NEW YORK—Coming off an emotional win against Pittsburgh Sunday, Rangers coach John Tortorella worried about whether his team would be to take on the lowly Panthers Tuesday night at the Garden. He didn’t want to see his team’s good vibes from its four-game win streak go to waste in a winnable game at home.
While his team didn’t play his prettiest hockey, nor resemble the offensive juggernaut that had patrolled the ice in the past seven games, the Rangers left their coach smiling by gutting out a 1-0 victory Tuesday night against the Panthers.
“I thought it was very important to win a game like that in this time of year,” Tortorella said. “We have to start trusting our hockey club that they understand where they are at and this is another step in that direction—that these guys it. I thought we played hard right on through.”
As the Rangers won four in a row heading into Tuesday, they had won some games that had some extra spice to them. They won against the Sharks in the shootout, took down the rival Islanders, bested the Canadiens in a wild atmosphere and went into Pittsburgh and came-from-behind against an Eastern Conference Power.
Hence, Tortorella’s worry. Just two days after the win against Pittsburgh, his team had to come back home to face a team that is almost at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. There were plenty of empty seats, the arena lacked any type of buzz and it could’ve been easy for the Blue Shirts to sleepwalk through this one.
While they didn’t dazzle, as the first two periods were anything but exciting, the Rangers found a way to win, scoring the lone goal on a Brandon Dubinsky score from Ryan Callahan with 12:11 left in the game. The Rangers have now five straight and are 7-1 in their last eight games, including a 4-0 mark at home.
“We played pretty good,” forward Brian Boyle said. “We generated some chances. I thought we defended well and we had chances the other way. It wasn’t a letdown. It was a big win for us. We knew that they were going to come and play hard. We can’t afford, especially in the position we are in now, to take a breath. We did a pretty good job.”
Several of the Rangers were pleased in which the manner they won. While it might not have been the most fun to watch, the victory marked the only time in their past seven regulations the Rangers won by one goal in regulation.
Recently, the Ranges offense had been on a roll, scoring 33 goals in their past seven goals, but the offense came back to earth Tuesday, leaving the impetus on strong defense and finding a timely score. The Rangers got their late goal, played stingy defense and now are just three points behind Montreal for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“This is the type of game we know how to play and we know how to win and especially at this time of the year heading into the playoffs, this is how all the games are going to be,” Dubinsky said. “They are going to be tight and they are tough-checking games so we gotta find a way to stay patient, continue to grind, defend well and find a way to put one in and (goalie Henrik Lundqvist) will do the rest I guess.”