Twenty-four hours ago, we’d have told you that the Rangers’ best win of the year came back on November 15 in Pittsburgh — the game they won on a Ryan Callahan overtime winner that came shortly after Marc Staal’s late equalizer. They now have a new best win of the year. Last night, the Rangers shut out the Canucks, who entered the game with a league-best 62 points, and who hadn’t lost a game in regulation since December 5. They earned it, too, with 60 minutes of hardworking hockey, great goal-tending, and a particularly impressive second period in which their special teams provided the difference.
The Rangers’ lone goal in the 1–0 win came off the stick of newcomer Wojtek Wolski, and it came on a second period power play (!) off a face-off the Rangers controlled (!!). (Wokski became the seventeenth different Ranger to score a game-winning goal this season.) And though the Rangers’ scoring slump continues, they’d generate quite a few opportunities, which we’ll repeat is a positive sign. Marian Gaborik again didn’t find the net, but he, too, had his chances, most notably a third-period breakaway that would have given the Rangers a cushion and made those last few minutes a bit less nerve-wracking. (This also seems like a good place to note that Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider was almost as good last night as Henrik Lundqvist, who earned his sixth shutout of the year.) On the defensive end, meanwhile, the Rangers contained the potent Vancouver offense, which has scored the third most goals in the NHL.
They also shined against the dangerous Canucks power play — the best in the league — most notably during a stretch in the second period in which Vancouver found themselves with a two-man advantage for 47 seconds. (The first of those penalties came after referees didn’t see Vancouver’s Alex Burrows spear Staal in the, uh, well it rhymes with Staals, but did see the defenseman retaliate with a trip. Needless to say, there’s not a coach — or a human male, for that matter — that would blame him for taking that penalty.) But the Rangers killed those penalties off and protected the one-goal lead the way we’ve come to expect from this year’s team.
Though perhaps even the Rangers own coach doesn’t yet know what this team is capable of. Before the game, John Tortorella said that the Rangers would need to score goals in this one, because against such a talented Vancouver team, “We’re not gonna win a hockey game tonight, 1–0.” Which is, of course, exactly what they’d do, in a playoff atmosphere — or, with all the “USA, USA” chants that went up from the Garden crowd, perhaps we should say an Olympic atmosphere.