Friday, December 10, 2010

Sauer sweetens Ranger redemption

Simply put, it was redemption for a team that does its best work away from home. By no means was the 5-3 win over the Senators pretty but all things considered, it was the best medicine off that ugly 3-1 loss at MSG to the same foe who for some reason plays us tough. Sometimes, you just gotta find a way and the Rangers did, earning a split of the extended home-and-home.

With a wild game tied at three, rookie defenseman Mike Sauer delivered an unlikely power play goal that made the Rangers winners again on the road- improving to 11-4-0. That it was the forgotten piece of the Brian Leetch trade seemed fitting on a night where you didn't know how it would end. Between the odd combo of Sean Avery and Brandon Prust setting up a wide open Sauer for his first career NHL goal and the alleged Matt Carkner "blood splattering" incident near the Ranger bench after he beat Derek Boogaard in a fight, it was an interesting game to say the least. When it was over, John Tortorella wisely refused comment on the Carkner stuff. I don't even want to speculate let alone picture it.

Early on, it was a Sauer mistake that led to Mike Fisher scoring the first of two which gave Ottawa the lead. His blind giveaway was converted by the Sens' second line center after a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist save. But the Rangers responded thanks to Marian Gaborik setting up rookie Derek Stepan, who took a Gabby deflected shot and beat Brian Elliott for his seventh. An ill advised minor on Brandon Dubinsky late led to Jason Spezza's controversial power play goal 30 seconds into the second when Marc Staal was pushed into Lundqvist, allowing Spezza to steer home the rebound while the Ranger goalie protested. How many instances has this happened to our goalie, who's considered one of the best? What will it take for this circus to get in order? A serious injury.

Instead of letting it get to them, the Blueshirts again fought back with Gaborik setting up Ruslan Fedotenko for his first point in nine games. On the next shift, Fisher appeared to have his second with the ref indicating goal on a long wrister but replays showed it hit the crossbar and never went in. Later in the second, he'd get No.2 when he got a step on Steve Eminger and beat Lundqvist with a nice forehand deke going high glove.

Trailing again, the Rangers caught a break early in the third when Erik Christensen's sharp angle shot surprised Elliott. How it went in I'll never know. Fact is it did and allowed our team to be tied again. Then, Lundqvist came up with the save he was looking for last game, flat out robbing Fisher of a hat trick. With the Sens on the power play having converted twice, they had Fisher all set up but his high labeler was gloved by Henrik's cat-like reflexes keeping it locked at three.

A foolish cheapshot by punk Chris Neil on Ryan Callahan led to the winner. Or justice so to speak. We all know what a low player Neil is. Whether it's challenging Fedotenko or catching someone late, he's a pest. This time, he got burned after nailing Cally from behind. Let's just say it wasn't a safe hit. But what would you expect? As fate had it, the unlikely combo Tort threw out late in the man-advantage paid dividends with Avery digging out a puck and working it to Prust, who found Sauer all alone. Oddly enough, Avery had less than nine minutes of ice or three less than Alex Frolov who whined his way into more PP duty. Think the Russian enigma would've gotten the jersey dirty a la Avery to set up Sauer's decider?

That's what's great about this team. Just about everyone contributes. When Sergei Gonchar, who was abysmal turned the puck over following a timeout, Dubinsky salted it away with his team-leading 13th into an open net.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Marian Gaborik, NYR (2 assists, +2)
2nd Star-Derek Stepan, NYR (7th of season, +2)
1st Star-Mike Fisher, Ott (2 goals incl. PPG, dominant)

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