Monday, December 31, 2007

Drury and Shanahan spark Blueshirts to third straight win

There was a very entertaining game which took place at 33rd and 7th Avenue last night. Because unlike the Knicks who still are everywhere you look at The Garden with NBA All-Star ballots for that pathetic bunch, the Blueshirts actually are becoming watchable again.

Yes. They're now finding the offense which was missing for most of the first half. For the third consecutive game, they scored at least four and posted a well earned come from behind 4-3 overtime victory over the Canadiens in what was an electric atmosphere last night.

That's cause you had your share of Montreal supporters who made the trip from up north to support their team. Tell ya one thing. They sure make it interesting. In fact, I had a French Canadian come up to me before warmups and he was speaking gibberish which couldn't be understood. Then even made a joke about basketball. Classic stuff.

It seemed to be the same kind of supporters who went home bitterly disappointed last April when their team collapsed to miss the postseason at the Islanders' expense.

They chanted "Go Habs Go, Go Habs Go," which got the attention of Ranger fans who returned the favor with "Let's Go Rangers, Let's Go Rangers."

Maybe this is what I like about Canadian games. It creates a chaotic atmosphere full of energy. And because the Habs entered leading our Rangers by two points for fourth in the conference, the fans were into it from start to finish.

The best aspect was that the game itself wasn't a snoozer. It was back and forth probably played more at Montreal's frenetic pace. Despite each team getting the same amount of shots (21 apiece) on goalies Cristobal Huet and Henrik Lundqvist, many were of the quality variety testing them and keeping fans on the edge of their seats.

The Rangers struck first when Scott Gomez setup defenseman Dan Girardi's seventh at 10:14. But the Canadiens got a late Andrei Kostistyn power play tally to tie it taking advantage of an undisciplined Marek Malik hook after a giveaway.

As Habs fans were singing their patented, "Ole, Ole, Ole" song the Rangers came right back 17 seconds later to re-take the lead when Gomez made a brilliant rush and fed Jaromir Jagr for his 11th making it three straight for a rejuvenated No.68 with a goal.

They took the lead to the locker room. Apparently, they forgot to come out for the second because it was all Habs. A lazy Martin Straka hook in the offensive zone led directly to another Montreal PPG. Off a Marc Staal backhand clear attempt which was gloved down by former Ranger Alexei Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec setup an open Kostistyn for his second of the night at 14:31.

Montreal went ahead 2:36 later on essentially another man-advantage when during a delayed call on Blair Betts, the Habs got the extra attacker out and worked the puck around down low before the Kostistyn brothers combined to find an open Plekanec for an easy goal within 12 feet.

After being outscored 2-0 and outshot 7-1, the Rangers came out much better in the third and would get the tying goal. But not before having an apparent Fedor Tyutin goal wiped out when Toronto ruled against what looked like the equalizer. Instead, the puck hit both the crossbar and right elbow of the post. To the naked eye live, it looked in and didn't make the usual sound. But it appears the league ruled properly in reversing the call.

The Rangers could've let down after that bad break but on this night, they weren't taking no for an answer. Off a key faceoff win, Chris Drury went to the net and found a loose rebound off a deflected Paul Mara shot and scored his 10th to tie the game with 5:51 remaining.

It was the king of play you come to expect from Mr. Clutch. He has struggled in his first season on Broadway but he was huge late.

In OT, Drury again factored in on the deciding marker. Off a Roman Hamrlik turnover, he pushed a puck ahead to a streaking Brendan Shanahan who did the rest beating Huet top shelf on a breakaway 66 seconds in for his team-leading 14th to send the Blueshirt faithful home happy.

It was a very good character win. And an important one at that as the team prepares for a crucial three-game Western Canada road trip with stops in Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. They have yet to beat a Western team this season. That must change as the calendar year changes to 2008.

The win wouldn't have been possible without a key save by Lundqvist on Plekanec minutes before Drury's tying goal. He only made 18 stops but several of them were high calibre. That's what you expect from King Henrik- one of the league's elite netminders.


Three Stars:

3rd Star: Brendan Shanahan, NYR (GWG 66 seconds into OT)
2nd Star: Tomas Plekanec, Mtl (goal, two assists)

1st Star: Chris Drury, NYR (tying goal and assisted on winner)


Game Highlights

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