In what's become the norm for this team, the Rangers found a way to win an ugly game, getting a late goal from rookie Derek Stepan to tie it up, and the shootout winner from Erik Christensen to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 at Madison Square Garden.
The Coyotes were without their starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov tonight due to an illness, but backup and former Ranger Jason LaBarbera played well, making thirty three saves in regulation, and only allowing Christensen's goal in the shootout, but it was the only one the Rangers would need.
Bryzgalov's illness forced the Coyotes to sign Tom Fenton as a backup. Fenton was working at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., and hadn't suited up since his senior year at American International College in 2008-09. Fenton spent the whole game pie-eyed on the bench, and when interviewed said that when the call from the Coyotes came, he was getting a haircut and couldn't answer the phone. The Yotes left a voicemail, which he thought was a prank from friends. The Coyotes had considered suiting up 43 year old goaltending coach Sean Burke, but he would have had to pass through 24 hour waivers. Burke played with the Coyotes from 2001 to 2004.
The Coyotes opened the scoring early, getting a lucky bounce off a dump in that caromed in front of the net, and Tyler Pyatt tapped it in to put the Coyotes on top. Just four minutes later, Adrian Aucoin scored a deflection goal, the Coyotes had a two goal lead, and the Garden sat in stunned silence.
Dan Girardi cut the Yotes lead in half with a goal later in the first period. Ruslan Fedetenko and Marc Staal assisted on Girardi's goal. The Rangers picked up their play for the rest of the opening period, but were unable to capitalize.
The Rangers came out flat again in the second, and Martin Hanzal gave the Coyotes another two goal lead halfway through the second period, but with Brandon Dubinsky in the penalty box near the end of the period, Brandon Prust scored his third shorthanded goal of the season to pull the Rangers back to within one. The Rangers lead the NHL in shorthanded goals with eight.
With time running short , Chris Drury won a faceoff in the Coyotes zone, and Stepan found a rebound, and the game was tied. After the Rangers had the bulk of the chances in OT, the game went to a shootout. Christensen scored on his first attempt, Martin Biron was perfect, and the Rangers climbed back to even on home ice.
A day of rest, then the matinee with the Flyers on Saturday in Philadelphia. I suspect the Rangers intensity level will be somewhat higher than it was tonight.
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