|CHI||1||0||1||(0 - 0)||2|
|NYR||1||2||1||(0 - 0)||4|
Oct. 10, 2008
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Brandon Dubinsky recorded three points, and four different players scored goals, as the Rangers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 in the Blueshirts’ 2008-09 home opener Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
With the victory, the Rangers are a perfect 3-0-0 on the season, marking the first time since the 1989-90 campaign that the Blueshirts had won the first three games of their season. They also established the early lead in the overall NHL standings as the first team to reach six points.
Dubinsky and his linemates, Aaron Voros and Nikolai Zherdev, accounted for three goals and seven points on the night. Voros and Zherdev joined Wade Redden as Blueshirts who scored goals in their home Garden debuts on Friday.
“I certainly liked that line tonight, as I’m sure every Rangers fan did,” Rangers head coach Tom Renney said of the threesome centered by Dubinsky. “You could see that with the sum of their parts they could play as they did tonight, and it came together nicely.”
Henrik Lundqvist finished with 30 saves for the Rangers, who never trailed in the match.
“It’s real important for the new guys to feel as comfortable as soon as possible,” noted Lundqvist. “When they are playing like this, it’s a lot easier to get comfortable. And it’s great to see that all of the guys are working really hard to get into the new system and get the wins early on.”
The Garden was full of energy and anticipation during pregame warm ups and the opening night festivities, which included Chris Drury’s introduction as the 25th captain in franchise history. The ceremonial puck drop featured three Ranger legends -- Harry Howell, Andy Bathgate, and Adam Graves -- taking part; and John Amirante brought the crowd to a fever pitch with his powerful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.
“It was a great feeling to skate out there before the game,” said Lundqvist. “You work hard a lot of days during the summer, but when you experience this at The Garden, it’s a great feeling.”
Once the game was finally under way, the Rangers fed off the energy in the building, and created several early scoring chances. Rookie center Lauri Korpikoski best exemplified the team’s aggressive hustle at the start of the match when he dove through the blue paint while attempting to reach the rebound of a Voros slap shot 1:39 into the game.
Three minutes later, Redden sent Scott Gomez flying over the blueline with a perfect head-man pass on left wing. Gomez made one move against the Chicago defenseman and snapped a rising shot on net that was gloved by goaltender Cristobal Huet.
Ryan Callahan then brought the fans to their collective feet by engaging Chicago’s Colin Fraser in a fight at the 4:01 mark of the first, finishing the scrap off by tossing Fraser to the ice and landing on top of him.
The Rangers broke through and scored the first goal of the game at 6:47 of the first period when Redden hammered in the long rebound of a Drury shot. Drury sent his shot on goal from right wing, and Huet kicked the puck out with his right pad. However, the long rebound came right to Redden, who was cruising in on left wing, and the defenseman quickly snapped his second goal of the young season past the lunging ‘Hawks goalie.
Chicago picked up its play after Redden’s goal, and the Blackhawks forced the Rangers into several giveaways, creating a few odd-man scoring opportunities. But Lundqvist made some big saves, including a terrific pad stop on Patrick Sharp’s 2-on-1 redirection at 10:17 of the first, and the Blackhawks sent at least three other such scoring chances wide of the net.
Last season’s NHL rookie-of-the-year, Patrick Kane, however, was able to pull Chicago even with his first goal of the season at 17:18 of the opening period. Defenseman Brian Campbell, a key off-season pick up by the ‘Hawks, created the scoring play by rushing the puck the entire length of the ice on left wing, before firing a shot off the side of the net. The puck caromed to Kane, who sent a one-timer between Lundqvist’s pads to tie the game 1-1.
That score held up to the first intermission as the two teams skated off the ice after an evenly-played opening period. New York outshot Chicago 10-8 in the first twenty minutes of action.
