All the Rangers coaches were hoping for following their impressive 6-2 win over the Canadiens on Sunday was a repeat of the effort the team gave during that victory. Not only did they receive the same effort but the players took it to another level as they jumped on the Lightning early and controlled play from start to finish during a dominant 8-2 dismantling of the visiting Tampa Bay club.
After a fight between Aaron Voros and Tampa’s Zenon Konopka off the game’s opening faceoff really got the crowd going, Brandon Dubinsky continued his inspired play of late and got the scoring started when he cleaned up a rebound in front of Antero Nittymaki to give the Blueshirts a 1-0 lead. The Rangers controlled play for the rest of the period with their strong forechecking and used tallies by Vinny Prospal and the resurgent Chris Drury to take a 3-1 lead after one period.
Dan Girardi and Enver Lisin would extend the lead to 5-1 in the second period and chase Nittymaki from between the pipes. Alex Tanguay would score on the power play late in the period to keep the Lightning withing striking distance but Henrik Lundqvist would shut the door the rest of the way.
Marc Staal, Aaron Voros (on the power play) and Christopher Higgins would put a nice bow on the blowout with third period tallies and gave the Rangers their second straight game with at least 6 goals. It still may be too early to call the Rangers’ season long offensive struggles solved but these two performances are definitely a promising step in the right direction.
Thumbs Up- Brian Boyle, Sean Avery and Erik Christensen were amongst the few Rangers who didn’t score a goal tonight but continued their energetic play that has been the catalyst on many of the offensive opportunities the team has cashed in on over the last two contests. Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury once again excelled on the penalty kill. Vinny Prospal seems to have fully recovered from his injury and was a factor tonight with a goal and an assist.
Thumbs Down- It was hard to find any negatives with tonight’s performance but the only thing that stood out to me was Artem Anisimov’s inability to get anything going offensively. I’m sure if he keeps up the work ethic he has shown so far during the first half of the year, he will find a way to break through but this is a situation that might bear watching especially if Evgeny Grachev should begin to put up numbers in Hartford.
Three Stars- 3-Henrik Lundqvist- “The King” was very strong early when the game was still anybody’s contest. His big saves during the first period gave the Rangers the confidence to continue to attack offensively. Another impressive performance from Lundqvist, who is finally getting the support he deserves from his forwards.
2- Aaron Voros- The toughest thing to do is come to the arena each night knowing that you might not be in the lineup the next game, even if you have a good outing that night. Aaron Voros has had to deal with this situation and be ready to contribute when called upon all season and up to this point his results have been hit and miss. Tonight, it was a big hit for Voros as he got the crowd involved early with a fight, was a physical presence throughout, drew a late penalty by being smart and even contributed a garbage time goal (after being rewarded with power play time by John Tortorella for his drawing the man advantage). This was Voros’ best game since early last season and i’m willing to wager he has earned another start in the Blueshirts’ next contest.
1- Marian Gaborik- For most of the year, Gaborik has been the Rangers focal point on offense and only consistent goal scorer. Tonight, he was the team’s playmaker with assists on 4 of the Rangers first 6 goals. Gaborik has to love this new found offensive output from his teammates as it takes the pressure off him to have to carry the club each time they hit the ice. He showed this evening that he is just as comfortable being a support player as being the team’s biggest star.
The Rangers will try to continue their explosive run when they visit the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday at 7 PM.