The Rangers finally showed their fans what could be, if the team uses it’s forecheck, plays for sixty minutes and most importantly stays out of the penalty box. Last night’s 7-4 dismantling of the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets was far from a perfect performance by the struggling Blueshirts but was definitely a big step towards righting the ship for a club which has been seemingly lost at sea over the past few weeks. Another virtuoso performance by Marian Gaborik was the catalyst but for the first time in a while, the Rangers got contributions on the score sheet from all over the lineup.
The first period saw the Rangers in all too familiar territory with a sluggish start leading to a quick 2 goal deficit and Coach Tortorella was not about to let this game slip away as he called a timeout in attempt to get his team back on track. Surprising just about everyone in the building and watching at home, Torts calmly told his team that they had “done some good things” and just needed to work harder instead of reading them the riot act and looking like he was about to stroke out as he had done before in these situations. the blueshirts responded almost immediately to their coach’s confidence in them as they got goals from Marian Gaborik (who else?), Artem Anisimov (tip-in off a nice shot-pass from Wade Redden) and Michael Del Zotto (on a play that reminded everyone who was watching of a young Brian Leetch, as Del Zotto gained the blue line with some nifty stickhandling then ripped a wrist shot through two defenders and past goalie Steve Mason) to give them a 3-2 lead going into the second period.
The Rangers came out in the second and just dominated the Blue Jackets defense in the offensive zone. Sean Avery was a monster on the boards and scored two goals less than a minute apart. Marian Gaborik followed Avery’s second goal with his own second tally less than :30 seconds later to give the Rangers a commanding 6-2 lead and when Matt Gilroy scored on a breakaway (off a beautiful feed from P.A. Parenteau) the rout was on as the Blueshirts had put up 7 unanswered goals. The Rangers did not give the Jackets an opportunity to get back in the contest as they played smart, aggressive hockey and stayed out of the penalty box throughout the contest. Kristian Huselius and Jacub Voracek made the final score look more respectable with late tallies but the Rangers really dominated for most of this one sided match up.
Thumbs Up- What else can you say about Marin Gaborik? He can take over the game when he wants to and last night was unstoppable when he had the puck on his stick registering another 4 points. Vinny Prospal had another strong performance all over the ice. P.A. Parenteau played a physical game and kept building his case for staying with the big club once the injured players return. Donald Brashear was noticeable and actually drew a power play with some strong work in the offensive zone. Matt Gilroy had one of his best games as a Ranger. Wade Redden was involved and had a nice game defensively. Ryan Callahan, in his first action at the center ice position, played well and looked very comfortable. Aaron Voros actually held his own in a fight. Artem Anisimov continues to gain confidence and was one of the best players on the ice last night.
Thumbs Down- Marc Staal had a strong game against superstar Rick Nash but when Nash ran Henrik Lundqvist late in the game, Staal gave him nothing more than a facewash with his glove. Staal is not a fighter but if he wants to be considered a physical defenseman and a team leader, he is going to have to start punishing anyone who makes contact with his goaltender. Chris Pronger, Dion Phaneuf or Zdeno Chara would have broken their sticks over Nash’s back had he run their goaltenders. This has been way too long coming. Lundqvist played a good game but once again went down way too early (exposing that suspect top corner) on the Huselius goal. Ales Kotalik is struggling and needs to get more shots to the net.
Three Stars- 3- Christopher Higgins- This spot could have easily gone to Anisimov but Higgins played a very energetic and impressive game with his new linemates. All over the ice fighting for every loose puck, Higgins proved he could definitely keep up with Gaborik and Prospal and win the battles in the corners for that line. He may have finally given Torts a solution to his problem of finding a physical force to balance his offensive juggernauts and if he can put a few pucks in the net (he hit two posts last night) this could become one of the most dangerous combinations in the league.
2- Sean Avery- Welcome Back. Avery has been his old self as of late with his edge and spirited play bringing a renewed sense of confidence to his game. Last night, Avery finally got back on the score sheet and gave the team a huge lift. Let’s hope this is only the beginning for the super pest, who is truly a factor for this club when he is playing his style of aggravating high energy hockey.
1-Marian Gaborik- Besides Jaromir Jagr, when have the Rangers ever had a player who was a threat to score EVERY time he touches the puck? Gaborik has been otherwordly so far this season and last night showed again why he is an early Hart Trophy candidate. He got the team believing they could turn things around with his first goal and pretty much crushed the Jackets confidence with his second tally. Gaborik has become the Rangers heart this season and last night he was stronger than anyone on the Garden ice. Another amazing performance.
The Rangers begin their road trip by trying to avenge Saturday’s loss when they visit the Florida Panthers Wednesday night at 7PM.