After starting the season on a multi-continent road trip, the New York Rangers were still looking for their first win at Madison Square Garden on Monday night as they welcomed the San Jose Sharks in for a rare visit. The Sharks were in town to conclude a lengthy six-game road trip, and they were hoping to finish that trip with a perfect 6-0 record.
The first ripple of electricity came less than ten seconds into the game when lunchpail forward Brandon Prust engaged Ryan Clowe in an impressively long bout, despite the Ranger winger giving up 30 pounds and several inches of reach.
Perhaps drawing on the energy of that bout, the Rangers would score before the opening penalties had expired as Ryan Callahan set up behind the San Jose net, then wired a pass to sophomore defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who unloaded a blast past Antti Niemi and into the top glove-side corner of the net.
The goal energized the Ranger squad, and they began using more of a physical presence to pressure the road-weary Sharks, finally drawing a penalty on Martin Havlat with a little more than six minutes left in the opening period. The Rangers' power play had difficulty settling down early, but would attack on the fly with Brandon Dubinsky cutting around Brent Burns, leading Derek Stepan in on a two-on-one and tossing a nice pass over to the sophomore center, giving him a tip-in at the side of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Sharks would respond late in the period, with Joe Thornton sending a long pass from the half wall up to Douglas Murray at the blue line. Murray would send a shot in that managed to hit both posts and stay out of the goal, but Joe Pavelski was waiting at the side of the net to collect the loose puck and slam it past Martin Biron before the goaltender or his D could adjust.
With the Sharks energized by the late goal, they put a good bit of early pressure on New York in the second period and tied the game after Joe Pavelski jumped up with the puck in the midst of a Ranger line change, going wide to the left faceoff dot before sending a pass back to a waiting Logan Couture, who one-timed it past Biron.
As a team known for dominant second periods, it seemed that San Jose was in position to take control of the game. But instead, John Tortorella would demand a strong effort from his bench, and they responded after the Sharks put themselves down with a delay of game penalty just minutes after their tying goal. Dominating possession in the final minute of the minor penalty, New York would repeatedly cycle the puck, looking for the right opportunity, and found it in the final seconds as Erik Christensen set up his captain at the side of the net, wiring a pass to Ryan Callahan that he was able to cash in, the second bang-bang play to beat Niemi right in front of the net.
Fired up with the lead, the next goal was also created by Christensen a few minutes later, moving in through the neutral zone and leading a line rush in against San Jose before making an easy pass to Artem Anisimov. The young Russian backhanded the puck over Niemi to restore the two-goal lead.
Perhaps not wishing to stand on a two-goal lead after surrendering a similar advantage to the Senators just the other night, the Rangers continued to push into the final minute of the period when Brad Richards sent a shot from the half wall on net, skipping it off Niemi's upper chest. The rebound landed right before Callahan once again, who shoveled it into the net, even as he fell to the ice from an Andrew Murray check, for the 5-2 lead.
Both sides would find power play advantages in the final period, but San Jose was unable to gain ground and New York was unable to serve up a hat trick to their captain despite several attempts. The Rangers would simply have to be satisfied with their first win on home ice and an impressive offensive display, ruining the Sharks' attempt to go 6-0 on their road trip.