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|NJD||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Playing without injured star Scott Gomez, the Rangers exploded for four goals in the second period en route to a rousing 5-2 road victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
Michal Rozsival, Chris Drury, Lauri Korpikoski, and Nikolai Zherdev scored in a span of 8:05 in the middle stanza as the Rangers turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead. Zherdev added his second goal of the game at 9:51 of the third, after the Devils had pulled within a pair, to close out the scoring.
Gomez, who had been playing hurt as of late, missed his first game of the season with an unspecified injury. That didn’t receive much sympathy from his former Devils teammates, who played without the injured Martin Brodeur, Paul Martin, Brian Rolston, Bobby Holik, and Andy Greene.
“Scotty’s a significant player for us, so we had to circle the wagons to get it done tonight,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “And we understand the other side’s dilemma, as well, and we respect that. You have to battle through these types of things over the course of a hockey season, and we did that tonight.”
Former Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes started in place of Brodeur, who is sidelined three months after left biceps surgery. Weekes lasted just two periods before being pulled by coach Brent Sutter, after allowing four goals on 25 shots.
“There’s no extra significance in beating a former teammate,” said Renney. “I have said it before about these guys, it doesn’t matter who wears the jersey, they are a tough opponent to play.”
Henrik Lundqvist earned his 10th victory of the season for the Rangers, turning aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Lundqvist made his biggest save of the night 5:10 into the second, with the Rangers behind 1-0, when he stoned Dainus Zubrus from point-blank range. A couple of minutes later, the Rangers scored to tie the game, to further showcase what an important save Lundqvist had made.
“We have a little comfort zone knowing that we have a great record against this team,” Lundqvist said of the Rangers’ 9-0-1 regular-season mark -- including 2-0-0 this season -- against the Devils since the start of the 2007-08 campaign. “In the back of your head you think to keep going because you know we’ll find a way to beat this team.”
Trailing 1-0 after the first period, the Rangers exploded for four unanswered goals in the second to seize control of the match. Three of those came in a span of 2:08, beginning with Rozsival’s 5-on-3 power play goal at 7:45.
With Mike Rupp and Bryce Salvador both in the penalty box, the Rangers were able to tie the game at 1-1 when Rozsival accepted a cross-ice pass from Paul Mara and blasted a slap shot from left wing that beat Weekes, but hit the post, before then ricocheting off the goalie’s skate and back over the goal line for Rozsival’s second goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later, at the 9:00 mark, Weekes made a sensational right-pad save on Markus Naslund’s put-back attempt from eight feet out. However, at 9:24 Drury skated swiftly into the Devils zone and ripped a laser from the right circle under the right arm of Weekes to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The goal was Drury’s team-leading seventh of the season, and fifth in the past four games.
“Momentum is such a funny thing,” stated Drury. “When you have it, you feel like you can do anything. When the other team has it, you feel like you can’t do anything. Obviously it’s a lot better when you have it, like tonight.”
Dan Fritsche, who was acquired by the Rangers from Columbus prior to the start of the season, recorded his first point as a Ranger, earning the lead assist on Drury’s goal with a neat head-man pass. Fritsche did not have to wait so long to earn his second point with his new club.
Just 29 seconds after Drury’s score, Fritsche made a terrific pass from behind the net out to Korpikoski, who was skating into the high slot. The rookie centerman unleashed a wicked one-timer that beat Weekes to his glove side, upping the Rangers lead to 3-1. The goal was the first regular season score for Korpikoski, who also scored in his NHL debut in Game 5 of last spring’s Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I thought our line played an all-around great game, with Nigel (Dawes) and Lauri,” said Fritsche. “I have confidence in myself, and it’s up to me to go out there and prove myself, like I did tonight.”
Granted their second 5-on-3 power play of the period, the Rangers again cashed in when Zherdev hammered his sixth of the season past Weekes on a rebound at 15:50. Wade Redden took the original shot -- a blast from the right point through a Drury screen -- and Zherdev collected the rebound at the bottom of the left circle, snapping the puck into the back of the net.
