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• GAME PHOTOS
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Vinny Prospal recorded three points as the Rangers secured their sixth consecutive victory -- buoyed by yet another clutch third-period goal -- in defeating the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The six-game winning streak is the Rangers’ longest since they won seven in a row in the winter of 2006. The Rangers, who are now 6-1-0 to start the 2009-10 season, have won all four games they have played at The Garden so far, and they remain tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place overall in the entire NHL.
“Good teams win these types of games,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “And we did, so that’s a good sign.”
The Kings had entered play on a four-game winning streak. They played a very strong game, outshooting New York 36-21, but could not find a way to secure their fifth straight victory.
“They’re a quick team, they pass the puck well, and we were a step behind in every facet of the game,” Tortorella said of the Kings. “But we still found a way to win.”
Wednesday’s third-period hero was Marian Gaborik, who unleashed a wicked snap shot from the left circle to beat Kings goalie Erik Ersberg glove-side to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead at 4:22. Prospal’s perfect head-man pass out of the Rangers’ zone -- up left wing to Gaborik -- set the scoring play in motion. And Gaborik finished it off with his league-high-tying sixth goal of the season.
“That goal today was just world-class, and it came at the right time,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “That’s what world-class players do. They step up at the right time.”
Two-and-a-half minutes after Gaborik’s clutch score, the Rangers’ penalty-killers were put to work to preserve the two-goal lead. Marc Staal was whistled for cross-checking at the seven-minute mark, but strong play by Gaborik and his fellow penalty killers -- as well as a pair of big-time saves by Lundqvist -- held the Kings at bay.
Lundqvist turned in a stellar performance in goal for the Rangers, finishing with 34 saves. The only goals he allowed both were scored on deflections.
“It was a fun game for me to play because there was a lot of action,” Lundqvist said. “You can’t expect it to be easy every night. It’s fun to play different kinds of games. Sometimes when it’s not working 100 percent, the challenge is greater, and it’s fun, too.”
The Rangers killed off another Kings power play with 5:53 remaining in the game. All told, the Blueshirts were successful on six of their seven penalty kills on Wednesday night.
The game got off to a fast start, with the Rangers scoring after only 3:11 worth of play, and the Kings responding with a goal of their own a minute later.
Skating on the power play, with Raitis Ivanans in the penalty box for holding, the Rangers worked the puck confidently through the offensive zone. Eventually Ales Kotalik slid the puck to Michael Del Zotto, and the rookie defenseman cranked a slap shot towards the net from just inside the blueline. Prospal deflected Del Zotto’s shot past Ersberg for the 200th goal of his National Hockey League career, giving the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.
“It’s nice to get my personal milestones out of the way,” joked Prospal after the game. He had recorded his 600th career point earlier this season in a game against Ottawa, as well.
The Kings answered back, scoring on a deflection of their own at 4:21. Veteran winger Ryan Smyth slipped from behind the Rangers net into the low slot and redirected a shot from the left point past Lundqvist to tie the game 1-1.
“He is probably one of the best in the league at doing that,” Lundqvist said of Smyth. “That shot was going wide, but he turned the blade of his stick and deflected it on goal instead.”
A pair of penalties called against the Kings midway through the period helped the Rangers regain their one-goal advantage at the 13:03 mark of the first. First, Kings defenseman Peter Harrold was penalized for goaltender interference when he followed up his left-wing shot by barreling into Lundqvist chasing the rebound at 11:25. Then, fellow defenseman Matt Greene was whistled for tripping Enver Lisin during the Rangers power play at 12:27, handing the Blueshirts 58 seconds worth of a two-man advantage.
A very patient Prospal started the scoring play with five Rangers forwards on the ice by whipping a cross-crease pass to Ryan Callahan at the left post. Callahan chipped the shot off the side of the net, but he and Prospal continued to bang away at the loose puck, finally sending it off Ersberg and into the cage.
However, the apparent goal was initially waved off by the officials because one of the referees had blown his whistle. A long video review ensued, and it was determined that the puck had crossed the goal line before the whistle had blown. As such, Prospal was credited with his second goal of the night, and third of the season, to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead, an advantage they would carry into the second period.
