NEW YORK, N.Y. – On a night when backup goalies were on display—on the ice and on the bench—Martin Biron pulled out a win that no one could’ve seen coming in the opening minutes.
Subbing for No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Biron shook off two early goals and held the New York Rangers in it against the Phoenix Coyotes long enough to skate off with a 4-3 victory in a shootout Thursday.
Biron endured chants of “Hen-rik, Hen-rik” and sarcastic cheers when he made back-to-back simple stick saves after his rough start when Phoenix grabbed a 2-0 lead just 5:53 into the game.
“After that second goal, (captain Chris Drury) skated by and slapped me in the pad and said, ‘Show them what you got,'” Biron said. “I felt pretty good that the captain skated by me and gave me a vote of confidence. That got me back into the game.”
Rangers rookie Derek Stepan scored the tying goal late in regulation and Erik Christensen netted the only goal in the shootout to give Biron the offence he needed. Biron, a 13-season NHL veteran now on his fourth team, turned aside Lee Stempniak, Radim Vrbata and Eric Belanger in the shootout to make Christensen’s first-round tally stand up.
Biron also stopped 33 shots through overtime.
“It is not easy because all of a sudden it’s 2-0,” Biron said. “My job is to come in and win some games.”
Jason LaBarbera, a late fill-in for Phoenix, was in line for his third straight win before Stepan tied it with 5:43 left in regulation.
Dan Girardi had a goal and assist, and Brandon Prust scored a short-handed goal for the Rangers, who have won 10 of 14.
Taylor Pyatt and Adrian Aucoin scored early, and Martin Hanzal added a goal in the second period, but the Coyotes fell to 0-2 on their six-game road trip.
“If you look out West, it’s a mess all the way down to 13th,” Coyotes defenceman Derek Morris said. “Two points here, two points there, a point here, a point there, could cost you. We’ve got to get back on track.”
Stepan tied it by putting in a second rebound. Drury, playing just his third game this season, won a faceoff in the offensive zone back to defenceman Michal Rozsival at the blue line. Rozsival’s shot was stopped, as was Drury’s rebound attempt, but Stepan got to the puck at the left post and scored his eighth goal. The Rangers had been behind for all but 1:27 before Stepan tied it.
New York outshot the Coyotes 5-0 in overtime.
Pyatt scored 1:27 in and Aucoin made it 2-0 just 4:26 later. LaBarbera nearly got over a gaffe that led to New York’s second goal and finished with 30 saves. He was tabbed for the surprise start when Ilya Bryzgalov came down with the flu shortly before the game.
With no time to call up a backup goalie from the minors, the scrambling Coyotes signed 26-year-old Tom Fenton, a former college player who works in the communications department of Manhattanville College in nearby Purchase, N.Y.
“It was great. This whole place is electric,” said Fenton, a graduate student who skipped a final exam Thursday night for his NHL shot. “They always say that cliche, but once you’re out there it’s a totally different experience. Words can’t really describe it.”
LaBarbera, a former Rangers goalie, had played only once since Nov. 10.
New York, which won 4-1 at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, is 9-0 in the second half of back-to-back games. The Coyotes lost 3-0 at New Jersey on Wednesday.
Phoenix got the jump early on the Rangers with a little bit of help from the boards.
Kyle Turris dumped the puck into the New York zone from centre ice and it took a funny bounce when it reached the left corner. As Biron went behind the net to wait for the puck that never came, it caromed out in front to Pyatt, who tucked in a shot before got back into position. The goal was scored 21 seconds into the Coyotes’ power play.
Phoenix used the man advantage again to push its lead to 3-1 in the second period. Once again, Biron was out of place.
Coyotes defenceman Ray Whitney sent a pass from the high slot across to captain Shane Doan, who skated around diving Rangers defenceman Marc Staal. Doan spotted Hanzal unchecked in front of the creasefor an easy goal at 9:43.
The Rangers got one back with 5.1 seconds left in the second period off a miscue by LaBarbera, while New York was killing a penalty.
Girardi fired the puck from his end down the ice toward the right corner. Prust chased it while LaBarbera glided toward the puck. The goalie failed to get to it before it reached the corner, and then wasn’t allowed to play the puck because it was outside the trapezoid.
Prust beat LaBarbera back to the net and shoved a shot in while the goalie was sprawling on his back.
NOTES: Biron got the start because the Rangers have only two games in the next week. … The Rangers have scored an NHL-best eight short-handed goals. … LaBarbera is 2-3-1 this season. … Rangers RW Ryan Callahan, who broke his left hand on Wednesday, won’t need surgery but is expected to be out six to eight weeks. … Aucoin’s goal was his first in 38 games, dating to March 20.