Injuries? What injuries?
That's probably what the Vancouver Canucks are thinking after they notched their third win in four games on Tuesday as goalie Andrew Raycroft continued to stay solid in net during a 4-1 victory over the visiting New York Rangers.
Rick Rypien scored the winner short-handed at 8:48 of the third period by firing a cross-ice pass from Ryan Kesler into the top corner past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, sending the 18,818 on hand at General Motors Place into a frenzy.
"This team has a lot of character, a lot of grit and a lot of hard work," said Kesler, who had three assists. "Obviously, we got beat pretty bad in Anaheim [on Friday], but we came right back and put our work boots on and didn't get discouraged."
Raycroft, who started his fourth straight game in place of the injured Roberto Luongo, was good when he needed to be and was helped by some tight team defence, as the Canucks held the Rangers to 23 shots and fired 29 at Lundqvist.
"[Raycroft's] been huge for us the last two games," said Kesler. "He's really proven himself. He's a great guy in the locker-room."
His play is helping to insulate a squad that still finds itself without some of its top forwards. Seven Canucks sat out with injuries, forcing veteran defenceman Kevin Bieksa to play both forward and on the blue-line Tuesday.
Best of the year
"It's good to do a good job filling in," said Raycroft, who now leads the NHL with a 1.53 goals-against average and is second with a .937 save percentage. "Tonight was definitely my best game this year I think."
The Canucks netminder has allowed just two goals in his three victories in Vancouver's crease.
Mikael Samuelsson added an insurance marker at 14:13 of the third on the power play, as he banged home a rebound for his second of the night and team-leading eighth overall.
Meanwhile, New York continues to plummet after starting the season 7-1-0. The Rangers only have two wins in their last eight games.
"We tie the game up and then just don't do the job defensively," coach John Tortorella said. "We gave up nine scoring chances tonight so I'm happy with the way we defended but we made a couple major mistakes at the key times."
Samuelsson opens scoring
Samuelsson opened the scoring at 18:43 of the first, whacking in another rebound when Kesler's shot was stopped by Lundqvist.
After the goal, Raycroft stayed strong in the second, preserving the 1-0 lead by stopping Brandon Dubinsky in close, along with Christopher Higgins and Dan Girardi on dangerous shots.
New York tied the game 1-1 in the third, thanks to a goal from Higgins at 6:24, after a melee between the two teams ended with the Rangers on a power play.
Taking it up a notch
The heated scrum began during a stoppage at 4:21 into the third. Rangers star Marian Gaborik shoved Kesler with his stick during a line change, and that set the melee off in front of the New York bench.
"It gave us a power play and we scored a power play goal to tie the game up but we just couldn't keep the momentum on our side," said Tortorella.
Because of the line changes, there were 10 Rangers against seven Canucks on the ice, and it resulted in five 10-minute misconducts, including one to Shane O'Brien for poking New York agitator Sean Avery with his stick from the benches, and a minor penalty to Kesler.
"I could comment in a multitude of ways but I've already talked to [general manager Mike Gillis] about it and he told me he was going to deal with it," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said.
It was the Rangers' first visit to Vancouver in almost two years. The teams have only played each other six times since Jan. 16, 2002.
Henrik Sedin added an empty-netter for the Canucks with 1:24 to go in the game.
Canucks starter Luongo is still recovering from a rib injury that has kept him out of the last four games. He's expected to return to action on the upcoming five-game road trip.
Tuesday's game marked Vancouver's 270th consecutive sellout at GM Place.With files from The Canadian Press