Rangers think they can be even better

Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 11:11 PM / NHL Insider

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Here's a scary thought for teams around the League -- the New York Rangers, who are the NHL's top team based on points percentage, have the potential to be better than they were against the Bruins on Tuesday night.

That's the stance coach John Tortorella and some players took following the team's 3-0 victory, a win that gave the Rangers a nine-point lead on Boston for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I wouldn't pay for the start of that game," said Tortorella, whose team scored twice in the first period. "I thought we played better in the second half of the first period, but then on, we end up with a 2-0 lead, but I don't think we mounted much from there. I thought we defended really well, but that's all we did."

It helps to have a goaltender who is not only among the Vezina Trophy favorites, but one who will start to garner Hart Trophy attention if he continues to play like he did Tuesday.

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 42 shots he faced, including 32 over the final two periods with the Bruins practically living in the Rangers zone. Lundqvist's League-leading seventh shutout is accompanied by a 27-11-4 record, 1.77 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

With the Rangers playing their third game in four days, fourth game in six days and sixth game in 10 days, Tortorella felt Lundqvist did a lot to mask his team's shortcomings against the Bruins.

"I think we're a bit of a tired hockey club," Tortorella said. "We needed him tonight. He was absolutely fantastic. When we had breakdowns, Hank was there. I'm happy we won. I need to respect the fact of our schedule a little bit, I'll give our team that. But we have a lot of things to work on."

The Rangers defeated the Bruins with the recipe they've been using all season -- great goaltending, tight defense, and some timely scoring off the mistakes of their opponents.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan made the Bruins pay with a first-period power-play goal following a penalty to Zdeno Chara for closing his hand on the puck. It took 48 seconds for Callahan to tap home a pass from Michael Del Zotto for the Rangers' fifth power-play goal in their last four games.

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was also opportunistic. With the period winding down and the puck behind the Bruins' net, forward Patrice Bergeron committed an uncharacteristic turnover when he played the puck up the wall to McDonagh at the left point. McDonagh took a shot toward the net that was heading about 3 feet wide, but it deflected off the pants of Chara and past goaltender Tim Thomas with 11.8 seconds remaining in the period.

Artem Ansimov put the game away with a 4-on-4 goal in the third period off a 2-on-1 rush that was started when defenseman Joe Corvo was caught pinching in the Rangers zone.

That's three goals off three Boston mistakes, yet the Rangers felt they could've been better.

"For us, it's good, but we have to continue to improve," Callahan said. "We have to continue to work on things."

"We know we need to be better than we were tonight as a whole," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "I know Torts and the coaching staff feel the same way. We're going to come in tomorrow and I'm sure they're going to show us some of the things we need to work on. We'll figure it out and know that in order to win, we can't play that way."
"We needed [Henrik Lundqvist] tonight. He was absolutely fantastic. When we had breakdowns, Hank was there. I'm happy we won. I need to respect the fact of our schedule a little bit, I'll give our team that. But we have a lot of things to work on." -- John Tortorella

Even Lundqvist, who played arguably his best game of the season, was a tad self-deprecating after his performance.

"There were a couple times when I had the luck," Lundqvist said. "You need it in a game like this where there were a lot of scoring chances, a lot of shots. You need the bounces. I had that tonight."

There was a huge pileup in Lundqvist's crease during the second period where the puck was sitting between his legs unbeknownst to him, but he went into snow-angel mode to keep it out. He showed plenty of skill, too, stopping a pair of nasty deflections from Gregory Campbell and Milan Lucic and a breakaway in the third period by David Krejci to preserve his shutout.

Beyond the play of Lundqvist, however, Tortorella wasn't impressed with the effort. That's something the coach wants to rectify before Thursday's home game against the Chicago Blackhawks, but it's also something he feels can be a positive too.

"I'm not trying to slight the players," Tortorella said. "We were opportunistic with our goals. We score on a power play. Henrik was really good, but I will say for the amount of time we were in our end zone, I still thought we defended very well. We gave up some scoring chances, but we were in there so much, you knew we were going to.

"I just don't think we were totally on our game. But that's a good sign for a hockey club in where you're trying to gather points here. You don't play your best, you play in spurts, but you still find a way to win. We'll move on and get ready for Chicago."