SIZZLING RANGERS TOO MUCH FOR DUCKS AT MSG
|Forward Sean Avery was effective in his first game of the season coming back from a knee injury. He assisted on the Blueshirts' second goal.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Ales Kotalik snapped a scoreless tie early in the third period, and Steve Valiquette earned his fourth career shutout, as the Rangers ran their winning streak to four straight games, defeating the Anaheim Ducks 3-0 on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
-- his first NHL goal -- and Dan Girardi
-- into an empty-net -- also scored for the Rangers in the third period, while Marian Gaborik
picked up an assist, giving him at least one point in all five games so far this season. Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto
also earned an assist to run his points-scoring streak to four consecutive games.
Making his first start of the season, Valiquette stopped all 18 shots he faced. His last shutout took place almost exactly one year ago, on Oct. 17, 2008, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, by a 1-0 score at The Garden.
“It was extra special tonight because my four-month-old (son, named Dalton) was here,” explained Valiquette, whose wife, parents, sister, and brother-in-law also were in attendance. “I wanted to have a strong showing, certainly for him, and I really wanted to win the hockey game for him. It’s such a team effort, and so much goes into it, that (the shutout) is not a goaltending record, it’s a team record.”
After being the better team for much of the game, the Rangers finally broke through at 2:14 of the third period, taking advantage of only their third power-play of the game. With Ryan Whitney in the penalty box for roughing, Gaborik controlled the puck on right wing, patiently gliding along and drawing two Ducks towards him. He then passed the puck to Del Zotto, and the rookie quickly swung a pass to Kotalik stationed at the bottom of the left circle.
Kotalik one-timed the puck past J.S. Giguere, just beating the Ducks goalie to the short side, for his third goal of the season to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
“We played a solid game right from the start,” said Kotalik, whose three goals are second on the team behind Gaborik’s four. “We knew we had to stay with it and stay patient and things would happen for us, and they did.”
The Rangers came within inches of doubling their lead at 10:21 of the third, but Wade Redden
’s right-wing blast hit under the crossbar and bounced out.
Anisimov provided the Rangers the breathing room they were seeking, scoring his first National Hockey League goal with 5:38 remaining in the contest. Skating on a four-minute power play -- with Anaheim’s Evgeny Artyukhin serving a double minor for high-sticking -- the Rangers went up 2-0 when Anisimov fired a one-timer from between the circles into the back of the net.
, who had taken a pass from Sean Avery
, created the scoring play with a quick pass out of the left-wing corner to Anisimov, who was all alone in front.
Girardi closed out the scoring by scaling a rink-long shorthanded shot into the empty net with 1:59 left to play.
Avery, who missed the first four games due to a sprained knee, made his season debut for the Rangers, skating on a line with Anisimov and Enver Lisin. His first shift came two minutes into the game, and produced a loud “Ave-ry! Ave-ry!” chant from The Garden crowd as well as two shots from in-tight by the popular winger.
Avery and Anisimov had come close to combining a pretty scoring play five minutes into the second period when Avery’s quick feed found the rookie center all alone in the low slot. Somehow Giguere was able to make the pad save on Anisimov’s quick one-timer.
All told, Avery logged 10:42 worth of ice-time, earning an assist to go along with five hits on the stat sheet.
“He played well, forechecked, and was effective,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Avery. “On that power play goal, he became a pretty effective player there.”
Although they dominated large portions of the first two periods, the Rangers skated off the ice for the second intermission in a scoreless tie with the Ducks. The Rangers held a 24-12 advantage in shots through 40 minutes of play and had three other potential shots ring off the post behind Giguere -- two by Kotalik and the other by Gaborik.
“It takes patience to keep that up if you don’t score when you have that big a shot advantage,” said Redden, who played an exceptional two-way game. “It’s easy to get frustrated, but we just stuck with it.”
Facing a team that had played the night before in Philadelphia, the Rangers jumped all over the Ducks in the first period, taking the first nine shots of the contest, and not allowing Anaheim its first shot until 13:02 had elapsed on the game clock. That one shot -- off the stick of Anaheim’s Ryan Carter -- was the only one the home team would allow in the first period, as the Rangers accumulated 13 of their own.
In fact, the toughest stop Valiquette had to make over the first 20 minutes came nine minutes into the match, and it came against his own teammate, Girardi. Anaheim’s Corey Perry swung a pass untouched through the crease, and a surprised Girardi on the other side inadvertently redirected the puck at Valiquette, who made an alert stop.
“He played very well,” Tortorella said of Valiquette. “If you want to get where you want to be, he’s going to have to play well for us. And he certainly played well tonight.”
That slight miscue aside, Girardi turned in a terrific game, blocking passes and shots at nearly every turn. Fellow defensemen Marc Staal
, Michal Rozsival
, and Redden also did an excellent job in denying the passing lanes in the defensive zone, as the Rangers severely limited Anaheim’s scoring chances against Valiquette.
“I thought we turned a lot of pucks over at our blueline and got things going the other way,” said Redden. “To create that transition game, and not have to chase the puck in our own end all the time, makes it a lot easier for (the defensemen). So we were able to play in their end most of the night”
At the other end of the ice, the Rangers forechecked aggressively and created numerous quality chances against Giguere, though he was extremely sharp in keeping them off the scoreboard. Lisin was one of a legion of Rangers forwards passionate in his puck pursuit on Sunday afternoon.
Gaborik created several of the Rangers’ best scoring chances, especially in the second period when he recorded three shots on goal. Six minutes into the middle stanza, Gaborik cranked a hard shot up high that ticked off Giguere’s glove. Gaborik beat everyone to the rebound and whistled a shot far side, but Giguere made a blocker save to deny him.
Then at 12:08 of the second, Gaborik stationed himself between the circles and let loose a one-timer that required a quick pad save by an alert Giguere.
With three minutes left in the second, Brandon Dubinsky
nearly cashed in from in front after diligent hard work by Prospal behind the net created a prime scoring opportunity. However, Giguere showed excellent reflexes in robbing Dubinsky.
Despite the defeat, Giguere played a brilliant game, finishing with 35 saves.
“He was pretty good,” Kotalik said of Giguere. “He kept them in the game for 40 minutes, and he got lucky a bunch of times, too. But we stayed with it, stayed patient, and we knew we had the strength and the conditioning for a strong finish in the third period.”
That conditioning will be put to the test once again as the Rangers are right back at it hosting the Maple Leafs at The Garden on Monday night in their second set of back-to-back games already this season.
Five games into the season, the Rangers will enter Monday’s game tied with Atlantic Division rival Pittsburgh for first place in the Eastern Conference. Both teams are 4-1-0.
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