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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Rookie goaltender Chad Johnson earned his first victory in the National Hockey League, and Marian Gaborik scored three times, as the Rangers snapped a five-game losing streak with an impressive 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Sunday night.
Johnson started for the second straight night in the place of No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist who has been felled by a virus. The 23-year-old Johnson, who made 21 saves in a 3-2 loss in Phoenix on Saturday, stopped 34 of 35 shots Sunday to earn his first NHL win in while appearing in his fifth game. He made 17 of his saves on Sunday in the third period.
“You could just sense he was going to play well,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “A young guy in this situation, not expecting to play, comes through like this. And the team played well as a team defensively for most of the game. They ramped it up against us in the third period, but that’s where Johnny stood tall.”
Johnson lost his bid for a shutout with 7:21 remaining in the contest. With the Rangers leading 3-0, the Avalanche put forth a dominating shift in the offensive zone, pinning the Rangers for an extended period in their own end. Cody McLeod finally nudged a rebound past Johnson after the rookie had made a series of strong saves.
“For me, the more I play, the better I am in back-to-back games,” said Johnson. “I felt good tonight. And the guys battled hard in front of me. The D played so well, and the forwards blocked a lot of shots, which was awesome. I just wanted to be steady back there and give the team a chance to win.”
Gaborik scored one goal in all three periods, and had numerous other good scoring chances throughout the contest. Perhaps energized by his 30th goal one night earlier in Phoenix, Gaborik seemed to snap out of his recent offensive doldrums in which he had scored just twice in the previous 11 games.
“You could tell his first two shifts he was skating,” Tortorella said of Gaborik. “You could tell he was ready to skate tonight. Obviously he was a big part of us winning the game.”
With 6:07 to go in the first period Gaborik opened the scoring, using defenseman Ryan Wilson as a screen as he unleashed a wicked wrist shot from just inside the blueline. Gaborik actually fired the puck between Wilson’s legs and beat Avs goalie Craig Anderson to the stick side to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
“You feel better playing with the lead, and we haven’t had the lead in too many games,” said Gaborik. “When you get that first goal you feel more comfortable and more confident. So it was a huge moment.”
Gaborik doubled the Rangers’ advantage at 4:57 of the second period by finishing a great cycle of the puck in the offensive zone with Vinny Prospal and Marc Staal. Gaborik laid the puck off to Staal along the left-wing boards, and Staal carried the puck down low to Prospal. The veteran forward then sent a no-look backhand pass to Gaborik in front, and Gaborik beat Anderson to the short side for his second goal of the night.
A couple of minutes later Gaborik nearly scored his third goal, but his tricky left wing snap shot around a defenseman was kicked just wide by Anderson.
Gaborik finished off the hat trick at 9:17 of the third period, beating Anderson on a breakaway snap shot. The Rangers had just completed yet another successful penalty kill, and Prospal sprung Gaborik on left wing with a perfect head-man pass.
The hat trick was the 10th of Gaborik’s career, and first since he netted a career-high five goals as a member of the Minnesota Wild against the Rangers back on Dec. 20, 2007. With 33 goals on the season, Gaborik now ranks fourth in the NHL, just four behind Patrick Marleau, the league-leader with 37.
The last Rangers player to record a hat trick prior to Gaborik had been captain Chris Drury on Nov. 6, 2008, at MSG. Gaborik's achievement Sunday was also a rare "natural hat trick", since no other players scored between the Gaborik goals.
Following Gaborik’s lead of playing well in both ends of the ice, the Rangers dominated the Avalanche in the second period. Winning battles along the boards, blocking shots and passes in front of Johnson, and producing good offensive chances at the other end, the Rangers thoroughly controlled play over the middle 20 minutes, though they were unable to add to their 2-0 lead before intermission arrived.
So dominant were the Rangers that they did not allow the Avs to record a shot on goal until 4:27 remained in the period. The shot came during a Colorado power play and was followed by a pair of excellent chances down low for Paul Stastny that were denied by an alert and sprawling Johnson.
The Rangers survived that Colorado power play, and were a perfect 6-for-6 on the penalty kill Sunday night, one night after going 7-for-7 on the kill in Phoenix. Staal was a tower of strength on the PK for the Rangers, though contributions came from all members of the penalty killing unit.
The other part of the Rangers’ specialty teams did not fare as well on Sunday. The Rangers had six power-play chances, but were unable to score against the Avalanche, extending their recent struggles on the power play to no goals in 22 opportunities the past six games.
The Rangers actually were awarded a full two-minute two-man advantage just 1:13 into the game, an incredible opportunity to get on the scoreboard early in the contest. But the Rangers could find a way to score, and Ryan Callahan’s hooking penalty at 2:53 negated the final 20 seconds of the two-man advantage.
“Overall I thought we played a good game,” said Gaborik. “The most important thing is that we got the two points. It’s a huge boost of confidence for this team.”
Having split the first two games of their three-game road trip, the Rangers finish their trek to the west with a tilt against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night before returning back home for a big match against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
|Marian Gaborik (31) ASST: Sean Avery (15), Artem Anisimov (9)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Marian Gaborik (32) ASST: Vinny Prospal (29), Marc Staal (15)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Marian Gaborik (33) ASST: Vinny Prospal (30), Marc Staal (16)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Cody McLeod (6) ASST: Kyle Quincey (17), Justin Mercier (1)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Kyle Cumiskey Hooking against Sean Avery|
|Craig Anderson Tripping against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Ryan Callahan Hooking against Scott Hannan|
|Brandon Yip Interference against Ryan Callahan|
|Aaron Voros Interference against Scott Hannan|
|Cody McLeod Fighting (maj) against Aaron Voros|
|Aaron Voros Fighting (maj) against Cody McLeod|
|Marian Gaborik Interference against Wojtek Wolski|
|Wojtek Wolski Holding against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Chris Durno Hooking against Marian Gaborik|
|Sean Avery Tripping against Ryan O'Reilly|
|Marian Gaborik Hooking against Paul Stastny|
|Vinny Prospal Delay of game|
|Paul Stastny Tripping against Ryan Callahan|
|SA: 35||TOI: 59:45|
|Saves: 34||EV: 29 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .971||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 34||TOI: 58:51|
|Saves: 31||EV: 19 - 22|
|PIM: 2||PP: 7 - 7|
|SV%: .912||SH: 5 - 5|