NEW YORK, N.Y. – Madison Square Garden has hardly been a safe haven for the New York Rangers.
Coming home from a quick two-game trip to Colorado and Minnesota, there was no way to predict how the Rangers would respond once they got back to what should be friendly ice.
They stood toe-to-toe with the slumping Calgary Flames and gutted out a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Monday night.
Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi scored second-period goals and backup Martin Biron made 31 saves to give the Rangers their fifth win in seven games overall and fifth at home (5-6-1).
Biron, playing for the third straight game and for the fifth time in seven games, looked sharp. He has made two consecutive starts—winning both—since he replaced No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the second period of New York’s 5-1 loss at Colorado on Friday.
“A lot of teams are victimized coming back home, not having any legs, not being able to play physical,” Biron said. “That was the total opposite for us. The physicality on our side of the game was top level. We responded really well.”
Lundqvist is expected to start Wednesday at Tampa Bay when the Rangers begin a three-game road trip.
“It certainly hasn’t changed our thinking in what we have in Lundqvist,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “He is our number one guy.”
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla stayed hot by scoring his sixth goal in three games—and 450th in the NHL—but it wasn’t enough. The Flames lost for the ninth time in 11 games (2-8-1), including 0-1-1 on their five-game Eastern swing.
Miikka Kiprusoff started for the 10th straight game and made 22 saves.
The Flames outshot the Rangers 15-8 in the third period.
“We had our chances—many chances—in the third period to tie it, and unfortunately we didn’t get it done,” Iginla said. “We’re a very desperate hockey club.
“If it was 2-1 the other way, it would’ve been a fun game to be a part of.”
Boyle staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead when his cross-ice pass deflected in off the stick of defenceman Brendan Mikkelson, and Girardi added a power-play goal to make it 2-1.
Iginla carried the Flames (8-11-1) the past two games, scoring five goals and setting up another as Calgary beat Chicago at home on Friday and lost in overtime at Detroit on Sunday. He has nine goals, amid trade rumours, in his 14th season with the Flames.
“Right now, honestly, it truly is about winning games,” Iginla said. “We’ve got to get ourselves back first to .500 and then move forward.”
The hard-hitting game got extra physical in the third when Rangers defenceman Marc Staal caught Matt Stajan up high with a hit that Stajan never saw coming as he skated into the New York zone and made a pass. Stajan was down on his knees, with his head resting on the ice for a few moments. He stumbled to his feet and skated to the bench, doubled over.
“The unfortunate thing is that he didn’t come back,” said Calgary assistant coach Dave Lowry, who spoke instead of head coach Brent Sutter. “I probably have to see it before I comment on it.”
Boyle extended his career high in goals when he was credited with his ninth 2:08 into the second period. An outlet pass by Girardi sent Boyle in with Ruslan Fedotenko on a 2-on-1 break. Boyle slid the puck to his left in Fedotenko’s direction, but it clipped the blade of Mikkelson’s stick and redirected past Kiprusoff.
Iginla tied it just 3:08 later, finishing a give-and-go with defenceman Jay Bouwmeester to make it 1-1 at 5:16.
The Rangers received a fortunate power play when Curtis Glencross high-sticked Ryan Callahan in retaliation for Callahan’s hard check along the boards against Bouwmeester in front of the penalty box.
Derek Stepan won a faceoff cleanly back to Girardi above the right circle, and the defenceman slapped a shot between Kiprusoff’s pads at 12:41 for his second of the season—14 seconds into the power play.
“It is a type of win where you are grinding,” Tortorella said. “Most of the guys were giving everything they had, and to have the goalieplay the way he did in the third period—you feel good about yourself with a win.”
The Rangers recorded only one shot during a power play called 14 seconds into the game, but quickly gained momentum once the teams returned to even strength.
New York had constant pressure that produced a few quality scoring chances that were turned aside by Kiprusoff. The Rangers built an 8-1 edge in shots, but then their offence turned cold.
Calgary outshot the Rangers 5-0 the rest of the period, holding New York without a shot for the final 11 minutes 17 seconds.
The tide turned after New York defenceman Michael Sauer boarded Stefan Meyer behind the Rangers net at 7:10. He went off the ice with Tom Kostopoulos, who received a roughing penalty after coming to Meyer’s defence.
Just over a minute after they got out of the box, Sauer and Kostopoulos dropped the gloves and went back in for five more minutes. Sauer then fought Meyer with 2:54 left in the period, giving him 12 penalty minutes in the frame.
In 18 previous NHL games, the 23-year-old Sauer had recorded only eight penalty minutes.
NOTES: The Rangers went without a shot for 13:25—spanning from their final shot in the first period until Boyle’s goal. … Calgary had won three straight against the Rangers, dating to New York’s previous win on Jan. 10, 2006. … Callahan had a career-high 11 hits and leads the NHL with 91 in 21 games.