|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
|CBJ||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
Oct. 24, 2008
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Looking very comfortable playing in his former home, Nikolai Zherdev recorded a goal and two assists in his first game against the team that traded him away this past summer, as the Rangers defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 Friday night at Nationwide Arena.
Along with Zherdev’s big night, the Rangers received major contributions from Dan Girardi, who recorded a goal and an assist for his third two-point game of the season; Henrik Lundqvist, who made 25 saves, including several of the outstanding variety in the second and third periods after the Rangers had grabbed the lead; Markus Naslund, who had two assists; and the penalty killers, who killed off all six Columbus power plays.
With the win, the Rangers again took sole possession of first place in the overall NHL standings, snapping a brief two-game skid, in which they had one overtime loss and one regulation defeat. The victory was the Blueshirts’ first in Columbus since February of 2001.
The 23 year-old Zherdev, who was booed early in the match by the Blue Jackets fans, put an exclamation point on his night, and put the game out of reach, when he roofed a wicked backhand shot over the glove of goalie Pascal Leclaire and just under the crossbar to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead at 13:48 of the final period.
“He’s so skilled,” Lundqvist said of Zherdev. “Not only does he score big goals, but he’s a great passer. He’s been a great player for us this year, so far, and hopefully he can keep going.”
Trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes of play, the Rangers played a very strong second period, scoring twice to grab a 2-1 advantage after head coach Tom Renney suffered a freak injury behind the team’s bench.
While watching the play on the ice, Renney was knocked woozy when the stick of Columbus defenseman Rotislav Klesla accidentally hit him in the head as Klesla was trying to fight off a check in front of the Rangers bench. Clearly dazed, Renney was helped to the dressing room by trainer Jim Ramsey and two others to receive medical attention during the stoppage of play.
“I wasn’t great there for a while, but I feel good now,” Renney said after the game. “I was able to watch it in the locker room, and it was a good job by us.”
On the ensuing face off, the Rangers controlled the puck along the left-wing boards in the Blue Jackets zone, with Zherdev eventually drawing two Columbus forwards towards him. Zherdev then sent a neat pass to Girardi just inside the blue line, and Girardi sent a perfect shot through a Naslund screen and past Leclaire to tie the game 1-1 at the 8:33 mark of the middle period.
“I’ve been working real hard on that, getting shots through, not just throwing it off the boards or rimming it around the net,” said Girardi, who has seven points already this season. “I want to make sure that I make a good play every time.”
Less than four minutes later, while skating on a 4-on-3 power play, the Rangers scored again to take their first lead of the night. Again it was Zherdev picking up the primary assist as the ex-Blue Jacket winger sent a left-wing pass to Brandon Dubinsky, who was stationed in the low slot. Zherdev’s pass deflected off of Dubinsky’s skate and over the goal line. After a video review upheld the ruling by the officials on the ice, Dubinsky was credited with his fourth goal of the season at 12:11 of the second.
The remainder of the period featured a series of excellent saves by Lundqvist, including a cluster of down-low stops during a Columbus flurry late in the second, one that ended with Marc Staal flinging one Blue Jacket to the ice, and Colton Orr engaging Columbus’ Jason Chimera in coincidental roughing minor penalties.
“We can’t give enough praise to Henrik, he made some huge saves,” said defenseman Paul Mara. “Just knowing he’s back there really boosts our confidence.”
Prior to the head injury that kept him in the dressing room through the remainder of the game, Renney had shuffled two of his forward lines and two of his defense pairings. Up front, Renney moved Zherdev to the right side of Naslund and Chris Drury, while inserting another former Blue Jacket, Dan Fritsche, into the lineup at right wing on a line with Dubinsky and Aaron Voros.
On the backline, Renney broke up the Redden-Michal Rozsival pairing, moving Rozsival alongside Dmitri Kalinin and placing Girardi with Redden.
“I think from the get-go we played a really good road game,” said Lundqvist. “They got a lucky bounce on the first goal, but we just stuck to the game plan and created chances and finally got some goals.”
The Blue Jackets’ 19 year-old rookie, Jakub Voracek, scored the first goal of the game at the 13:42 mark of the opening period after taking advantage of a Rangers turnover at center ice. Kalinin could not control a bouncing puck at the red line, and Voracek swooped in to take the puck away and take off on a breakaway. Lundqvist kicked out his right pad to deny Voracek’s first shot, but the former first-round pick tucked the rebound inside the post to give Columbus the 1-0 lead.
Voracek’s goal was the only score for either team in a somewhat sleepy first period that featured defensive mindsets on both sides. The Rangers did have three power-play opportunities in the first, including 28 seconds of a two-man advantage early in the period, but failed to generate many chances, much less produce a goal.
During the 5-on-3, the Rangers produced their best scoring opportunity of the first stanza when Scott Gomez feathered a perfect pass to an on-rushing Drury, who drove a high shot on goal that Leclaire made a terrific save on.
With 33.3 seconds remaining in the first, the Rangers had another good scoring chance during a power play. Zherdev knocked over two Columbus players to create space in the offensive zone for defenseman Wade Redden, who sent a shot through a maze of players in front, though Leclaire made a solid glove save to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard.
The offensive pace picked up at the start of the second period, with both teams recording great scoring chances within the first two minutes. The Rangers nearly scored just 1:15 into the middle stanza when Gomez shoveled a rebound shot into the pads of Leclaire, even though the Columbus goalie was well out of position.
Less than a minute later, star Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash blocked Girardi’s shot from the right point, collected the puck, and skated in on a clear breakaway. As Redden chased from behind, Nash fired a hard forehand shot that Lundqvist denied with an excellent pad save.
“I was surprised he went low (with the shot) because he usually goes high with it,” explained Lundqvist. “It was pretty fast, but I got down low and got it.”
Their deficit still at one goal, the Rangers carried the momentum of the early scoring chance by Gomez and Lundqvist’s great save into a dominating second period that turned the game in the Rangers’ favor.
The Rangers are right back in action Saturday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden, the first meeting between the two rivals since the Pens ousted the Blueshirts from the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs last May.
|Jakub Voracek (3) ASST: Derick Brassard (4), Christian Backman (3)|
1 - 0 CBJ
|Dan Girardi (1) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (4), Markus Naslund (4)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Brandon Dubinsky (4) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (5), Dan Girardi (6)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Nikolay Zherdev (3) ASST: Chris Drury (2), Markus Naslund (5)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Rick Nash Hooking against Markus Naslund|
|Mike Commodore Slashing against Chris Drury|
|Dan Girardi Tripping against Andrew Murray|
|Scott Gomez Hi-sticking against Derek Dorsett|
|Rostislav Klesla Hi-sticking against Paul Mara|
|Manny Malhotra Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Colton Orr Holding against Marc Methot|
|R.J. Umberger Interference against Dan Girardi|
|Rick Nash Holding against Michal Rozsival|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Jason Chimera|
|Marc Staal Roughing against Derick Brassard|
|Jason Chimera Roughing against Marc Staal|
|Marc Staal Boarding against Derek Dorsett|
|Michael Peca Hi stick - double minor against Dmitri Kalinin|
|Paul Mara Tripping against Manny Malhotra|
|SA: 26||TOI: 59:57|
|Saves: 25||EV: 16 - 17|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .962||SH: 4 - 4|
|SA: 32||TOI: 58:50|
|Saves: 29||EV: 18 - 20|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 9|
|SV%: .906||SH: 3 - 3|