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• Game Notes
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers pack up their scoring machine and head out on the road for two very important Eastern Conference matches this week, beginning with a tilt this evening against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center.
In their previous two games, both played at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers totaled 14 goals in beating the Montreal Canadiens 6-2 on Sunday and the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-2 on Tuesday. It marked only the third and fourth times this season that the club has tallied more than five goals in a game. And the eight goals on Tuesday was a team season high – the most goals scored by a Blueshirts squad in nearly eight years.
“It’s funny, just as we’re getting beat down for not scoring goals it seems like guys have found their groove and the chemistry is starting to come together,” said winger Aaron Voros, who scored his first goal of the season in Tuesday’s victory. “Hopefully we can keep it going. We have to take this in stride and go to Philly and play hard.”
Voros’ point is well taken. Prior to the recent explosion of goals, the Rangers had netted just one during a three-game winless skid (0-2-1), and five over a five-game span.
But when the goals started coming for the Rangers, there was no end in sight. Three goals in each of the second and third periods against Montreal. Three more in the first and third periods against Tampa Bay. And another pair in the middle 20 minutes against the Lightning.
Fourteen goals in not just two games, but over five periods of play.
“In the past we took a lot of shots, but now we are getting more quality chances,” said Marian Gaborik, who leads the team with 29 goals. “We are playing good defensively, and then we are creating two-on-ones and three-on-twos, which helps. We are driving to the net. Let’s just hope we can keep it up and keep scoring like this.”
Impressively, eight different Rangers scored a goal on Tuesday, and 16 of the 18 skaters recorded at least one point. Dating back to Sunday’s game,10 different Rangers have accounted for the 14 goals scored.
“I am not going to stand up here and tell you I have an explanation for why we’ve been scoring goals here,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “It’s a good thing, and we’re going to just try and continue to play our game.”
Perhaps just as important as their scoring output the last two games has been the grit, passion, and intensity the team has shown on the ice. The Rangers have physically manhandled their last two opponents, and the club’s fourth line has earned more playing time because of its success in this area.
Brian Boyle, Sean Avery, and Voros have provided the Rangers a definite lift with their impassioned play the last few games. Voros, in particular, was lauded by his coach and teammates after Tuesday’s game for his two fights, tenacity on the forecheck, and power play goal.
“He’s been working his butt off the whole year, it’s unbelievable how hard he works,” Boyle said of Voros, who at one point was a healthy scratch in 18 of 20 games. “His demeanor hasn’t changed at all. He stays positive. It’s great to see that. Everyone loves him on this team.”
Following Tuesday’s game, Voros wore both a cut above his eye -- suffered in his fight with Ryan Malone -- and a distinct smile on his face.
“I feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to be back in the lineup and contribute a little more,” said Voros. “My linemates -- Brian and Sean -- and I have a good thing going, but we just have to be consistent. We’re the type of line that can end up with nothing on the scoresheet, but have a factor on the outcome of the game.”
Certainly the fourth line -- as well as the likes of the hard-hitting, aggressive forechecking Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky among others -- will need to be ready to play a gritty game this evening. The Flyers are a very physical team, and, like the Rangers, are in desperate need of points in the standings.
The Flyers enter play with 51 points, one shy of the last playoff spot in the East. They trail the Rangers, who currently sit in sixth place, by four points. That fact just adds more fuel to the already sizzling fire that is the rivalry between these two Atlantic Division foes.
Philly is coming off a 5-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game that saw Jeff Carter score twice and finish with three points for the Flyers. Carter and team captain Mike Richards lead the Flyers, who have won five of seven, with 19 goals apiece.
Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for the Rangers, looking to continue his recent string of excellence. Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 straight contests.
Following the game in Philly, the Rangers travel to Montreal on Saturday to face a Canadiens team bent on revenge for last Sunday’s embarrassing loss at The Garden.
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