BOSTON (AP) - As the shootout rounds were piling up, New York Rangers coach Tom Renney realized he was missing someone. A few seconds later, Petr Sykora made the difference.
Sykora scored in the sixth round of the shootout to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
Sykora also had a goal in regulation to stake New York to a 2-0 lead.
``I kind of forgot about him,'' Renney said with a smile. ``He was at the other end of the bench. That's the real honest answer.''
In the shootout, Jaromir Jagr scored on the Rangers' first chance. After a pair of saves each by New York's Henrik Lundqvist and Boston's Tim Thomas, Patrice Bergeron scored to get the Bruins even and send the tiebreaker into extra frames.
``I was upset about giving up the goal,'' Lundqvist said. ``It was pretty tough to face the next two. I had to stop them or the game was over.''
In the third bonus round, Sykora slipped a backhander inside the right post. Lundqvist then made a left pad stop on Brad Isbister to end it.
``I didn't really set my mind as to what I was going to do,'' Sykora said. ``I just kind of let it happen when I was going to the net.''
Thomas was fooled.
``He just flipped it backhand,'' he said. ``That was a tough one to save because he doesn't give much motion.''
The Rangers improved to 5-1 in shootouts - including 3-0 on the road - while Boston dropped to 0-4.
Boston coach Mike Sullivan didn't have any answers for why his team has struggled so badly in shootouts. The Bruins have just two such goals.
``It really boils down to individual achievement, I guess,'' he said. ``Some players have skills in shootout-type situations. It's something we do on a weekly basis for the goaltenders and players. I don't know what else we can do to simulate this in practice.''
Jason Ward also scored for the Rangers in regulation. Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart scored in the second period to tie it for the Bruins, who have gone to overtime in three of four games.
Michael Nylander stole a pair of bad clearing passes by the Bruins to set up both New York goals, helping the Rangers grab a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
Ward gave New York a 1-0 edge 7:27 in after Nylander picked off Brad Boyes' pass at the blue line and fed Ward alone behind the defense. Ward shifted Thomas out of position and tucked the puck into the net.
Sykora scored off the rebound of Ville Nieminen's shot to make it 2-0 at 2:39 of the second. Sturm backhanded a pass into the middle of his own end and Nylander stole it, setting up Nieminen in front.
Sturm made up for his mistake by scoring from in close 5:24 later, cutting it to 2-1.
The Bruins tied it while skating with a two-man advantage 12:14 into the period. Stuart fired a slap shot past Lundqvist's stick side from the left point. The Rangers were whistled for too many men on the ice 15 seconds before Marek Malik was called for tripping.
Rangers heat up to win in shootout
BY JOHN DELLAPINA
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Henrik Lundqvist is congratulated by Jason Ward and Marek Malik after shootout win in Boston.
BOSTON - Their top line is lost. Their power play is pathetic. And the bottom of the playoff bracket is closing fast.
Pressure? You bet the Rangers were feeling some last night - and it showed.
But they still have one of the best players in the world, a goaltender having a brilliant debut season and a new addition who can find the back of the net when his coach can find him. And goals by Jaromir Jagr and Petr Sykora and five saves on six shots by Henrik Lundqvist added up to the shootout win that lifted the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins last night.
"This road trip was really important for us to get back and get some points," Lundqvist said at the close of a 2-2 trip that started with ugly losses at Detroit and Columbus. "We feel that the teams behind us are closing the gap now."
One of those teams, the Devils, is closing in a blur, having won nine straight. And the local rivals meet tonight at the Garden.
The Rangers easily could have gone into the showdown reeling the way last night's game unraveled after Michael Nylander set up goals by Jason Ward and Sykora to build a 2-0 lead. Again slipping into the turnover-prone, high-risk style that has characterized their play for weeks, the Rangers practically demanded that the troubled Bruins tie it on two goals in the second period.
No rescue was forthcoming from another meandering performance by the Martin Rucinsky-Martin Straka-Jagr line and an 0-for-5 night by the power play - that makes 3-for-41 in the last nine games - that just might be able to use a guy named Brian Leetch, who sat out for the Bruins last night with a groin injury.
"We're a work in progress and we're scrambling and scratching and clawing to kind of be what we were so proud to be earlier," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "And we're close. We're getting there sort of in fits and starts. But it's a matter of settling down, calming down and believing in everything that we're capable of doing within our system and we'll be fine."
Of course, simply getting into a shootout has a calming and confidence-building effect on the Rangers. After losing their first to Rick DiPietro and the Islanders, they've won five straight.
Last night's, however, might have lasted a bit longer than necessary because, well, Sykora's presence temporarily slipped Renney's mind.
"I kind of forgot about him," Renney said, smiling. "He was on the other end of the bench. Nimo (Ville Nieminen) is right there looking at me from the very beginning but Petr was down the other end and I just lost him.
"That's a real honest answer. Don't tell anybody."
NICE WAY TO WARM UP
By LARRY BROOKS
January 22, 2006 -- BLUESHIRTS WIN SHOOTOUT IN DEVIL PRELIM
Rangers 3 Bruins 2
BOSTON — So tonight on Broadway maybe the playoffs come a little bit early for a franchise and a fan base that's been on the outside looking in since 1997.
For tonight the Devils come to the Garden; the Devils who have won three Stanley Cups since the Rangers captured theirs in 1994, the Devils who have won nine in a row to creep within six points of the Blueshirts as the hunt for the post-season increases in intensity by the day.
