Whatever the explanation, Christensen sent the Blueshirts into their Olympic hiatus on a happy note, scoring two goals as part of a four goal explosion in the second period, as the Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 at Madision Square Garden Sunday afternoon.
Rangers played yet another in a long line of lackluster first periods, managing just six shots on goal despite having two power plays. Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie scored ninety seconds apart to give the Lightning a two goal lead. Rangers left the ice after the first down 2-0, and to a cascade of boos from the Garden crowd.
In the second period, the Rangers got it going. First, Sean Avery was coming in on a breakaway, was pulled down from behind by Kurtis Foster and awarded a penalty shot. Avery skated in, went to Tampa goalkeeper Mike Smith's right, and fired a terrific top shelf shot that put the Rangers on the board. It was Sean's seventh goal of the season, and the second penalty shot of his career, both coming against the Lightning. Smith had been perfect on penalty shots before Avery beat him.
Vinny Prospal tied the game for the Rangers four minutes later, picking up a loose puck and swatting it home. Prospal now has fourteen goals on the season, and five in his last five games. Vinny has also matched his point total for last year with the Lightning, despite missing two weeks this season after having knee surgery. Prospal also added an assist.
After the Rangers tied the game, the rest of the second period belonged to Christensen, who picked up the fourth and fifth goals of the season, just one minute forty-six seconds apart. The second goal was an absolute thing of beauty. Christensen took the puck in his own zone, skated down with a 3-on-2 developing, split the defense and buried the puck to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. Erik just missed a hat trick late in the period when he clanged on off the iron.
Aside from the Rangers scoring four goals, something else very strange happened in the second period: Head Coach John Tortorella cracked a smile.
Rangers were content to sit back in the third, with Chris Drury getting an empty net goal for his 600th NHL point.
Henrik Lundqvist played strong, keeping the Rangers in it early, and preserving it late. 27 saves in all for Lundy.
So the Rangers head into the Olympic break above .500, and having won three of their last four. The Rangers can resume practice on February 24th, and their next game is March 2nd in Ottawa.
Stick with us throughout the Olympic break; we will have plenty of coverage during the games, including open threads for USA and Sweden games, recaps, and blogs from our man on the scene, Nick. Should be a fun two weeks, we hope you will stick around.
Notes and Quotes after the jump
NEW YORK RANGERS POST-GAME NOTES
February 14, 2010 - New York Rangers 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 2 (Game #62, Home #33)
- The Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2, today at Madison Square Garden, in their final game before the Olympic break.
- The Blueshirts out-scored the Lightning, 4-0, in the second period, marking the third time this season the Rangers tallied four goals in a period (last - Nov. 23 vs. Columbus, Second Period); the Rangers have out-scored the Lightning, 13-4, in two games at MSG this season.
- New York improves to 28-27-7 (63 pts.) overall, including a 14-15-4 (32 pts.) mark at home this season; the Rangers now own a 5-0-1 record in afternoon games this season, and are 5-1-0 in games played on Sunday.
- Forward Erik Christensen tied his career-high with two goals, notched in a 1:46 span during the second period, including the game-winner at 12:06 and an unassisted tally at 13:52, and added one assist in 20:42 of icetime; it was Christensen's fifth career two-goal performance, and first since tallying two on Mar. 29, 2007 at Boston; he also posted a plus-three rating, and has now posted a plus or even rating in 25 of his 29 games as a Ranger (plus-seven).
- Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 of 29 shots to improve to 25-22-6 on the season, including a 13-14-4 mark at MSG; he has now held opponents to two or fewer goals in 24 of his last 31 games dating back to a 2-1 win at Buffalo on Dec. 5, posting a 14-12-5 record, along with a 2.30 goals against average, a .922 save percentage and one shutout over the span.
- Sean Avery notched the Rangers first goal of the game, converting his penalty shot attempt at 1:40 of the second period; it was Avery's first penalty shot goal of his career, and the first by a Ranger since Michal Rozsival converted his attempt on Dec. 17, 2008 at Los Angeles.
- Rangers Captain Chris Drury recorded his 250th career NHL goal and 600th career NHL point with an empty net goal at 19:45 of the third period; he has now registered three points (two goals and one assist) and a plus-three rating in the last four games.
- Vinny Prospal registered his 11th multi-point effort on the season with two points (one goal and one assist), and posted a plus-three rating in 21:54 of icetime; he has notched a goal in each of the last three games (three goals), registering 18 shots over the span; Prospal has now recorded 15 points (six goals and nine assists) and a plus-nine rating in the last 14 games.
- Rangers defenseman Marc Staal recorded one assist and a plus-three rating in 21:12 of icetime; he has now recorded eight points (one goal and seven assists) in the last 14 games, and has posted a plus or even rating in 23 of the last 31 games (plus-seven).
- Michal Rozsival tallied one assist and logged a team-high 22:53 of icetime, and he now has two assists in the last two games; the Rangers are now 8-2-3 when Rozsival registers a point this season.
- Following the Olympic break, the Rangers will resume their regular season schedule on Tuesday, Mar. 2, when they will face-off against the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m.).
John Tortorella on today's game...
"Scoring the first goal. If we go 3-0, it just gives them that much more juice and bogs us down a little bit more. That was an important part of the game. I thought Hank (Henrik Lundqvist) made some key saves, at some key times, especially when we were down 2-0, just to allow us to stay in it and we found a way to score a goal to crawl back in."
Henrik Lundqvist on today's game...
"We were all so disappointed after the first period coming off a strong game against Pittsburgh. I don't know what happened there. The big thing is that we responded really well in the second period. It's a relief and also exciting to see how we finished here. Hopefully they get a good break for those who have a break and for guys who have to play, to have fun. What feels good is to end it like this. It is exciting to be in the race right now. It is also exciting when you feel like you are going in the right direction."
Chris Drury on the Olympics...
"It is an exciting time. I get to play in the Olympics, represent my country. I am going to bring my family along. It is going to be a fun few weeks."
Erik Christensen on today's game...
"It felt good. We were talking about playing a little more desperate, obviously, because the playoffs are 20 games away and we're right in the thick of things. Our playoff hockey has to start now. We can't be winning one (game) and losing two, that sort of stretch of games. We can't be giving the odd game up and not playing well. It's time to be consistent. After the first period, we weren't very happy with the way we played and obviously came out with a big effort in the second period to come back."