Earlier today, the Ducks visited the Garden but the Rangers were the team that came out flying and never came down while dominating play on their way to a 3-0 shutout. From the opening puck drop, the Blueshirts attacked the Ducks with a relentless forecheck that kept the action in the Anaheim zone for most of the first period. Both teams ratcheted up the physical play during the second period and the play evened out as both goaltenders faced down quality chances and kept the game scoreless going into the third period. The Rangers, thanks to a suddenly dangerous power play unit, finally got on the board early in the final period when Ales Kotalik ripped a one timer (which was deflected past J.S. Giguere by Scott Niedermayer) off a perfect pass by Michael Del Zotto. The power play came through again later in the period as Artem Anisimov buried his first NHL goal off a pass from Vinny Prospal after some strong board work by the returning Sean Avery. The Rangers would put the game away a few minutes later when Dan Girardi scored into an empty net and Steve Valiquette made one last save to preserve his first shutout of the season.
Thumbs Up- Marian Gaborik (who assisted on the first Ranger goal) scored in his fifth straight game and was strong on the puck throughout. Ryan Callahan showed once again why he is the heart of the team with his physical play and relentless energy. He was a factor even without scoring a point. Artem Anisimov continued to show confidence and a nose for the puck and scored his first NHL goal. Michael Del Zotto once again proved that he is ready for the NHL and may have quieted any and all doubters with a very strong performance. Michal Roszival had a bounce back performance after being benched during the last game.
Thumbs Down- It’s tough to find any negatives in the Rangers’ performance tonight but the only thing that sticks out again is Christopher Higgins inability to finish so far. He is giving 110% on each shift and has been very strong on the penalty kill but has yet to cash in any of his chances and may be in line for a drop to the third line (with Avery or Kotalik moving on to the Drury and Callahan line) until he finds his finishing touch around the net.
Three Stars- 3-Dan Girardi- It’s not often that Girardi has a better game than his partner Marc Staal but tonight Girardi was the team’s best defender. He was constantly in the right position to break up plays, threw some huge hits (including his complete wipeout of Todd Marchant late in the third period) and once he iced the game with his empty netter, it was evident that tonight he was playing the way John Tortorella had hoped he would throughout camp and the preseason.
2- Sean Avery- Avery returned to the lineup and played an emotional but smart game. His hard work helped set up Anisimov’s goal and he had numerous scoring chances of his own. If Avery can continue to straddle the line with his aggravating style of play without taking bad penalties or taking himself out of games mentally, he will be a big part of the Rangers’ success from this point on.
1- Stephen Valiquette- While Vally had a reasonably easy night between the pipes facing only 18 shots and no real sustained pressure from the Ducks, he played a very strong game and always seemed in great position anytime he was challenged. He was able to control his rebounds and was very good at moving the puck. A good performance from Valiquette, whom the Rangers are counting on big time to back up Henrik Lundqvist more frequently this season.
The Rangers’ next game is tomorrow night at 7 pm versus Toronto.