A gritty, hard-hitting team? A goalie not named Henrik Lundqvist? A defense that holds a one-goal lead for nearly a period and a half? Forgive Rangers fans if they’re still not totally used to the type of hockey they saw last night.
From the time Michael Sauer got called for boarding in the first period — and Tom Kostopoulos took a retaliation penalty on the same play — this game had a rough, blue-collar feel to it. It peaked in the third, on Marc Staal’s devastating — and clean — hit on Matt Stajan, but it also led to what turned out to be the game-winning goal. After Ryan Callahan crunched Jay Bouwmeester into the boards in the second — another clean hit, by the way — Curtis Glencross retaliated with a high-sticking penalty. And on the ensuing power play, Derek Stepan — who’s played so well lately that John Tortorella trusted him to be on the ice in the final minute — won a draw back to Dan Girardi, who fired a shot through Miikka Kiprusoff.
Speaking of earning the trust of Tortorella: Martin Biron stopped 31 of 32 shots for his fifth win, two nights after beating Minnesota on the road. The Rangers coach has made it clear that Henrik Lundqvist is his No. 1 goalie, but Biron’s stellar play — he’s held the opponent to two or fewer goals in seven of his eight starts and already has two more wins than all of last year’s backups combined — has given Tortorella the option to ride a hot backup goalie for an extra game, an option Rangers coaches haven’t really had in recent years. (Lundqvist, for his part, had a rough end to his week, allowing a costly softie against Boston, then getting lit up in Colorado on Friday night.) But there’s no controversy here: Lundqvist will be back in net tomorrow night against Tampa Bay.