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Oct. 13, 2008
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Ranger fans witnessed something Monday night at Madison Square Garden that had taken place only one other time in the club’s long history. In defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-1, the Rangers won their fifth consecutive game to open up the season, equaling the 1983-84 squad for the best start in franchise history.
Aaron Voros recorded the first two-goal and first three-point game of his NHL career, while also scoring the first two power play goals of his career. Voros’ linemate, Brandon Dubinsky, added a goal and two assists for his second three-point game already this season; while defenseman Dan Girardi notched his second consecutive two-point game for the Blueshirts.
The Rangers will try to establish a new franchise record for most wins at the start of the season when they go for their sixth straight on Wednesday night at MSG against the Buffalo Sabres.
“We always get so excited about playing New Jersey because they are just a very good team, very detail-oriented, and play the game well,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “This is one of those games where you could really measure our team in lots of different ways, and probably project what we could be in the long run.”
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist continued his dominance over the Devils, improving to 13-2-4 lifetime against New Jersey, by turning in a 26-save performance.
“To start the season 5-and-oh, we didn’t expect that,” said Lundqvist. “But on the trip (to Europe) we knew we had a really good group here, and that we understand what we need to do out there on the ice. And all four lines are playing the same way, with the same commitment, which is very important.”
There were heroes aplenty for the Rangers on Monday night. Colton Orr was an intimidating, hard-hitting presence on the ice. Ryan Callahan was tenacious on the puck all evening. And Wade Redden played courageously, clearly a target of the aggressive New Jersey forecheckers.
In addition, the Rangers’ special teams continued to shine. The power play scored twice in four opportunities, while the penalty kill remained perfect on the season, killing off all three Devils man advantages. The Blueshirts are now perfect in 21 times shorthanded this season.
“We haven’t played every game perfect,” said Dubinsky of the team’s 5-0-0 start. “But the big thing is that we have 23 guys on this team that care deeply about winning and care about each other and are willing to go out and put it on the line every night. And different guys are stepping up every night.”
Prior to the start of the game, the two teams observed a moment of silence in remembrance of 19 year-old Rangers’ prospect Alexei Cherepanov, who shockingly died during a KHL game in Russia earlier in the day. Cherepanov was New York’s first round selection in the 2007 NHL entry draft and was considered to be one of the game’s true up-and-coming talents.
“The moment of silence was very fitting, obviously,” said Renney. “On the bench we just made a reference to the honorable thing to do tonight would be to just work real hard for this young fella.”
The announcement prior to the game had a sobering effect on the sold-out crowd; but after the National Anthem was performed by John Amirante, The Garden Faithful were able to muster a mighty “Let’s Go Rangers!” chant in an attempt to provide extra energy to the solemn Blueshirts. And 30 seconds into the match, the fans serenaded Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with the sarcastic “Mar-ty! Mar-ty!” chants.
An arena full of that chorus would erupt later in the period when Brodeur muffed Dubinsky’s left-wing shot, letting it carom off his glove and over the goal line for the first goal of the game at the 13:30 mark of the opening period.
Voros had fed Dubinsky with a pass near the top of the left wing circle in the Devils zone, and the Rangers’ sophomore center fired a shot that may have deflected off a stick on the way towards the net. Brodeur awkwardly reached out his gloved hand and misplayed the puck into the net to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
That it was Dubinsky’s line, with Voros and Nikolai Zherdev, which scored the first goal of the night did not come as a surprise because in a hard-hitting, tight-checking contest, that threesome was the hardest working and most successful forward combination for either team. In the first period, the Dubinsky line, playing with a winning combination of finesse and grit, accounted for five of the Rangers’ 11 shots on goal.
That particular unit struck again to give the Rangers a 2-0 advantage at 6:37 of the second period, prompting more catcalls for Brodeur and thunderous applause for the home team. Skating on the power play, the Rangers controlled the puck in the Devils zone, with Girardi blasting a pair of shots from the right point, as Voros positioned himself right in front of Brodeur and just outside the blue paint.
