Gaborik's milestone goal propels Rangers past Isles
|Rangers alternate captain Vinny Prospal exchanges some words with Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson during a meeting just outside the crease. Prospal, the game's No. 2 star, had a goal and an assist.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
’s 40th goal of the season helped lead the Rangers to an important 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Islanders on Tuesday night at the Nassau Coliseum.
Gaborik’s goal capped a three-goal outburst in the second period that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead. Vinny Prospal
, who had a goal and an assist on Tuesday, started the comeback for the Rangers in that second period with a goal slightly more than a minute into the session.
“It’s always good to score, but definitely to round it up to 40, it’s nice,” said Gaborik. “Now hopefully I can score a few more.”
After the Rangers had scored those three straight goals in the second period, Marc Staal
netted his sixth goal of the season 5:05 into the third to put the Rangers on top 4-2. Finishing off a nifty passing play by Prospal and PA Parenteau, Staal beat Isles goalie Dwayne Roloson from the bottom of the left circle with a quick wrist shot.
Uncharacteristically, the stoic Staal let out a loud yell and pumped his right fist in celebration, befitting the importance of his goal. His score proved to be vital, and turned out to be the game-winner, when the Islanders’ Blake Comeau snuck a shot past Henrik Lundqvist
with 6:33 left to play.
“I think it was just the game, it was such a big game and we are battling so hard to get into the playoffs,” Staal said of his celebration. “It felt really good to help the team out like that.”
The Rangers had erased an early 2-0 deficit with a spirited three-goal second stanza, featuring scores by the club’s top three veteran forwards, Gaborik, Prospal, and Olli Jokinen.
“We came in here (after the first period) and talked, obviously knew we had to play better,” Staal said. “There wasn’t any screaming or pointing fingers. It was calm because we knew what we needed to do. I thought coach (John Tortorella) came in and didn’t panic and told us things to help our game out.”
Prospal was the first to strike for the Rangers, putting the visitors on the scoreboard 1:14 into the second. Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto
sped into the offensive zone, forcing the Islanders to scramble and back up. Del Zotto then quickly fed Prospal on the left wing and his snap shot beat Roloson to the far side, cutting the Islanders’ lead to 2-1.
The goal was Prospal’s 18th of the season and first in eight games. The Rangers’ next goal would also be scored by a player snapping a long goal drought as Jokinen tied the game at 12:57 with his first goal in 15 games.
Jokinen turned in a determined one-man effort on the tying goal, stealing the puck in the slot from the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo while snapping Okposo’s stick in the process. Once in control of the puck, Jokinen turned and zipped a quick shot that sailed over Roloson’s glove and settled into the back of the net to pull the Rangers even 2-2.
Less than five minutes later, the Rangers grabbed their first lead of the night as Gaborik scored No. 40. Chris Drury
chipped a pass behind the Islanders net and Aaron Voros outmuscled his man to control the disc. Voros then slid a pass out into the low slot where Gaborik displayed tremendously quick hands by picking the puck out of his skates and firing it past a surprised Roloson with 2:45 remaining in the second period.
“It was a nice pass by AV there,” said Gaborik. “It was one of those goals where we had a great forecheck. These goals are big for us. So, of course, I was happy.”
The goal marked the second time that Gaborik has reached 40 goals in his NHL career. He netted a career-high 42 with the Minnesota Wild during the 2007-08 season. Gaborik became the first Rangers’ player to reach the 40-goal plateau since Jaromir Jagr scored 54 during the 2005-06 campaign.
As important as the goals scored by Prospal, Jokinen, and Gaborik for the Rangers was a huge penalty kill moments after the Rangers had scored their first goal. The Rangers -- with Drury, Brandon Dubinsky
, and Dan Girardi
on the ice the entire time -- killed off 1:02 worth of a two-man disadvantage to keep their deficit at one at the time.
Lundqvist, battling back from allowing two first-period goals, made two big stops during the Isles’ 5-on-3, setting the stage for the Rangers to rally later in the second.
With so much on the line, the Rangers still stumbled out of the gate, surrendering a goal on the game’s first shot and falling behind 2-0 twelve minutes into the game.
Assessed a bench minor penalty for having too many men on the ice, the Rangers were forced into an early penalty kill just 1:12 after the first puck had dropped. Less than a minute later the Rangers had allowed Mark Streit’s power-play goal and were faced with a 1-0 deficit after only 2:09 of game action.
The Islanders worked the puck quickly around the perimeter before Frans Nielsen slipped a pass to Streit, the power play quarterback, at the right point. With a screen set up in front Streit blasted a slap shot through the maze, beating Lundqvist to the glove side for his 11th goal of the season.
Exactly 10 minutes later, the Islanders doubled their lead. Taking advantage of a Rangers giveaway at the blueline, Comeau was sprung over the line on left wing. Comeau proceeded to fire a rising forehand shot from the circle that hit Lundqvist in the left shoulder and bounced over the goal line for his first of two goals on the night, giving the Isles a 2-0 lead at 12:09.
“They come out swinging here in this building,” Parenteau said of the Islanders. “We just stuck to our plan, though, we didn’t panic. It was such a good feeling to come back and such an important game for all the boys tonight.”
The score would remain that way through the end of the first period, with the Rangers managing only four shots on goal, including two good scoring chances for Gaborik that were denied by a sharp Roloson.
However, the Rangers found their footing in the second period and, despite a late scare, skated out of Long Island with a precious two points in the standings standings to keep pace with eighth-place Boston, which beat New Jersey 1-0 in overtime on Tuesday night. The Bruins face a very challenging schedule in their effort to fend off the Rangers, since Boston plays two of its remaining six games at Washington.
“The first period they were a few steps quicker than us,” said Gaborik. “Second period we came out stronger, were shooting. The big thing is that we scored some big goals there.”
The Rangers now head to the Sunshine State where they will skate against the Lightning in Tampa on Friday and then travel to south Florida to face the Panthers on Saturday.
|Three star selections