For one night at least, the misery ended. The Rangers can thank the Great Gabby as he recorded his first hat trick as a Blueshirt, getting the first three in a stunning 3-1 win over the surprising Avs in Denver.
That they even won against a very good young club challenging for the Northwest while The Sutter Boys blow up Calgary to epic proportions (more on that later) is a revelation. Or perhaps the Earth wasn't rotating properly. Whatever the explanation, unlike the disgrace in The Desert sans the last ditch effort/classic tease, the Rangers actually showed and backed by some Gabby magic, got Chad Johnson his first NHL win. Kudos to Ocho Cinco on bouncing back after that three-goal first period barrage last night, finishing with 34 saves, including more than half the final stanza.
"It’s a boost of energy for this club and myself as well to finally get a win and feel good about ourselves,” the club's leading goals (33), assists (32) and points (65) leader said.
Before last night's third period, the Rangers hadn't scored on the road in over 202 minutes before Gaborik ended a five-game drought reaching 30 in his first season in the Big Apple. Sean Avery also tallied Saturday but their rally fell short with Ryan Callahan hitting a post while skating five-on-five minus Johnson thanks to Petr Prucha drawing his third penalty in a game that saw the Coyotes honor Teppo Numminen with a victory.
Maybe the rust finally came off because they were a different team 24 hours later, taking the middle game of a three-game trip. We'll give credit even if I didn't catch the whole thing due to fixing steak nachos. To my shock when I checked the score early on, they were leading for a change thanks to Marian Gaborik beating Craig Anderson with a wrist shot from the right circle, scoring for a second consecutive night. The first time he's connected in two straight since 12/21-23 in wins over Carolina and Florida. A welcome sight for our anemic offense. Avery and Artem Anisimov notched assists on the lone goal of the first.
During intermission, leading rookie scorer Matt Duchene chatted with John Giannone about how exciting Year One's been. Still can't believe he asked Duchene who his favorite player is. Everyone knows it's Joe Sakic, which must be a thrill getting to see his idol daily. This kid has all the tools. He just might be better than John Tavares. Nothing against JT91 who should be great but there's something about Duchene that we like. He's a little more polished. Granted. He has more to work with at the moment. Tracking both along with Victor Hedman should be fun for years.
Back to the game. As I was chowing down, there was Gaborik making a bee line for the net to slam home Vinny Prospal's perfect feed that caught Anderson leaning the other way for 2-0 at 4:57 into the second. Marc Staal- who was a beast logging over 27 minutes- added the first of two helpers, foreshadowing a lucky combo that went to work once more to salt it away in the third. Whatever the reason, the Avs just couldn't mount an attack getting outshot 12-5 in the second. Coming off two straight losses and an off day, they should've been the more rested club. However, rare attention to detail from the guys in red, white and blue was making Johnson's night easier than expected.
Not surprisingly, the hosts ramped it up in the third, firing 18 shots from all cylinders in an attempt to get back in. But Johnson held up while getting help from the Big Ticket, who put the cherry on top with his 10th career hat trick and first since that epic five-goal masterpiece versus our team on Dec.20, 2007. He got it in fine style. After Prospal served a bogus delay of game minor when he accidentally knocked over Johnson and lost control knocking the net off (seri---ously), the Ranger PK which did the job (6-for-6) led to No.33.With Prosp out of the box, Staal found him and then a quick seam pass sprung a flying Gaborik for a breakaway which he didn't miss, firing a low rocket by Anderson.
"You could tell right from the start that he had that jump, he had that swagger,” explained Ocho Cinco. “He was beating guys wide, having control of the puck. The other guys look up to a guy like him to lead the way and when he’s playing his best hockey, I think other guys pick it up and follow his lead.
“All it takes sometimes is one guy to kind of lead the team, pick’em up and put them on his shoulders, and Gabby was unbelivable tonight. He did that.”
His fourth in two games which also included a milestone back in the first, recording his 500th point gave the Rangers some breathing room. Good thing because Colorado came hard with almost nothing working, speaking to how good Johnson was. Eventually, they broke through when tough guy Cody McLeod, who earlier earned a decision over Aaron Voros, rebounded home a Kyle Quincey shot cutting it to 3-1 with 7:21 left. Rookie Justin Mercier added a secondary assist, registering his first NHL point. Of course on the play, Michal Rozsival stood around and let McLeod get position.
Even in a 3-1 win where Gabby records his first hat trick as a Ranger and Ocho Cinco wins his first game, you can always count on Woh-zy to give the other team life. At least the Avs didn't get any closer with another made up penalty this time on Paul Stastny for "tripping Rozsival" dashing any comeback hopes. For the Ranger fans who made their presence known even tossing a few hats on the ice for Gaborik's trick, they actually got to celebrate. I just don't see what there is to be happy about. Even if Ally Kota-leak could be bye bye with Higgs later today in an agreed to deal with the Flames for Olli Joke-inen and real enforcer Brandon Prust, it's not going to change much.
On second thought, maybe they were thankful for what they witnessed.
Notes: Kotalik, who still must approve the trade due to a no-trade (only Savior) and per Post's Larry Brooks left the team probably to cry her eyes out- was scratched for the eighth game in nine. Other waste Donald Brashear was the other scratch for the seventh time in eight. ... By reaching 30 the other day in Phoenix, Gaborik's scored at least 30+ in six seasons. ... The Avalanche have dropped three in a row, getting outscored 7-3. Currently sixth in the West with 66 points, they trail Vancouver by four and are three up on seventh Nashville and four better than both Calgary and Detroit. ... Duchene was held without a point but still leads all rookies with 36 points (17-19-36). Three better than Tavares (17-16-33) with Philly's James Van Riemsdyk (12-19-31) and Buffalo's Tyler Myers (7-24-31) tied for third.
... With seventh Florida posting a 2-0 shutout of the Islanders (5 straight losses), Rangers (25-24-7, 57 Pts) vault over idle Atlanta and Montreal back into eighth, a point up with Boston and Tampa two out while the Isles remain stuck on 54. John Tortorella's club concludes three in four on the road tomorrow night against Kings, who pulled a Canes on the Devils Sunday to win their sixth straight.
BONY 3 STARS:
3rd Star-Cody McLeod, Col (6th goal, 3 SOG, 2 hits, 5 PIM, +1 in 16 shifts-10:07)
2nd Star-Chad Johnson, NYR (34 saves incl.17/18 in 3rd for 1st career NHL victory)
1st Star-Marian Gaborik, NYR (1st Ranger hat trick-goals 31, 32, 33, 6 SOG, 3 hits, +3 in 21:06)