With the way the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames played tonight, you would they were hated cross-town rivals. For sixty minutes, both teams skated back and forth, throwing checks, getting physical, and causing tensions to rise in the third period, keeping fans on edge. The Rangers would pull out a 2-1 victory at MSG tonight, behind a solid effort by Martin Biron, who made his second straight start, giving Henrik Lundqvist additional time off to tweak his game. Unlike Saturday, where Biron did not have to be great, he actually found himself quite busy tonight, stopping 31 of 32 shots.
The Rangers controlled play for most of the first period, but could not get many quality shots on goal. They would have a powerplay just 14 seconds into the game, but once again, failed to capitalize. The game would then develop a nasty edge as Michael Sauer would check Stefan Meyer from behind, before being jumped by Rene Bourque. Both players would head to the penalty box, and minutes after the penalties expired, Sauer would fight Tom Kostopoulos. Sure enough, the fisticuffs would not end there, and later in the period, Sauer would fight again, this time with Meyer himself. Sauer would win both fights, though not decisively. The first period would end scoreless.
In the second period, the Rangers would finally break through with a goal as Brian Boyle came in on a two-on-one with Ruslan Fedotenko against the Flames’ Brendan Mikkelson. While attempting to get the puck to Fedotenko, Boyle’s (9) pass would deflect off the defenseman and past Miikka Kiprusoff for the game’s first goal. Three minutes later, Brandon Dubinsky failed to get a shot on goal while near the net, and the puck was knocked away to center ice. The Flames would come in three-on-one and after two passes, Jarome Iginla would one-time it over the glove of Martin Biron to tie the game. Things would then get nasty again, as later in the period, Ryan Callahan would lay a clean check on Jay Bouwmeester. Curtis Glencross, who knocked out Chris Drury last season with a blindsided hit, came over and high-sticked Callahan in the back of the head, receiving a penalty. The Rangers would finally come through on the man advantage, when Dan Girardi (2) would take a slapshot off a Derek Stepan faceoff win. Stepan continues to put up points and improve his game, while Girardi finally has a goal to show for all his hard work.
There would be no goal scoring in the third period, but the physical play would continue. As Matt Stajan entered the Rangers zone with the puck, he passed it to his left, and kept looking at it. With Stajan putting himself in a susceptible position, Marc Staal would use that opportunity to level him with a clean shoulder-to-shoulder hit, that sent Stajan’s helmet flying and knocked him to the ice. He would be a little wobbly before skating to the bench by himself; he would not return. Tension would then rise to such a level that you could cut it with a knife, however, there would be no more fighting, despite Meyer trying to goad Derek Boogaard into a fight, but he was smart and did not risk taking a penalty. The game would end with the Rangers up 2-1, and victorious for the second straight game.
Martin Biron has now won four games in a row, but will bow out to Lundqvist who has already been announced as Wednesday’s starter. The Rangers have been waiting years to have a reliable backup, and now that they have one and he is playing well, Tortorella decided to go with the hot-hand. A win or a loss tonight, this was the right move, and hopefully it will prompt Lundqvist to improve his play, and cut down on the one soft goal per game he has allowed. Also, in case you have not already noticed, Biron is a fantastic interview—I see him having a job as a color analyst somewhere when his career is over.
As for the defense, they were once again solid. Dan Girardi continued his excellent play, Sauer showed some toughness and strength with the two fights he was in tonight, and Eminger continues to be the team’s most improved player since the beginning of the season, blocking shots and taking the body.
Multiple times this season the Rangers have had a good team effort and win, yet they have not developed any consistency. They will be visiting the Stamkos-led Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night, and they will need an all-around team effort like tonight if they are to stop them.