The Rangers regained the lead 5:15 into the second, and, again, it was a newcomer to New York who scored the goal. After forechecking tenaciously deep in the Blackhawks zone, Voros pounced on a giveaway in the slot created by Dubinsky and Zherdev, and wristed a shot past the glove of Huet and into the back of the cage to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
“People will learn that we are a hard-working team, and that is going to be our identity,” said Voros, who is now 1-2-3 in his first three games as a Ranger. “We have a lot of talent, too, and this talent works. This is going to be a fun team to watch and play with.”
Buoyed by scoring the go-ahead goal, the line of Dubinsky, Voros, and Zherdev applied offensive pressure their next several shifts, with several solid scoring chances created by the threesome who were playing on the same line for the first time this season.
And at 15:36 that line struck again to give the Rangers a 3-1 advantage. Grabbing a loose puck at center ice, Dubinsky shed one defenseman, and then beat another, Brent Sopel, up ice. Dubinsky then blasted a shot between Huet’s pads for his second goal of the season as The Garden erupted in a deafening roar.
Huet was tested several times more before the period was over, including a laser of a slap shot by Blair Betts that seemed ticketed for the back of the net with a couple of minutes remaining, but he kept the deficit at two for Chicago.
That fact became even more important when Chicago scored at 7:14 of the third period, cutting the Rangers’ lead to 3-2. After a sustained shift in the Blueshirts’ end of the ice, Chicago’s Duncan Keith fired a shot past Lundqvist, bringing the ‘Hawks back into the game.
However, the line of Dubinsky, Voros, and Zherdev would strike again two minutes later to up the Rangers lead to 4-2. Dubinsky and Voros combined to take the puck away at the ‘Hawks blueline, with Voros then feeding Zherdev with a pass on right wing. Zherdev let a wicked shot fly towards the net, beating Huet to the glove side for his first goal as a Ranger at the 9:33 mark of the third.
“I think it’s important for all of us, not just the new guys, to get off to a good start,” noted Drury. “Three-and-oh is nice, but obviously we have a big test (Saturday) in Philly, and we need to be ready.”
The Rangers and Flyers will renew their hostilities Saturday at the Wachovia Center, the Blueshirts’ first match of this season against an Atlantic Division rival. Last year the Rangers were 3-3-2 against the Flyers, winning three of the four games played in Philly.
Stephen Valiquette started three of the four contests played at Wachovia Center, and earned wins in two of those games, while losing in the shootout the other time. Renney would not state whether or not Valiquette would make his’08-’09 debut in goal Saturday or if Lundqvist, who has surrendered only four goals in the season’s first three games would once again get the nod.
“Saturday is going to be another challenge,” stated Dubinsky. “We’re going to have to take the good things we did tonight and bring it with us against a good team. They’re going to be prepared. It’s their home opener, and like we were tonight, they’re going to be excited. So we just have to be ready to go.”
|Wade Redden (2) ASST: Chris Drury (1), Markus Naslund (2)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Patrick Kane (1) ASST: Brian Campbell (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Aaron Voros (1) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (1), Nikolay Zherdev (1)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Brandon Dubinsky (2) ASST: NONE|
3 - 1 NYR
|Duncan Keith (1) ASST: Dustin Byfuglien (1), Patrick Sharp (1)|
3 - 2 NYR
|Nikolay Zherdev (1) ASST: Aaron Voros (2), Brandon Dubinsky (2)|
4 - 2 NYR
|Lauri Korpikoski Hooking against Jack Skille|
|Ryan Callahan Fighting (maj) against Colin Fraser|
|Colin Fraser Fighting (maj) against Ryan Callahan|
|Colin Fraser Tripping against Chris Drury|
|Andrew Ladd Tripping against Michal Rozsival|
|Jack Skille Fighting (maj) against Paul Mara|
|Paul Mara Fighting (maj) against Jack Skille|
|Scott Gomez Tripping against Duncan Keith|
|Wade Redden Interference against Kris Versteeg|
|Andrew Ladd Slashing against Blair Betts|
|SA: 29||TOI: 59:34|
|Saves: 25||EV: 18 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .862||SH: 2 - 2|
|SA: 32||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 30||EV: 26 - 28|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .938||SH: 2 - 2|