If you were playing the lotto, the winning numbers were 43. Well, at least a successful pair that worked its magic for the Marian Gaborik and the Rangers in a game of 7up over a bad Leaf team last night on Broadway. It’d be easy for us to poo poo the offensive explosion 10 games in the making due to the opponent. However, unlike other bloggers I’m going to accentuate the positives of a game the Rangers badly needed to snap a two-game skid.
For starters, Gaborik answered the bell after learning Brandon Dubinsky was out with a stress fracture three to four weeks. It’s essential for the Great Gabby to pick it up and by that, I don’t mean just the first four-goal game in the league this season. Here’s the facts. With his finest outing that also included a helper for a five-point effort since that virtuoso five goal, six point performance victimizing us when he played for Minnesota, that makes it 10 of his 15 goals scored in three games with the other two hat tricks coming against lesser lites Edmonton and the Islanders. One thing I agree with from the cynics is that Gabby must remember to save some ammunition for stiffer competition starting with a visit to ninth Carolina tonight. The Blueshirts need No.10 to be consistent during this pivotal stretch before the break.
Yesterday was a great start with John Tortorella taking our easy advice of moving Sean Avery up with Gabby and Artem Anisimov, who netted a career high four assists, including a pair of beauties right on the Slovakian sniper’s stick which was smoking literally. He started quickly thanks to a great Avery feed with Gaborik doing the rest undressing poor Leaf starter Jonas Gustavsson who was without a stick for the first goal.
It began an onslaught of four in a 4:45 span, blitzing a putrid Toronto club that may have been feeling the effects of a recent road swing that includes stops out West. Ironically, Ron Wilson’s club laid a smackdown on the Thrashers recently. On this night, they were no match for a determined group of Blueshirts who made a statement after finding out before the game about Dubinsky’s injury. Brian Boyle followed up Gaborik with a neat redirect of a Marc Staal shot for a power play goal. Already with a goal and assist, Gabby lit the lamp again courtesy of a brilliant Anisimov backhand feed across the goalmouth for a tap-in 36 seconds later.
“It feels good,” Gaborik said after ending an eight-game drought in fine style. “It has been a battle lately. I need to get going. It is always a big relief to get the first one. It just took off from there.”
They weren’t done with Ruslan Fedotenko’s peculiar shot dipping under temporary reliever J.S. Giguere for 4-zip 2:19 later. Brandon Prust set it up with a nice pass in the neutral zone. His second point in three after going dry the previous seven this month.
With Wilson wanting to save Giguere for his ex-team tonight, Gustavsson mercifully came back in for more punishment. Before Gaborik completed his third hat trick followed by No.4, the Leafs played more physical with Mike Komisarek throwing his weight around. One such hit came after Fedotenko released the puck with the rugged defenseman going shoulder to shoulder KO-ing the ex-Lightning forward for an extended period. Fedotenko suffered a separated shoulder, meaning Brodie Dupont gets recalled from Connecticut. The way things have been going in that department, pretty soon we’ll be fielding an AHL roster. I’m not gonna bother listing the guys who are still here for fear of jinxing them.
Rookie Dale Weise lost a fight to Luke Schenn. Kris Newbury would late take on Dion Phaneuf stemming from a hit from boarding the Toronto captain early on. Former Ranger enforcer Colton Orr also got involved, taking a charging minor which Gaborik finished off for his fourth with a laser past a helpless Gustavsson. Prior, Gabby turned the trick when a harmless shot snuck through The Monster. Anisimov and Wojtek Wolski netted helpers.
Up six having allowed just 13 shots with Henrik Lundqvist hardly breaking a sweat, the Rangers made it a touchdown and a PAT when rookies Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello worked a give-and-go with MZA finishing off his third 53 seconds into the final stanza. Wolski drew his second assist as well. He’s 2-3-5 over five thus far and seems to have good chemistry with D-Step and Zucc. The Rangers will need that trio big time without Dubinsky with Ryan Callahan close to returning. The target date is February 1 versus his favorite opponent Pittsburgh. He began holding a stick the other day.
As sometimes happens when you’re up big, you let down. That allowed the Leafs to take a few cracks at breaking the shutout. However, Lundqvist wasn’t biting. The King made a pair of scintillating stops from in tight late to huge support and the familiar chants of “Hen—rik, Hen—rik, Hen—rik.” Even in a rout, the emerging Vezina candidate kept his focus stopping all nine shots in the third (22 overall) for his league high seventh shutout- tying him with frontrunner Tim Thomas.
“They got a couple of chances,” Lundqvist said. “I wanted to get a shutout.”
With the contest winding down, Orr lost his mind intentionally slashing Steve Eminger, earning a major and game misconduct. The kind of ugliness we didn’t see when he donned our jersey. I don’t know if it’s because he’s playing for Brian Burke but the way that team plays sometimes leaves something to be desired. Colby Armstrong again tried to pull some shenanigans but Ryan McDonagh wasn’t having it. Speaking of McD, he quietly gets better and better combining with Eminger to go plus-six while logging a career best 21:21, including a late power play shift and some PK time as well.
This was one game against inferior competition. The Rangers finished 3-0-1 in the season series against the Leafs. Now, it gets tougher with the Canes tonight, visits to Atlanta and D.C. before returning for the Panthers. Eight points up for grabs. Every single one valuable. Time to put the pedal to the metal.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Sean Avery, NYR (3 assists-1st helpers since 12/16 vs Phx)
2nd Star-Artem Anisimov, NYR (career high 4 assists, +3 in 13:56)
1st Star-Marian Gaborik, NYR (4 goals-12, 13, 14, 15/assist, 7 SOG, +3 in 17:28)