“He’s a great player,” Gaborik said of Prospal, who has three goals, seven assists, and 10 points already this season. “He’s a great playmaker, works hard every shift. He has been a top player for many years.”
Just 2:17 into the middle stanza, Brian Boyle scored his first goal as a member of the Rangers to put the home team up 3-1. Boyle handled a Michal Rozsival pass on a rush over the Kings blueline, weaved to the left wing, and wristed a shot off the near post that caromed back over the goal line after banking off the back of Ersberg’s leg.
Not only was the goal special because it was Boyle’s first with his new team, it was even more special because it came against the team that had selected him in the first round of the 2003 draft and then traded him to the Rangers this past summer.
Boyle had said after practice on Tuesday that he would love to break through against his former club on Wednesday, and that is exactly what he did.
Immediately after Boyle’s goal, frustrated Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell began throwing punches at Aaron Voros, who was to Ersberg’s side when the shot went into the net. Voros and O’Donnell engaged in a spirited fight, one that might have energized O’Donnell’s Los Angeles teammates.
The Kings stormed back after Boyle’s goal, forcing Lundqvist into making a pair of sensational pad saves on Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown after that twosome had broken in behind the Rangers’ defense at 3:58. At the end of the play, Christopher Higgins was penalized for hooking Brown, simultaneously crashing into Lundqvist and knocking the netminder into the back of his own cage.
The Rangers survived the two-minute minor assessed to Higgins, due in large part to Gaborik who dominated the penalty kill and created two excellent scoring chances for himself at the same time.
However, the Rangers could not survive Boyle’s hooking penalty that followed at 5:53, and the Kings pulled to within 3-2. Michal Handzus perfectly redirected Johnson’s shot from straight away past Lundqvist for his third of the season.
That scored held up, despite several excellent scoring chances for Los Angeles, until Gaborik scored the big goal 4:22 into the third that restored the Blueshirts’ two-goal advantage.
“I thought Gaborik was our best player in all facets of the game,” said Tortorella.
Gaborik, who has now recorded at least one point in all seven games this season, led all forwards with 21:18 worth of ice-time, and was a major presence on the power play, the penalty kill, and at even strength.
Tortorella is giving his team a well-deserved day off on Thursday. And following a return to practice on Friday, the Rangers will head to Toronto to square off against the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
|PPG - Vinny Prospal (2) ASST: Michael Del Zotto (4), Ales Kotalik (3)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Ryan Smyth (5) ASST: Davis Drewiske (2), Justin Williams (5)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Vinny Prospal (3) ASST: Ryan Callahan (2), Ales Kotalik (4)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Brian Boyle (1) ASST: Michal Rozsival (2), Michael Del Zotto (5)|
3 - 1 NYR
|PPG - Michal Handzus (3) ASST: Jack Johnson (2), Alex Frolov (4)|
3 - 2 NYR
|Marian Gaborik (6) ASST: Vinny Prospal (7), Dan Girardi (2)|
4 - 2 NYR
|Raitis Ivanans Holding against Michal Rozsival|
|Dan Girardi Holding against Ryan Smyth|
|Peter Harrold Interference on goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Matt Greene Tripping against Enver Lisin|
|Sean O'Donnell Fighting (maj) against Aaron Voros|
|Aaron Voros Fighting (maj) against Sean O'Donnell|
|Chris Higgins Hooking against Dustin Brown|
|Brian Boyle Hooking against Alex Frolov|
|Marc Staal Elbowing against Justin Williams|
|Marc Staal Cross checking against Jarret Stoll|
|Dan Girardi Tripping against Ryan Smyth|
|Ales Kotalik Hi-sticking against Drew Doughty|
|SA: 21||TOI: 57:50|
|Saves: 17||EV: 13 - 15|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 3|
|SV%: .810||SH: 3 - 3|
|SA: 36||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 34||EV: 24 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 10 - 11|
|SV%: .944||SH: 0 - 0|