"This will be a big challenge for us," Jaromir Jagr said after the Blueshirts prevailed 3-2 over the Bruins here last night by virtue of Petr Sykora's shootout winner and Henrik Lundqvist's royal netminding. "They've beaten everybody, but they haven't played us yet [in the streak].
"You never know."
What we know is that the Rangers were incredibly fortunate to escape with two points last night after 65 minutes of scrambling against an opponent that more often than not was inept and its own worst enemy. The Rangers tried, but had trouble getting out of their own way, much less establishing any flow or rhythm or dominance.
"We're a work in progress," Tom Renney said. "We're scrambling and scratching and clawing to be what we were."
Still, at this stage of the season when the only points that matter are ones earned in the standings and the ones that may or may not be awarded on style don't mean a damn, the Rangers did get an essential victory that maintains their eight-point edge on ninth place.
"A lot of the teams behind us are playing great, so this was huge for us," said Sykora, who scored coming out of the six-hole for the coach.
Why would the sniper have gone so late in the order?
"He was at the other end of the bench and I kind of forgot about him; I lost him," said Honest Tom. "Don't tell anybody."
But going sixth — Jagr had scored on the first chance before Patrice Bergeron knotted it on the Bruins' third try — was perfectly fine for Sykora, who was all but forgotten for months by Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle before the Rangers rescued him three weeks ago.
"We had [five] shootouts in Anaheim and they put me in once," Sykora said. "I'm just happy to be part of a club that's driven to make the playoffs."
If the Rangers — 5-1 in shootouts — are driven, Lundqvist is behind the wheel. The King was superb last night, just as he was during the victory in Pittsburgh on Thursday. When the match had ended, Lundqvist was pumped, and anticipating tonight's showdown.
"If the coach wants, I'm absolutely ready to go," said Lundqvist, 7-1-2 in his last 10 starts. "Physically, there's no problem. It's just my head; I have to relax and get ready."
The Rangers were sloppy and careless. They were unable to sustain any type of attack, unable to generate even the rumor of a down-low, cycle game. The power play again came up empty, this time on five advantages, and is now 3-for-41 in the last nine matches. And in yielding one PPG against (on a five-on-three), the Blueshirts have now been outscored 13-3 on the specialty teams over the last nine games.
Oh, by the way, on the power play? Has Renney also forgotten that Sykora can play the point? Seems as much.
Tonight on Broadway provides the perfect stage for the coach to remember.
Sykora Waits His Turn and Delivers for Rangers
By JASON DIAMOS
Published: January 22, 2006
BOSTON, Jan. 21 - After Petr Sykora gave the Rangers a 3-2 victory against the Boston Bruins by scoring in the sixth round of a shootout here Saturday night, Rangers Coach Tom Renney was asked whether Sykora might move up in his rotation the next time a shootout rolls around.
The 29-year-old Sykora, whom the Rangers acquired from Anaheim on Jan. 8, has scored 20 or more goals six times in his N. H.L. career.
"Yeah, because I might not tell you what I really thought," Renney said as a sheepish grin spread across his face. "I kind of forgot about him; he was down at the other end of the bench."
Referring to Ville Nieminen, who almost begs to be picked for shootouts, Renney said: "Nemo's like right there looking at me from the very beginning, from the very first shooter, and Petr was down at the other end, and I just lost him. That's a real honest answer, so don't tell anybody."
Sykora, who also scored in regulation to give him three goals in six games with the Rangers, said he did not mind waiting for his turn in the shootout, where he beat Boston goaltender Tim Thomas with a rising backhander.
"It doesn't matter here," said Sykora, who has 10 goals over all this season. "Any guy can score on this team. I was just waiting for my chance, and it happened that it was me who scored the goal. It could have been any other guy, so I don't really think about it. The most important thing is that we got those 2 points because a lot of teams behind us are playing great. That was huge for us."
The Rangers (27-14-7), who pulled into a virtual tie with Buffalo for fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 61 points, are set to face one of their closest pursuers when they play host to the surging Devils at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
The Devils, who defeated the Islanders, 3-2, in a shootout Saturday for their ninth consecutive victory, are sixth in the conference at 25-18-5 for 55 points. The top eight teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs, which the Rangers have not made for seven consecutive seasons.
"Yeah, it's going to be nice," said Sykora, who will be facing the Devils for the first time as a member of the Rangers. Sykora spent his first seven seasons with New Jersey and won a Stanley Cup there in 2000.
He said that he was looking forward to playing against Martin Brodeur, the Devils' goaltender, and taking the ice with Lou Lamoriello, the team's president and general manager, behind the bench as the interim coach.
"But, for me, it's just going to be another game," Sykora said. "I'm very happy where I am right now. I'm happy I'm part of a club that is really driven to make it to the playoffs.
"So tomorrow's game is going to be just another huge game for us - and for me, too - because they've won nine in a row and it's the team whose breathing down our backs right now."
The Rangers, who received shootout goals from Sykora and Jaromir Jagr, improved to 5-1 in shootouts. Jason Ward and Sykora scored in regulation for the Rangers, who are 6-2-3 over their past 11 games.
Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart scored in regulation for the Bruins (18-21-8), who received a shootout goal from Patrice Bergeron in the third round to force sudden death.
The victory enabled the Rangers to finish their four-game trip at 2-2. Their record could have been better, however. The Rangers went 1 for 14 on the power play during the trip. Over their past nine games, the Rangers are just 3 for 41 on the power play, yet they are only 5 points behind first-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.