It took about two weeks, but the New York Rangers finally have their second win of the season with tonight's 2-1 effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Everything seemed to come together for the Blueshirts in this tilt. The offense created many scoring chances, the defense played their best game of the season and goaltending was incredible. All of that, along with some hard work, proved that New York does not need their top scorer in order to capture two points against top teams in the league.
The Rangers had a game-high 15 shots on goal in the first period, two of which they were able to get by Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. The first came off a great effort by rookie Derek Stepan, who worked his way through the defense and eventually to the net. He was able to sneak it past Gustavsson, but the puck sat on the line for Ruslan Fedotenko to bang home for his first as a Ranger. Exactly sixty-one seconds later Michal Rozsival made a great pass to Artem Anismov for a redirection goal at the top of the crease. Smart thinking by Artem to get to the net there, but even smarter of Rozy to get the puck to him.
Also in the first, Derek Boogaard dropped the gloves with former Blueshirt Colton Orr in front of the benches. In what was his first fight as a Ranger, Boogaard got some nice shots in on Orr, but Colton did take the big guy down in the end.
There was no scoring in the second period, which was directly due to the stellar defensive work by the Rangers, in addition to sharp netminding from Marty Biron. I thought that the Leafs kind of took control of the tempo in this period, which was the only period that they outshot their opponent. But the Rangers did a marvelous job of keeping the Toronto forwards to the outside and if they did get off shots, Biron had an answer for all of them. At that point I did not think the Leafs were going to be able to break the ice and get on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately Colby Armstrong (of all people) proved me wrong when he capitalized on a rebound in the slot to cut the Rangers' lead to 2-1 in the third. I think we were all sweating by now because far too many times have we seen this team collapse once their two-goal lead in the third was chopped to one. However, a commercial break followed by a solid penalty kill helped regain the composure of John Tortorella's squad and they were able to hold the lead until the final buzzer.
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Many guys on the team played exceptionally well tonight, but player of the game, for me, has to go to Marty Biron. Biron's 24 saves helped backstop the Rangers to two points on this night, and even though that is not a large number, the quality of some of those saves was unbelievable. Take, for example, his stop on Kris Versteeg on the breakaway shortly after the Leafs had scored to make it 2-1. We likely would have been headed to overtime if not for that stop, but Marty stayed in position and made a slick save with the glove. Position is the key word there, because he was constantly in perfect position throughout the night.
Moving down the line, the defense, like I said, played their best this evening. Starting with Dan Girardi, shot blocking (over 30 of them) was a big part of their success. The Leafs could not get many through to Biron due to all of the bodies in blue being thrown in front of the puck. In addition to that their neutral play was just what Torts wanted. They slowed down Toronto's lightning quick rush in the neutral zone before it even hit the blue-line. That was huge.
A lot of standout efforts on offense tonight as well. Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov are at the top of my list up front. Both created many scoring chances due to hard work and a relentless attitude. That is what you expect from your young players. Ryan Callahan, even though he did not score, was also great. He had a total of four shots on goal, but unfortunately none found the back of the net. Cally was also very strong on the penalty kill.
The Rangers are now 2-2-1 on the season and have begun to dig themselves out of an early hole. They will be back at it on Saturday when they visit the Boston Bruins and then will be back at Madison Square Garden on Sunday for a match against the New Jersey Devils. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in both.