyle having charged the net deflected it by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Just over two minutes later Kris Letang was goaded into a penalty by Sean Avery.  Half-way through that power play the Rangers tied it up when Ryan Callahan tipped Dan Girardi’s point shot into the net.  That was be the final tally of an up and down first period.  After falling down 2-0 in the first 5:06, the Rangers managed to get back to even in the next 4:14.  
The Rangers played a phenomenal second period as they turned that 2-2 tie after one into a 5-2 lead by the time the middle period was over.  Just 1:34 into the period Vinny Prospal would take a beautiful feed from Brandon Dubinsky to score  his second of the season.  Marian Gaborik was a key player on the goal as well because his presence in front forced Brooks Orpik to play him and left Prospal all alone on the back post.
The team received a four minute power play midway through the period after Brett Sterling’s high stick drew blood from the nose of Ryan Callahan.  On that advantage Callahan got his second goal of the game with a slapper above the left circle.  The key play on this goal was not the shot by Callahan or the screen by Dubinsky, but the play by Marc Staal at the point to not only keep the puck in the zone, but feed Callahan in a position to give it a blast.
The previously woeful power play struck for the third time in the game, later in the period, when Callahan did not play fancy, but just fired the bad angle shot and it led to a rebound in the slot and Artem Anisimov who buried the Rangers fifth goal of the game and third on the power play.
The third period saw the team come out flat giving up an early penalty by Callahan, which led to a Brett Sterling goal to cut the Rangers’ lead to 5-3.  The tense nature of the proceedings picked up midway through the period when Michael Sauer took a double minor for high sticking on Tyler Kennedy.  Luckily for the Blueshirts the penalty kill came through again as it did when Dubinsky took his double minor earlier in the game and it ended in a 5-3 victory.
  • Ryan Callahan bounced back after playing two sub-par games and was huge today.  Not just the two goals, but he was back to playing Callahan hockey all over the ice.
  • Brian Boyle played his best game in three weeks.  He had more jump in his stride, was more physical in battles and went to the net.
  • As good as Callahan was, the best player on the ice for the Rangers today, in my view, was Marc Staal.  Staal was everywhere today.  He joined the rush, he pinched, was huge on the power play with the keep in, had two assists and anchored the penalty kill.  Oh yea, and he played 29:51 of ice time.  Cannot say enough about Staal today.
  • Marian Gaborik was much less visible to me today compared to the Atlanta game.  He had a few chances, but was not skating with the same explosion and watching him miss the empty net to close the game said all you need to know about where he is in terms of finishing.
  • Wojtek Wolski was injured in the first period and tried to play a couple shifts during the second, but eventually shut it down for the night.
  • The win was Henrik Lundqvist's 199th of his career.
  • Steve Eminger only got 4:08 of ice time in the game, including zero shifts from the middle of the second period on, so expect him to be back in the press-box on Thursday.