FINAL ~ As-Of Thursday 12-09-10: RANGERS 5 ~ SENATORS 3
Being able to win games when key players aren't at their best is something I talked about in my last posting.
Sometimes you need goals just to cover a bad game or a lame effort.
Last night the Rangers were forced to grind and claw their way to another victory. But this time they accomplished what they could not do Sunday which was compliment their grittiness with some scoring and a little luck.
Timely goals accompanied them during this opening road game in Canada. The Rangers owned their lone lead of the night only after 55 minutes of regulation time had gone by. Otherwise, they were playing catch-up all night.
Coach Torts' newly revamped Gaborik Line was responsible for the Rangers' first two goals against the Sens. Gaborik, Stepan and Fedotenko all scored points last night. Derek Stepan, promoted to the first line for the game, paid immediate dividends scoring at 4:40 into things. One minute and forty seconds earlier Michael Sauer handed Ottawa an early 1-0 lead with an ill-advised pass from behind the defensive red line to the front of Henrik Lundqvist. Of course, the pass was picked off and after a point-blank shot, Ottawa's Mike Fisher scored on a rebound.
In the second period, Coach Torts' new first line struck again. After the Senators took a 2-1 lead on a Power Play goal by Jason Spezza, Ruslan Fedotenko responded with his 5th goal of the season (assisted by Gaborik; Rozsival).
Mike Fisher would put Ottawa ahead for a third and last time with his second goal half way through the period making the score 3-2. Perhaps, a crushing goal like this would have doomed the Blueshirts Sunday. In this game however, the Rangers enjoyed a little bit of luck to go along with that grittiness of theirs.
The Rangers scored three unanswered goals in the third period.
The game tying goal came at 16:30 from Erik Christensen who was demoted to the fourth line due to his inconsistent play. He took an odd angle shot from just before the left side red line. The unsecured puck trickled in past OTT goalie-Elliot and after a review, the score was tied 3-3 in the third period. The shot was a nice break for the Rangers but it was a smart move to just put the shot on goal when no other play presented itself. Coaches always say - Put the puck on net from any angle. This goal was an example why.
That was the third time the Rangers tied the score. It was a good development considering the Sens had a goal taken away upon review on a puck that rattled off the crossbar and bounced behind Henrik precariously close to the goal line.
Soon after on an Ottawa power-play, Henrik Lundqvist made the save of saves keeping the game tied. The Blueshirt King stopped Fisher cold at the doorstep in what was by far his biggest save of the night during a game in which he clearly was not at his best. The would-be goal would have meant a Hat-Trick for the Senator.
Instead, it would be a rookie scoring his first NHL goal that would make the biggest difference tonight.
Sean Avery, likewise demoted to the fourth line again, played on a line late in the third period with Mike Sauer and Brandon Prust. Avery did what he does so well. He battled and dug out a puck from behind the Ottawa red line and passed to Prust in the left circle who passed across the slot to Sauer waiting in the right circle. A slap-shot with 5:00 left in the game put the Rangers ahead 4-3. Assists on the Sauer goal belonged to Avery and Prust. The goal more than made up for Sauer's first period defensive gaffe allowing Ottawa to score first.
That goal proved to be the game winner. Brandon Dubinsky added an empty net goal to seal the game at
5-3. It was his team leading 13th goal of the season and coming off a slight dry spell for him.
The Rangers are now 17-12-1 this season. Not bad. Even better is their record on the road; 11-4. They'll try to improve that road record against the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow night.
After the game during QandA, Team Grind's Coach John Tortorella, could be heard advising a reporter, "Don't grind me!"
Really!? I find that fascinating.
Points of Contention:
** When Avery played on the first line, he put on a clinic. He's played nothing short of good hockey this season with the minuscule amount of minutes given to him. SO what happened?
However, the other side to that is everyone on Coach Torts' new line scored points against Ottawa last night. Nice; OK. But I hardly think a line of Gaborik with Mike Sauer and Ruslan Fedotenko is the way to go. I say put Avery back with Gaborik and then if you want, let Sauer center them. See how that works. But with the way Torts constantly juggles everything around, it's probably only a matter of time before that combination gets assembled.
** Rangers scored on the PP but they are still just passing around the perimeter and trying cross-ice passes from way too wide and far out. That pass only works when you tighten and close-in on the area around net. The Rangers are attempting that pass from high and wide and get the zone cleared on them as a result more often than they should.
Saturday ~ December 11, 2010
NEW YORK RANGERS
Columbus Blue Jackets