BERNE – It had been 49 years since the Rangers’ last visit to Switzerland, and hockey fans in Berne hade been waiting forever for any NHL team to visit the city. Well, the Blueshirts came, they saw, and the conquered. Over 16,000 people witnessed the Original Six team beat SC Bern 8-1.
The PostFinance Arena is being renovated and the outside of the arena is covered in scaffolding. The inside had been transformed to a Victoria Cup venue, stripped of advertising both in the stands and on the ice. However, the fans were the same famous, drumming and chanting ones.
"The fans are really loud and what sets them apart is that they just keep going regardless of the score," said Brandon Dubinsky, who scored two goals tonight.
"The great thing was that they cheered for both teams, and that gave us a little boost," he added.
The home team opened the game strong, putting a lot of pressure on the Rangers defencemen, even creating a scoring chance. But that was just the first shift. SC Bern’s four penalties in the first period gave the Rangers the time and space they needed to score a couple of goals.
"i thought they started the game very well, and got our attention with their puck movement. It wasn't until the third period we were successful," said Rangers head coach Tom Renney after the game.
First, at 4:30, Marco Bührer stopped Brandon Dubinsky’s backhander with his arm but couldn’t stop Dan Girardi’s wrist shot from the crease. And with a minute and a half remaining in the first period, Dubinsky’s line struck again. This time the puck was played to Wade Redden to the point. Redden took a step closer to the net and sent a slapshot to the back of the net.
The New York Rangers outshot SC Bern 12-3 in the first period.
"They did a great job at moving the puck, they wowed us with how they moved the puck," said SC Bern head coach John Van Boxmeer.
The second period was scoreless, but the game got new life in the third period, mostly thanks to Travis Roche’s 2-1 goal at 41:02. The Rangers’ goalie Steve Valiquette sent a long rebound to the point where Roche picked it up, went around a Ranger who went to the ice to block a shot, and then took a slapshot from the slot. As the puck hit the net, the crowd went wild. The chanting took another tone, and a louder tone.
"We played for our pride tonight," said SC Bern centre Sébastien Bordeleau.
"It was fun, and it could have been a closer game without the penalties. You can't give those guys that many chances, they'll use them," he said.
Two minutes later, the Rangers found themselves on a 5-on-3 powerplay and superstars Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, together with Redden and Michal Roszival, sent the puck back and forth across the Bern penalty killing unit, finally sending it to Gomez, who tipped it in from the doorstep of the Bern goal. Brandon Dubinsky capped his great night with the performance of the game when he skated in from the left, deked a Bern defenceman and goalie Jonas Müller – who had replaced Bührer in the SCB goal at the half-way point – and lifted a backhander into an empty net for 4-1.
"When we got the 2-1 goal, I though we'd make it interesting. Then we gave them an odd man rush that they scored on, and the roof kind of fell in on us. They scored a couple of more powerplay goals and after that the emotion drained out of our team. Tonight we saw why the NHL is the best league in the world," said Van Boxmeer.
With ten minutes remaining, defenceman Dmitri Kalinin followed the rush, took a pass and sent a slapshot past Müller’s glove. In the next shift, Lauri Korpikoski steered in Correy Potter’s slapshot to give the Rangers a five-goal lead.
In his next shift, Potter was at it again. Another slapshot, this time from the top of the left circle, sent the puck behind Müller. Dubinsky made it 8-1 with his second of the night, with a little over a minute remaining.
"It's good for our confidence, it's a stepping stone now that we have less than a week to the season opener. Tonight was a big opportunity for us to make sure we're ready to go," said Dubinsky.
The Rangers show was over. But the drumming, it went on.
RISTO PAKARINENClick here for the photo gallery.