The Rangers improved their record to 7-1-2 over their last 10 games with a hard fought 5-2 victory over the Dallas Stars tonight at MSG. Sean Avery, who played one of his best games as a Ranger versus his former club, had 4 points and was involved all over the ice. The Rangers used big goals from Avery, Chris Drury, the suddenly hot Ales Kotalik and NHL leading goal scorer Marian Gaborik and another standout performance by Henrik Lundqvist to hold off a hard charging Stars squad and add two big points in the chase for a playoff spot.
Thumbs Up- Ales Kotalik, who used his booming slap shot to score for the second straight game after going 21 straight contests without a tally, had another strong game and was a physical presence as well. Brian Boyle got involved and made some nice plays. Marc Staal did a good job of controlling the play in front of Lundqvist. Brandon Dubinsky had another strong performance playing with tons of heart and snarl and Chris Drury scored a big goal late to give the Blueshirts a much needed cushion. Ryan Callahan slipped one into an empty net to finish off the scoring.
Thumbs Down- Donald Brashear once again was invisible. Dan Girardi had a chance, much like Michael Del Zotto during the last game, to even things up and make a big statement when Steve Ott ran Lundqvist early on but instead gave him a token push. This might become a big problem later on in some of the more physical division matchups during the stretch run if this team doesn’t start punishing opponents who are obviously not scared of retribution for their actions.
Three Stars- 3- Erik Christensen- Since his promotion to the top line, Christensen has ratcheted up the intensity and put together a string of outstanding performances. He seems to be making the most of his opportunity and may be a candidate to return next season should his improved play continue.
2-Henrik Lundqvist- The “King” was a victim of two horrible bounces tonight or he might have had his second shutout of the season. Lundqvist, who appears to be thriving with what seems like an endless workload, had a wonderful game and kept the Rangers in this game with his timely saves during the many shorthanded situations the team faced tonight.
1- Sean Avery- If only Avery played with this much intensity every night, he’d be a Hart Trophy candidate. Obviously energized by playing the team that dumped him last season, Avery was a force all over the ice not only scoring and setting up his teammates but also taking many of the Stars’ big names off their games with his pest-like antics. Probably the best beginning to end game that No. 16 has had in a Rangers uniform and hopefully a jumpstart to a big second half of the season for a player who has proven he can be a huge momentum changer for this club.
The Rangers head to Atlanta tomorrow to face the Thrashers at 7PM.