It’s generally understood that the Rangers are built around two indispensable talents: Marian Gaborik and Henrik Lundqvist. So it’s only natural that, on a night when neither played — one due to an injury, and the other because of a scheduled night off — the Rangers would … beat the only team in the conference that hadn’t yet lost in regulation, even if that team is the perpetually terrible Maple Leafs.
Martin Biron was stellar in his regular-season debut, stopping 24 of 25 shots in the 2-1 win. But he got some help: His defensemen blocked 30 shots of their own, and unlike too many of their early-season games, they didn’t let the Leafs back into the game late. (Brandon Prust took the only third-period Rangers penalty last night, twelve seconds after Colby Armstrong scored to cut the lead to 2-1. The Rangers killed off all five of their penalties last night.)
The two Rangers goals — one by Ruslan Fedotenko (on an opportunity created by Derek Stepan) and one by Artem Anisimov (off a great feed by Michal Rozsival) — came just a minute apart in the first period, but they generated some other chances as well, most notably Matt Gilroy ringing a shot off the crossbar on a three-on-one rush that would have made the score 3-0. (Ryan Callahan also played a terrific game, even if it didn’t translate to a goal of his own.)
On a night when the Rangers played their most complete game since opening night, Biron’s performance in net may be the most encouraging sign: The more John Tortorella can trust him, the more rest he can give to Lundqvist, who played entirely too much last year. But Tortorella was right to point out in his post-game remarks that a 60-minute effort like this one can’t be looked at as a special occurrence; it has to be the norm, as ambitious as that might be.
Said Michael Del Zotto, perhaps exaggerating the importance of last night’s October game just a bit: “It’s one of those games where it’s almost a do-or-die situation, because things aren’t going the best right now.” At least he didn’t say the game was literally a matter of life or death, like some other guy might have.