Avery leads Rangers back to brink of playoff picture
|Rangers forward Sean Avery, prepares to knock a backhand shot past Philadelphia goaltender Michael Leighton moments after a second-period faceoff in the Flyers zone. The goal, which tied the score at 1-1, was the first of a pair scored by Avery.
• MORE PHOTOS
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Tortorella Postgame Remarks to Reporters
|MSG's Trautwig, Maloney Recap the Game
|EXCLUSIVE VIDEO ON MSG.com
|Check Out More Rangers Postgame Video
• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
went from a seat in the press box on Friday night to a starring role on Sunday afternoon. In the process, he helped the Rangers skate to a hugely important 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden -- moving the Blueshirts within one point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Avery played a gritty, hard-nosed game on Sunday, and he scored two big goals, as well, less than 48 hours after being a healthy scratch for Friday’s 5-2 victory in Atlanta.
and Chris Drury
each contributed a pair of assists in Sunday’s win, and Henrik Lundqvist
turned aside 17 of 18 shots for his 28th victory of the season.
“He was huge today,” Drury said of Avery. “When he is playing straight-ahead hockey like he did today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective guy. The hits he had, the goals he had, the way he got under their skin. It was just huge for us.”
With the Rangers playing a solid defensive third period, yet still clinging to a 2-1 lead, Avery turned in a monster shift to swing the game permanently in the home team’s favor. First, he hounded Flyers’ defenseman Ryan Parent into a turnover at center ice, leading to a scoring opportunity for Drury. Then, as the Flyers tried to regroup, he accepted a pass from Dan Girardi
on left wing, skated into the circle, and whipped his second goal of the game, and 10th of the season, past Philly netminder Michael Leighton at 14:05 of the final period.
“He was so focused,” Brandon Dubinsky
said of Avery. “Before the game started, he was ready to go. Right from the get-go he went out there and was physical, in your face, skating the way he can. I mean, he’s one of the best skaters in the league. And then he gets rewarded with two goals. He was great.”
It had been Avery, as well, who started a sequence which saw the Rangers turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead early in the second period with his first goal of the game.
Less than two minutes into the second period, Christensen won an offensive-zone face-off back to defenseman Wade Redden
. Patiently waiting for a screen to set up in front, Redden timed his wrist shot perfectly as Leighton was able to make the pad save, but was unable to control the rebound. Avery swooped in behind the Flyers’ defense and backhanded the puck into the cage at 1:53, tying the game 1-1.
“It was a big goal by Sean,” said Drury. “It tied it up and gave us some good momentum right from the start of the second. It was a big draw and a big goal.”
Three minutes later Michal Rozsival
scored on the power play to give the Rangers their first lead of the afternoon.
With Lukas Krajicek in the penalty box for cross-checking, Rozsival stepped into a Christensen pass and blasted a slap shot through Drury’s screen in front and into the back of the net at 4:54, putting the Rangers in front 2-1.
|Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival receives some enthusiastic congratulations from his teammates after scoring the eventual game-winner on a power play at 4:54 of the second period.
• MORE PHOTOS
“It’s a great feeling to contribute offensively,” said Rozsival, who has scored three goals this season. “It’s not something I’ve done so much this year, but I felt that I was open and I got a great pass from Christensen and I just shot it. The main thing is that there was a great screen in front of the net.”
Although they came close to increasing their lead several times in the middle stanza, the Rangers reached the second intermission holding their slim one-goal advantage. Leighton, the former Carolina Hurricanes backup who has replaced the injured Ray Emery as Philly’s No. 1 goalie, stopped 10 shots during a second period that was largely controlled by the home team.
At 11:42 of the second, Leighton made two terrific saves off a 2-on-2 Rangers’ rush. With Ryan Callahan
charging to the net, Drury fired a left-wing shot that Leighton denied with his left pad. Callahan hammered the rebound from point-blank range for what seemed to be a sure goal, if not for Leighton’s pad again.
Later, with three minutes remaining in the period, Avery sent Brandon Prust
in all alone with a perfect saucer pass from just outside the blueline. Prust cut to the net, but had his backhand shot smothered by Leighton.
That pass, along with the earlier goal, was just part of the complete arsenal Avery displayed on Sunday. Avery played a feisty, but controlled game, heading off for coincidental minors with Chris Pronger at 2:09 of the second, and then drawing a power play late in the period for the Rangers when he goaded Scott Hartnell into taking a roughing penalty.
“The thing about his game that I liked is that he let his play do the talking, and I think that’s very important,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Avery. “Sean needs to realize that he is a really good player and let his play do the talking.”
Avery was far from the only skater wearing the Blueshirt who played with passion and purpose. Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto
was a consistent physical presence and played a very smart game, as well, in his own end. Fellow defensemen Marc Staal
and Rozsival also played big minutes for the Rangers; and Callahan, Dubinsky, and Olli Jokinen delivered some of the biggest hits of the game.
Dubinsky drew a standing ovation from The Garden Faithful when he put a decisive beating on Flyers’ captain Mike Richards in their center-ice fight with 3:46 remaining in the game.
Philadelphia had the edge in the first period, scoring the only goal and outshooting the Rangers by a 7-4 margin. Danny Briere scored a power play goal just 4:13 into the contest, netting his 24th through a Hartnell screen in front.
Lundqvist was stout the remainder of the period and continued his strong play into the second. He particularly shined while robbing James Van Riemsdyk off a 2-on-1 Flyers’ break 13:19 into the middle stanza.
“That’s a good club we played, coming off a huge win for them,” said Tortorella. “I thought we stood in there in the physical part of the game, and played very well as a team. We can enjoy it and then get back to work for our next game against Montreal.”
That contest against the Montreal Canadiens will take place at The Garden on Tuesday night, the middle game of a three-game homestand for the Rangers which concludes on Thursday with a contest against the St. Louis Blues.
|Three star selections