|Marian Gaborik celebrates after recording hat trick in wild Ranger 6-5 win over the Islanders in first of a home-and-home series. The rematch is later tonight at The Garden.|
Twenty-one goals. That's how many the Islanders and Rangers have totaled after another wild game that featured 11 in what amounted to an ugly win for the Broadway club. They can thank Marian Gaborik, whose second hat trick of the season allowed the Rangers to prevail 6-5 over the Islanders before less than a sellout (13,742) at Nassau Coliseum.
Much like the first game of one of the best rivalries, Round Two featured many momentum shifts along with fluky goals that you never saw coming. When it comes to these two teams, perhaps we should have known better after how the Rangers dominated the first 19 minutes, jumping out to a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Erik Christensen and Ryan Callahan. But the unusual began when Islander tough guy Zenon Konopka was able to deflect a James Wisniewski shot through surprise starter Martin Biron with 49 seconds left.
The Islanders carried momentum with a much better second, resulting in three straight goals with John Tavares connecting with Matt Moulson while Brandon Dubinsky watched and then Rob Schremp blasting his third from inside the blueline with Dubi again not making much of an attempt. It's those kind of moments which make you wonder about Dubinsky, who came out like a house on fire. Since Gaborik returned, the spark is gone. If they're going to invest in their future next summer, the inconsistencies need to stop. On a night linemates Callahan and Derek Stepan gave better efforts, the newly formed USA Line went a combined minus-eight. Dan Girardi, beaten in front twice also was on for two goals against.
Yeah, they won despite everything. But as John Tortorella noted in the post game with Sam Rosen, they found a way to win in spite of themselves. The fiery coach also credited Jack Capuano's scrappy Islanders for coming harder and not quitting. Would you expect anything less from them in this heated rivalry? Bottom line: These games take on a life of their own. Good thing Tort pulled Biron because he gave up two softies and the team looked dead only to reawaken on a fortunate bounce with Brandon Prust getting a piece of a Marc Staal shot that caromed off an Islander. Gaborik steered them back in front when his centering feed for Callahan banked in off an Islander.
It was that kind of game. Thanks to a tremendous effort from rejuvenated Sean Avery, Gaborik tallied twice more in the seesaw third. Given an opportunity to play on the top line with Gabby and Erik Christensen, Avery was awesome, outskating and outhustling the Islanders on the cycle. He won so many battles creating all sorts of room for the Big Ticket to work his magic. The line combined for eight points (4-4-8, +8), dismantling a D that's still without Mark Streit, Milan Jurcina and Mike Mottau. Yeah. They got good mileage out of rookie Travis Hamonic (assist, +1 in 19:04) and returning starter Andy MacDonald (Even in 22:25). But the Long Island hosts were simply overwhelmed by our new line.
Credit the Isles for clawing back from two again with Michael Grabner redirecting a Radek Martinek point shot and Blake Comeau seeing his shadow, even if it was another bizarre one that just snuck over the goal line much to Henrik Lundqvist's disbelief. Just like that, it was tied once more with 5:50 left. But on the very next shift, another brilliant play by Avery led to Gaborik's trick with Sean keeping a puck alive and then feeding Christensen, whose change up fooled Rick DiPietro long enough for Gabby to lift Wisniewski's stick and bury it. All it took was 25 seconds to break the Isles' backs. Oh. They fought till the buzzer but couldn't draw even.
A few observations:
-The checking line of Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust were on for Prust's big response right after Tort switched goalies. In particular, Boyle and Prust have been factors all season. Where would this team be without them?
-Derek Boogaard threw down with much smaller Trevor Gillies who did a good job holding off Boogey Man after taking a couple early. Boogaard was more noticeable than Alex Frolov, who was buried on the fourth line with Artem Anisimov, who at least showed a pulse. It's no secret both Russians need to be better.
-Michal Rozsival was steady in 19+ while partner Mike Del Zotto adequate even making a pair of defensive gems. If only Del Zotto knew how to hit the net. He could've put the game away.
-John Tavares' two helpers were his first multi-point outing since a hat trick recorded versus Florida on Oct.23. It was just his third two-or-more effort of the season.
-Ex-Blueshirt P.A. Parenteau was instrumental, setting up a pair including Comeau's oddity which of course was his first since he last played us. How is that possible?
-During the Isles' first comeback, Rob Schremp was tremendous, skating circles around the Ranger D and making things happen. Best game I've seen from him.
-Maybe Matt Martin, who beat Mike Sauer in an earlier fight, should've engaged Avery off the faceoff. Tied at five, he didn't and look what happened. Normally, you don't want your players fighting when your team comes back but Avery and his super line were going. At the very least, he could've taken Avery off the ice. Martin btw finished minus-three with the one scrap.
-Sauer needs more than 13 minutes of ice. He's already established himself as a top four. Defensively, he's superb and rarely gets caught out of position.
-Despite so many goals, there were only three power plays and yes, the Rangers actually scored one.
-A forgettable night for DiPietro, who permitted six on 26 shots including a bad rebound that resulted in Gabby's winner.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Rob Schremp, NYI (3rd of season, 2 SOG, takeaway, +1 in 16:06)
2nd Star-Brandon Prust, NYR (2nd of season, 2 SOG, hit, blocked shot in 16:27)
1st Star-Avery-Christensen-Gaborik, NYR (4-4-8 incl. Gabby hat trick/assist, 11 SOG, +8)