Girardi’s first shot was blocked near the goal, but Dubinsky chased down the rebound and fed the puck back to Girardi, who once again slapped a shot towards Brodeur. This time Voros, with his back to the cage, expertly deflected the puck into the back of the net for his second goal of the young season, doubling the Rangers’ lead.
“I like to think I have the easiest job out there, just go to the net and let the other guys do the work,” Voros said. “True, it’s work down in the trenches, but it’s a fun job. I have a passion for going to the net.”
The star for the remainder of the second period clearly was Lundqvist, who made at least four sensational saves on point-blank shots by the Devils. At the 14:30 mark of the second, Lundqvist denied John Madden’s spinning turn-around blast from 15 feet out; and 45 seconds later he was perfectly positioned to keep Brian Gionta’s quick 10-foot backhander out of the cage.
With the clock winding down to less than two minutes remaining in the middle stanza, Lundqvist made two sparkling, diving saves on Jay Pandolfo’s jam shots. However, the Rangers could not clear the puck after Lundqvist’s second stellar save, and Madden was able to collect the rebound and shuffle it into the net for his first goal of the season, cutting the Rangers lead to 2-1 at 18:12 of the second period.
Considering the fact that the Rangers and Devils played one another eight times last season and all eight games were decided by two goals or less, including five one-goal contests, it was not surprising to see these two rivals heading into the third period with a one-goal differential on the scoreboard.
But that one goal difference was short-lived, as the Rangers would receive another power play goal from Voros just 1:39 into the final stanza to boost their advantage to 3-1. Once again it was Dubinsky playing a major role in the Rangers’ goal. He first won a battle with Madden for a loose puck along the right wing boards in New Jersey’s zone, and then sent a quick pass back to a waiting Girardi at the right point. Girardi swung a pass to his left, where Mara stepped into a hard slap shot which was deflected in front by Voros and past Brodeur.
“When we scouted him we saw a greasy player who would work hard and go to the difficult areas to score goals,” Renney said of Voros, whom the Rangers inked as a free agent this past summer. “We got him for a reason, and I think he is doing exactly what we’ve asked him to do.”
Lundqvist made sure that the lead remained a deuce when he robbed Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner on a spinning deflection 7:24 into the third.
Callahan closed out the scoring by potting an empty-netter off an unselfish feed from Dubinsky at 19:02 of the third.
The Rangers will try and make it a record-setting night on Wednesday when they host the Sabres at MSG -- the start of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch that includes a battle Friday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs and clash with the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday.
|Brandon Dubinsky (3) ASST: Aaron Voros (4), Nikolay Zherdev (3)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Aaron Voros (2) ASST: Dan Girardi (4), Brandon Dubinsky (3)|
2 - 0 NYR
|John Madden (1) ASST: Jay Pandolfo (1), Zach Parise (1)|
2 - 1 NYR
|PPG - Aaron Voros (3) ASST: Paul Mara (2), Dan Girardi (5)|
3 - 1 NYR
|EN - Ryan Callahan (1) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (4)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Aaron Voros Interference - Goalkeeper against Martin Brodeur|
|Patrik Elias Roughing against Paul Mara|
|Paul Mara Roughing against Patrik Elias|
|Brian Rolston Hooking against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Dmitri Kalinin Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Johnny Oduya Interference against Ryan Callahan|
|Aaron Voros Slashing against David Clarkson|
|Bryce Salvador Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Colin White Hi-sticking against Aaron Voros|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Roughing against Chris Drury|
|Chris Drury Roughing against Jamie Langenbrunner|
|SA: 23||TOI: 58:34|
|Saves: 20||EV: 16 - 17|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 6|
|SV%: .870||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 27||TOI: 59:57|
|Saves: 26||EV: 20 - 21|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .963||SH: 1 - 1|