NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden has hardly been a safe haven for the New York Rangers.
Coming home from a quick two-game trip to Colorado and Minnesota, there was no way to predict how the Rangers would respond once they got back to what should be friendly ice.
They stood toe-to-toe with the slumping Calgary Flames and gutted out a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Monday night.
Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi scored second-period goals and backup Martin Biron made 31 saves to give the Rangers their fifth win in seven games overall and fifth at home (5-6-1).
Biron, playing for the third straight game and for the fifth time in seven games, looked sharp. He has made two consecutive starts — winning both — since he replaced No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the second period of New York's 5-1 loss at Colorado on Friday.
"A lot of teams are victimized coming back home, not having any legs, not being able to play physical," Biron said. "That was the total opposite for us. The physicality on our side of the game was top level. We responded really well."
Lundqvist is expected to start Wednesday at Tampa Bay when the Rangers begin a three-game road trip.
"It certainly hasn't changed our thinking in what we have in Lundqvist," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He is our number one guy."
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla stayed hot by scoring his sixth goal in three games — and 450th in the NHL — but it wasn't enough. The Flames lost for the ninth time in 11 games (2-8-1), including 0-1-1 on their five-game Eastern swing.
Miikka Kiprusoff started for the 10th straight game and made 22 saves.
The Flames outshot the Rangers 15-8 in the third period.
"We had our chances — many chances — in the third period to tie it, and unfortunately we didn't get it done," Iginla said. "We're a very desperate hockey club.
"If it was 2-1 the other way, it would've been a fun game to be a part of."
Boyle staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead when his cross-ice pass deflected in off the stick of defenseman Brendan Mikkelson, and Girardi added a power-play goal to make it 2-1.
Iginla carried the Flames (8-11-1) the past two games, netting five goals and setting up another as Calgary beat Chicago at home on Friday and lost in overtime at Detroit on Sunday. He has nine goals, amid trade rumors, in his 14th season with the Flames.
"Right now, honestly, it truly is about winning games," Iginla said. "We've got to get ourselves back first to .500 and then move forward."
The hard-hitting game got extra physical in the third when Rangers defenseman Marc Staal caught Matt Stajan up high with a hit that Stajan never saw coming as he skated into the New York zone and made a pass. Stajan was down on his knees, with his head resting on the ice for a few moments. He stumbled to his feet and skated to the bench, doubled over.
"The unfortunate thing is that he didn't come back," said Calgary assistant coach Dave Lowry, who spoke instead of head coach Brent Sutter. "I probably have to see it before I comment on it."
Boyle extended his career high in goals when he was credited with his ninth 2:08 into the second period. An outlet pass by Girardi sent Boyle in with Ruslan Fedotenko on a 2-on-1 break. Boyle slid the puck to his left in Fedotenko's direction, but it clipped the blade of Mikkelson's stick and redirected past Kiprusoff.
Iginla tied it just 3:08 later, finishing a give-and-go with defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to make it 1-1 at 5:16.
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