Rangers 2 Leafs 1: Block Party
The Rangers played their best game since the season opening win in Buffalo and blocked an incredible 30 shots tonight as Martin Biron backstopped them to a 2-1 victory over the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Without Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury, who were both injured the last time these two teams met, the Blueshirts used a total team effort and a flawless defensive game plan to neutralize the speedy Leafs and hand them their first regulation loss of the season.
The Rangers used a strong forecheck to set the pace early and jumped ahead when Ruslan Fedotenko scored his first goal as a Ranger, poking home a loose puck from behind Toronto net minder Jonas Gustavsson to give the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead. Artem Anisimov, who was the Rangers’ best skater tonight, deflected a perfect pass from Ryan Callahan past Gustavsson with under 3 minutes to go in the first period to stretch the lead to 2-0. Martin Biron took over from there. Biron, making his first regular season start as a Ranger, was solid if not spectacular for most of the evening, making 24 saves en route to his first win. Derek Stepan, Erik Christensen and Sean Avery also had strong performances and always seemed to be in on the action.
The biggest story of the night was the Rangers team defense. The Blueshirts, led by Dan Girardi, who has been the team’s best blueliner thus far,and Ryan Callahan were all over the defensive zone blocking 30 Leafs shots in a very impressive performance. The penalty kill which was also led by Girardi and Callahan shut out Toronto on 5 chances and Biron’s stop of Kris Versteeg late in the third period sealed the victory for the Rangers.
I don’t want to put all the blame on Steve Eminger but the defense looked much better tonight without him, as he was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Matt Gilroy and Mike Sauer looked like a pretty good combination and hopefully the coaches gained some confidence in the young pair following tonight’s outing.
The Rangers will attempt to start a winning streak when they visit the Bruins in Beantown on Saturday afternoon. It wouldn’t be surprising if John Tortorella gives Biron another start after tonight’s win.