When the second-period carnage was complete, the Rangers had taken 20 shots in the middle stanza and allowed only eight, with Weekes pulled in favor of Scott Clemmensen after 40 minutes. Most importantly, they had forged a 4-1 lead in front of a split crowd at The Rock.
And they had done so without Gomez, their top center and second leading scorer.
Gomez’s absence meant that Rangers head coach Tom Renney had to juggle his forward line combinations, while also inserting Dawes back into the lineup after being scratched Monday night against Edmonton.
Drury moved in between Naslund and Ryan Callahan -- which had been Gomez’s recent spot -- and Korpikoski centered a line between Dawes and Fritsche. The other two forward lines remained intact.
New Jersey’s Travis Zajac was in perfect position to score the only goal of the first period, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead. Zajac skated behind the Rangers defense and had Mike Motteau’s slap shot from the left point hit him on the side of his body. The puck fell right to his stick, and Zajac fired the puck behind a scrambling Lundqvist for his second goal of the season.
As the Devils celebrated and the red light flashed, Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky jumped on New Jersey’s Zach Parise behind the net to defend teammate Dan Girardi, who was cross checked in the back and sent flying towards the iron of the cage by Parise as Zajac was scoring his goal. Soon all 10 skaters -- minus the two goalies -- were in a huge pile behind the Rangers goal, though only Dubinsky was issued a penalty.
“That was a good play by Dubi because their guy got ours from behind into the end boards,” said Drury. “That was just Dubi sticking up for his teammate, and it was the right thing to do. We’ll kill that penalty any time.”
The Rangers killed that man-disadvantage, with Lundqvist making one very good left-pad save on a David Clarkson rebound attempt from in tight late in the power play. However, the Rangers could not build any momentum, either from Dubinsky’s spirited play or from the successful penalty kill.
The Devils played a very strong defensive first period and outshot the Rangers 13-5 in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Rangers, though, turned the tide in the second period, picking up their overall game after killing off another penalty -- this one to Colton Orr -- and then receiving a two-man advantage of their own at the 6:18 mark of the middle stanza. That opened up the four-goal barrage which essentially put the game away for the Rangers before the second period was even complete.
Now the Rangers will try and carry some of the momentum built up from Wednesday night’s match into their next contest, Saturday night at home against the Boston Bruins.
|Travis Zajac (2) ASST: Mike Mottau (5), Zach Parise (6)|
1 - 0 NJD
|PPG - Michal Rozsival (2) ASST: Paul Mara (6), Nigel Dawes (2)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Chris Drury (7) ASST: Dan Fritsche (1), Dan Girardi (11)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Lauri Korpikoski (1) ASST: Dan Fritsche (2), Dan Girardi (12)|
3 - 1 NYR
|PPG - Nikolay Zherdev (6) ASST: Chris Drury (4), Wade Redden (5)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Zach Parise (12) ASST: Jamie Langenbrunner (4), Anssi Salmela (1)|
4 - 2 NYR
|Nikolay Zherdev (7) ASST: Wade Redden (6)|
5 - 2 NYR
|Brandon Dubinsky Roughing against Mike Mottau|
|Colin White Roughing against Colton Orr|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Colin White|
|Colton Orr Hi-sticking against Colin White|
|Mike Rupp Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|Bryce Salvador Cross checking against Ryan Callahan|
|Jamie Langenbrunner Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|Patrik Elias Hooking against Markus Naslund|
|Brandon Dubinsky Fighting (maj) against Dainius Zubrus|
|Dainius Zubrus Fighting (maj) against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Dainius Zubrus Game misconduct|
|Colton Orr Misconduct (10 min)|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Dainius Zubrus|
|Zach Parise Hooking against Marc Staal|
|Mike Rupp Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Brandon Dubinsky Slashing against Anssi Salmela|