NEW YORK—Before Vinny Prospal intervened, the Rangers seemed destined for a bad home loss that would hurt their playoff chances.
About midway through the second period, the Bruins scored a third goal, taking a commanding 3-0 lead. The fans booed, the offense looked lost and the Rangers looked outmatch on this night.
But Prospal, the Rangers elder statesman at 36, wouldn’t let his team go down without a fight. In the final two minutes, he’d scored two goals and the Rangers had life. Three goals later in the third period, they had arguably their best win of the season.
Prospal’s two goals in the second period proved to the galvanizing force in the Rangers 5-3 comeback win against the Bruins Monday night at Madison Square Garden. It marked his first multi-goal performance of the season.
“They’re both big because when you’re down three and if you’re heading into the locker room in this league against one of the best defensive teams, it’s more than likely it’s insurmountable,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “He gets one of the board there, gets us within striking distance and then obviously the second one is just putting us in a position to be one shot away with the momentum.”
The rally started with a rebound. Trailing 3-0, the Rangers intercepted a pass in Boston’s end and Wojtek Wolski took a slap shot that goalie Tim Thomas couldn’t contain. The puck went right to Prospal in front of an open net and he sliced the lead to 3-1 with 8:26 left in the second period.
The second goal, perhaps more important because it pushed the Rangers within one, again combined Wolski and Prospal. Wolski initiated the score with a wrap-around pass to Prospal, who again beat Thomas with just 1:34 remaining in the period. Thomas slapped his glove and stick down in frustration for allowing the goal.
While it took them time to get going in the third, the Rangers eventually rallied for three in the third to win the game 5-3 and make Prospal feel like one of the team’s many youthful players.
“That’s the way you play. You play for the joy of winning. You play to see how crazy the bench can get the last couple minutes. It’s awesome,” Prospal said. “I’m 36 years old, and I was jumping up and down like a little kid. I have a son at home. When he’s a home, this is what he sees. He sees grown men jumping up and down because they want to be in the playoffs. They want to extend their season. And that’s we’re doing right now.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella complimented Prospal after the game for his resiliency in returning from a knee injury to help the Rangers down the stretch. Prospal missed 53 games, but is second on the team with 21 points since his return from the injury.
erhaps none more important than the two he tallied Monday.
“He has the emotion of a young kid,” Tortorella said. “As I said all year long, I think it is good. No matter if he struggles in the game. Just him being in the room, the way he practices, it is good for the young kids because he is full of enthusiasm. You have to give him credit because I didn’t think he was coming back from this injury. To spark us is good stuff.”