SUNRISE, Fla. — This was Jan. 16, 2008, in Chicago after the Rangers had defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime in the first game of the first dads’ trip in team history. The Blueshirts had been able to overcome officiating of near scandalous proportions from the Mike Hasenfratz-Dean Morton referee tandem in which New York was shorthanded two men six times for a sum of 6:55 and on the PK for a total of 14:34.
And after it was over, after Chris Drury got the winner, the fathers congregated in the corridor outside the Rangers’ room, chanting “Let’s Go Rangers” in unison while then-coach Tom Renney gave his postgame press conference.
The Blueshirts were 27-15-4 after that third straight victory. Unfortunately for the team, the coach and the dads, that marked the high point of the season. Two days later, the fathers watched their sons get shut out 3-0 in Pittsburgh, the first in a stretch of lousy, uninspired 4-9-1 hockey that got Renney fired. There’d be one more OT defeat on the night that Andy Bathgate and Harry Howell were honored with jersey retirements, but the decision had been made by then to replace Renney with John Tortorella.
Now, the dads are on board for this two-game swing through Florida that began Saturday with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Panthers after which David Quinn walked down the aisle of the locker room corridor between fathers who had congregated outside the room.
“It’s special to win a hockey game with the fathers having the chance to go on the road,” the coach said. “It’s probably the first time in their careers they’re not able to watch their sons play night-in and night-out.”
Nineteen dads are on the trip. That includes Peter Lundqvist, father of the goaltender.
“It’s a great opportunity to have them here,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “You want to give something back for everything they’ve done and all the years they’ve been there for you.
“I’m very grateful the organization does this for us.”
Vladislav Namestnikov, who returned after being sidelined for three straight games with a concussion, scored the first shorthanded goal of his career to give his team a 2-0 lead late in the first period. No. 90 nearly won it in overtime, barreling toward the net off right wing, and getting a shot that ramped up off Roberto Luongo ’s stick then went in off his body with 8.7 seconds remaining. A review showed, however, Namestnikov had guided/punched it in with his left glove, thus negating it.
The Blueshirts, who were carrying the minimum 12 healthy forwards after both Mats Zuccarello (groin) and Pavel Buchnevich (thumb) were ruled out of this one, announced the recall of winger Cole Schneider from the AHL Wolf Pack a few hours before the contest. If Zuccarello is cleared following Sunday’s practice to play in Tampa on Monday, Schneider — a healthy scratch — presumably would head back to Hartford.
Following successful shootout conversions, Mika Zibanejad is 4-for-6, Kevin Shattenkirk is 4-for-5 and Kevin Hayes 1-for-2 in the skills competition. Rangers are 5-1.