Friday, November 9, 2007

Gomez continues good play as Rangers break out, Rosen rocks

In case you missed the Rangers' 4-2 victory on home ice over Sidney Crosby and the Penguins, here's a quick recap breaking down yet another good night at 33rd and Seventh Avenue for Tom Renney's club.

For the first time since their successful home opener in which they got five in an Opening Night win over Florida, New York scored more than three goals in defeating a division opponent who might've been a little weary playing their third game in four nights. No. This isn't a misprint! It actually happened meaning that if you attended it like we did, you actually were able to stay awake and see more than the usual three or four combined goals.

In actuality the offense had been showing signs since Renney switched up his lines moving rookie Brandon Dubinsky up to the top line and flanking Scott Gomez with speedsters Sean Avery and Petr Prucha. However, last night the coach flipped Prucha to Chris Drury's line and moved Brendan Shanahan to Gomer's- reuniting one of the team's early lines before Avery went down to a separated shoulder missing almost a month.

The offense didn't miss a beat attacking Pittsburgh by firing 22 first period shots on Marc-Andre Fleury, miraculously netting two to claim a 2-1 lead. The sizzling Gomez got the scoring started by extending his point streak to five straight by rebounding home an Avery wide shot which caromed to the driving pivot for his fourth early on.

But the Pens got it back with a strong shift from who else but the NHL's best Crosby who setup a right point Sergei Gonchar blast past Henrik Lundqvist through traffic. It extended Sid The Kid's career best scoring streak to 16 in a row. Over that span, he's gotten all 24 of his points (9-15-24). Evgeni Malkin also notched a helper to hike his Pitt-leading assist total to 16. The fact these two dynamic talents play on the same line is unfair. Good god. There's really not much defense for them.

That the Rangers limited the young Canadian-Russian duo to just those two points on the night was a credit to how solid the grinding checking line of Ryan Hollweg, Blair Betts and Colton Orr played against them while teamed up with shutdown pair Fedor Tyutin and Dan Girardi.

Renney has shown more confidence in his fourth line lately not afraid to give them increased time. The improved skating of Hollweg and Orr have made it possible. The growing question is what happens when rehabbing forwards Martin Straka and Ryan Callahan return? This looks like a good problem for the coach to have because it could lead to four balanced scoring lines showing just how much depth this team has up front.

As for the rest of what was a strong period which included Avery at his best goading gritty 41-year old vet Gary Roberts into a stupid double minor for roughing and high sticking, the Rangers took advantage thanks to some nifty playmaking skills from Jaromir Jagr and Scott Gomez, who teamed up to setup a vacated Michal Rozsival for his fourth on the power play at the doorstep. It was Gomez' second point of the night making it the former Devil's first multiple point game as a Blueshirt. He's got two goals and four assists during his current streak.

"The young guys, they're a little dumb. They don't really know what's going on half the time," Avery remarked to the AP Thursday night. "So a guy like that, they take it a little bit more of an insult after you disrespect them and all they've done for the game and how great they are."

They nearly added to their lead on the other side of the man-advantage, but only a sprawling Fleury denying Drury from in close kept it a one-goal contest at the end of one.

Avery who admittedly wasn't at his best in a 3-2 loss to the Islanders after being blasted by his Mom and got a talking to from Renney would pump home his first of the season on another New York PP, ripping home a one-timer of a Girardi pass in the high slot top shelf to give his team a two-goal lead halfway through contest.

The Rangers easily could've gotten more thanks to a loss of discipline by their frustrated opponent who even handed them a golden 5-on-3 opportunity for over a minute. But instead of keeping it simple like they had on their two other man-advantage tallies, they fiddled around with the puck and couldn't get anything done. It was exactly how not to run a 5-on-3.

Against a dangerous scoring talented foe like Pittsburgh, even though it was a back-to-back and third in four nights, the lack of killer instinct could've comeback to haunt them. The Pens did come with more determination in the final stanza doubling up the Rangers in shots 14-7 but Lundqvist who started for the 16th consecutive time this season shut the door.

One bright spot was the play of Dubinsky who finally got his first career NHL tally when he cashed in off a nice drop pass from Hartford linemate Nigel Dawes, walking in and flipping a backhand past Fleury inside the goalpost to give his team a three-goal cushion. The 21 year-old pivot from Anchorage Alaska nearly had his second later when he was setup five feet from the net but his shot rang off the post. If not for the goalpost, the Rangers could've had seven or eight last night which goes to show the kind of opportunities they generated. A welcome sight to a pleased Garden crowd which saw their team improve to 8-2 on home ice, winning for the sixth time in seven at MSG.

Veteran Mark Recchi finished out the scoring a couple of minutes later by finding a rebound for a rare PPG against what's been one of the strongest penalty killing units in the league.

It did give Pitt some jump and they attacked with more vigor but couldn't draw any closer as Lundqvist stayed busy in the final 20 stopping 13 of 14 on his way to 26 saves in another victory.

The King should finally be given a night off when the Rangers travel up to Air Canada Centre Saturday for a Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC) showdown with the Maple Leafs. Toronto will enter off a rare shutout of Buffalo Friday night as backup Andrew Raycroft stopped all 30 shots in a 3-0 win at HSBC Arena across the border.

Regardless, expect backup Stephen Valiquette to get the call and help the club avenge an earlier disappointing 4-1 loss to the Leafs at The Garden.

The Rangers should have plenty of incentive now being the league's only team without a win on the road due to Tampa's 5-1 triumph at Carolina Thursday night.

This team is playing extremely well at home. Up to this point, their only point so far on the road came in a 1-0 shootout loss at Boston last month. If they want to be the kind of team that's going to challenge for bigger and better things this season, they must get the ship righted on the road. With visits later next week at division rivals New Jersey and Philadelphia, this should pose as a good test for the club.

They also won't want to disappoint Messier who should be in the house Saturday a few days before his Thursday HHOF induction along with ex-Devil Scott Stevens in what promises to be a huge week for the locals.

P.S. Sam Rosen rocks and any fan who says otherwise has had way too much crawl up their butt or should immediately be forced to watch that awful Atlanta or Tampa play-by-play voice(s).

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