|Marian Gaborik's return to Minnesota was a success with the former Wild star notching a helper while playing with more edge in the Rangers' 5-2 win at Minnesota, ending a two-game losing streak.|
Resilient. That's how I'd describe this team. What we got the night before in Colorado wasn't who these guys are. In John Tortorella's brief postgame in which Dolan crony Sam Rosen kept pushing the envelope, he indicated that they had another game the next day and would try to play much better. That they did with even some improvement from Mike Del Zotto, who actually scored on the power play in a 5-2 over the Wild at Excel Energy Center- making Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard's returns a success.
“You’d like to think we’re developing a little bit of mental toughness in trying to grind through and stop the bleeding after a game like last night,” a much happier coach expressed.
“We’ve had tough training camps and it shows,” pointed out Del Zotto who snapped a 19-game drought with his power play goal only his second goal and first since Oct.11. “Our conditioning is at peak level right now, and it’s been working for us.”
What I liked most was that much like the season, many different Rangers contributed with five different scorers and 12 of the 18 players dressed making the score sheet. Quintessential hockey from our team in a game they had to have, ending a two-game skid. Both Gaborik and Boogaard factored in equally. This isn't a misprint. Boogie played an inspired game against his former club, finishing checks and even laying a big hit that set up the first goal by Artem Anisimov. As for Gabby, the former Wild star heard the boos as expected but didn't let it affect him, playing aggressively throughout despite little room. He assisted on Alex Frolov's winner to put an exclamation point on a great second that saw our heroes outscore the Wild 3-zip while outshooting the St. Paul hosts 17-4.
"Great feeling. Now this is kind of over with,” No.10 said after it was over. “I had been thinking about it for a while. Quite frankly, I was nervous to be on the other side.”
“It was a different kind of nervousness,” he added after hiking his season point total to nine in nine games. “When I got that first shift under my belt it was fine for me.”Though he didn't score against his former team thanks to Niklas Backstrom making a couple of good saves on half his team-leading four shots, Gaborik played with purpose, landing two hits on former 'mate Greg Zanon while helping out defensively. He also drew plenty of attention at the blueline, which helped Frolov sneak a wraparound by Backstrom with a minute left in the middle frame. That kind of assertiveness helped the Rangers improve to 5-0 in the second of back-to-backs this season.
“We always play well in the second game because I think the will and commitment to stay with the system in how we play remains strong,” noted Boogaard after his physicality resulted in a goal along with three hits in eight shifts along with a plus-one. After a tight first which saw each team test the goalies, the Boogey Man went to work with a clean takeout of Robbie Earl keeping the puck alive for Minnesota native Mike Sauer, who dished across for Matt Gilroy, whose shot rebounded out to Anisimov for a layup. It was his sixth goal and first point in four games with Tort flipping him with Erik Christensen, who actually showed a pulse between Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.
"Boogey made the play that made the first goal,” said winning netminder Martin Biron who got the start for Henrik Lundqvist, making 26 stops for his third win in four starts . “He crushed that guy [Earl] along the wall and he brought the physicality we were looking for in our game. He might have played one of his best games. It’s great to see.”
|Mike Del Zotto receives congrats after scoring on the power play.|
In a period they dominated, the Rangers also got an assist from the refs when they wrongly sent Brent Burns off for a phantom trip. The brutal call led to rookie Derek Stepan making two great plays before setting up Del Zotto's goal. With Gaborik on dropping the puck for Dan Girardi at the point, Stepan dragged his skate to stay on-side to collective groans. A play that looked offside initially wasn't with another kid from Minnesota making good in his return home with a great cross-ice feed for an open Del Zotto, who took his time burying it for a two-goal lead at 14:54.
“Not too many times am I going to get back to play in Minnesota and play at the Xcel, so every time I do it will be something special,” the former '08 second round pick mentioned after improving to 2-0 with Mom watching in the stands. “(Tonight) is something I won’t forget.” Of his 10 points, nearly half (1-3-4) have come in front of family with also the memorable NHL debut in which he became the third player to record a hat trick in the season opener at Buffalo. Even more uplifting is that D-Step's got five points in the last five games and is fitting in nicely with Gaborik and Frolov- giving the coach no reason to take him off the top line.Speaking of Frolov, he finished off his fifth (1st in four games) thanks to Gaborik and Girardi, who combined on the crusher with smart plays. First, Gabby drew three Wild defenders at the blueline. Then Girardi pushed the puck down for the crafty Russian, whose stuff try banked in off a Wild stick.
Dubinsky increased to 4-0 thanks to a great individual effort. The third-year Alaskan blocked a Cal Clutterbuck shot and forced him at the blueline, then slipping through for a clean breakaway in which he deked Backstrom forehand for his team-leading 12th. A good sign as it was just his second over the last eight after starting on fire with 10 in the first 13. He's still managed four points over the past four (2-2-4) for a club best 19 points (12-7-19).
Leading by four and on another power play, the Blueshirts sagged. On a night he mostly stood out for the right reasons, including stronger defensive play even if Joe Micheletti drove us nuts with his banter, Del Zotto made a poor read at the point missing a hip check on attacking Minnesota penalty killer Kyle Brodziak. Brodziak made no mistake centering for one-time Ranger Matt Cullen, who buried his fourth for the first shorthanded goal allowed by our team. Exactly the kind of mistakes Del Zotto must stay away from. Easily correctable in practice. Cullen's fourth from Brodziak and Burns gave the crowd life. But a damaging blow came 80 seconds later when Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle and Ruslan Fedotenko put together an impressive shift leading to Feds' fourth.
Prust, who was a game-time decision following a charlie horse that saw him limping during the morning session- played with vigor all game. He was even struggling in warm-ups but still convinced Tort to play him. The throw in in the Olli Jokinen trade has turned into a player, always working hard and becoming a fixture on the improving PK which blanked the No.1 power play in four chances. He epitomizes what this team is about. On the goal, he worked the puck to Boyle who then got it to Fedotenko, whose quick backhand beat Backstrom, restoring a four-goal lead with 5:52 remaining. Though Martin Havlat got one back from a bad angle on Biron 63 seconds later, there was little doubt about the outcome.
“It was great to get that kind of win for all the guys we have that had ties to this area,” Biron diplomatically said of Gaborik, Boogaard, Stepan, and Sauer with the improving first-year defenseman having as many as 35 supporters in attendance. “And it was good to stop the bleeding after the way we played (Friday) night.”
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Brandon Prust, NYR (assist, 2 hits, +1 in 19 gritty shifts-16:03)
2nd Star-Mike Sauer, NYR (assist, 3 blocked shots, +1 in 22 shifts-15:55)
1st Star-Dan Girardi, NYR (2 assists, 3 blocked shots, 6 hits, +1 in 33 shifts-24:34)