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Gaborik steals show from Ovechkin thumbnail

Gaborik steals show from Ovechkin

October 8, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments

All the talk centered around the Great  8 entering tonight’s playoff rematch against the Capitals. Apparently, somebody forgot to let Marian Gaborik know.

In his fourth game as a Ranger, the Big Ticket continued to impress, tallying twice midway thru the third to lift his team to a well deserved 4-3 win over a scoreless Alexander Ovechkin at Verizon Center. R-E-P-E-A-T. Alex The Great had no points against a team he owns. This after putting up nine in the first three of the new season.

Impressive for any team to keep the game’s best player off the score sheet. Especially with him registering nine shots which Henrik Lundqvist stopped. But it was the one he didn’t that almost cost a focused team that outplayed one of the Stanley Cup favorites. If not for all the penalties, the Rangers were the superior team at even strength, exposing the Caps with their new speedy forecheck. Of the four games thus far, this was the best they looked with all four lines contributing to a third straight victory that should get some attention.

What also has to open eyes is that as predicted, John Tortorella didn’t wait to send a message. This time, it wasn’t a tirade waking up his team after 84 seconds. It was who didn’t see the ice the entire third period. Finally, the turnover prone Michal Rozsival (8:22) stayed seated where he belongs with the more demanding Ranger coach shortening the D to five with the rest picking it up to come out with their first win in the nation’s cap since February 2007. Matt Gilroy was impressive and Mike Del Zotto continued to improve enough for Tortorella to play the kids. Oh btw…Wade Redden had a great game, even taking a double hit to make a play while staying in as Rozsival watched. Remember how out of place he looked last year paired with Rozy? Not anymore. Now that he’s got a real partner in Gilroy, Tinman’s finally pulling his weight making smart puck decisions. He looks like a different player.

If the message can get through, then what about our $5 million albatross? Is he on the way out? We’ll have a better idea this weekend. As for tonight, Rozsival again was shaky, turning over the puck which led to Alex Semin tallying 9:18 in. The Rangers never recovered with both Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov allowing Semin to slip behind and bury a great Brian Pothier cross-ice feed. Till that point, they’d played the Caps even but had nothing to show for it. Part of the reason was Jose Theodore, who made at least three or four great saves to keep his team ahead.

Still, the Rangers were fortunate not to be down more due to ill advised penalties, including an inexcusable bench minor. When they weren’t committing them, Semin did whatever it took to put our guys in the box with both Ales Kotalik and Chris Drury having cases due to the sneaky Russian’s acting. Despite half a dozen power plays including a brief five-on-three, the vaunted Washington man-advantage couldn’t cash in thanks to outstanding penalty killing with Lundqvist getting help from Drury and future captain Ryan Callahan.

What makes Callahan so special? The kind of yeoman effort the only team alternate did during that critical moment. This is a player who was questionable for the game due to a minor upper body injury with the club recalling Evgeny Grachev as an emergency. Like I said earlier, Cally’s a gamer. So, when he took the pregame skate, you had to figure No.24 would suit up. And boy did he ever by playing a whale of a game that makes him a fan favorite. He’d already saw more ice than anyone in the first. Here with the club in trouble, Callahan put together a shift for the ages. Twice, he made great reads to start shorthanded chances. The first time, Brendan Morrison caught him just in time.

Here came the Caps the other way with Callahan and teammates looking gassed. He’d been on for nearly a minute but just when you figured here came a crushing blow, there went Cally intercepting Semin at the point and taking off. Could he really finish the shift off? Yessssssss!!!!! In grand fashion by going backhand deke on Theodore for a shorty. What a play it was. Totally swung the momentum.

Not long after, the Ranger third line finally did something with the trio of Anisimov, Kotalik and Enver Lisin combining for a huge second goal 2:01 later that suddenly gave them the lead. We’ve been critical of all three but this was a great play courtesy of hard work with Anisimov and Lisin forcing turnovers. Eventually, Anisimov got a pass from Lisin and then made a sweet dish to a cutting Kotalik, who roofed a backhand inside the crossbar for his second in two games. If he was invisible 5-on-5 the first three, that wasn’t the case this time. He played better which was nice to see.

In the third, the Rangers continued to get into penalty trouble. Something Tortorella preached prior. So, figure they’ll work at it the next couple of days until Anaheim visits MSG Sunday. However, the PK continued to do the job with Brian Boyle, Dubinsky and Chris Higgins also putting together some good shifts along with Redden, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Even Gilroy got some big minutes replacing Rozsival, who was benched for a lazy hold in the second.

With the Caps off balance, it looked like they were on their way but just when things felt good, the unthinkable happened. With little going on, Nicklas Backstrom took a harmless shot from his own blueline at Lundqvist. Somehow, the puck skipped on him and trickled through to tie it. The embarrassing moment made me wonder how he’d recover. It looked like his team couldn’t after Aaron Voros got nabbed for a hold with finally, the dangerous Cap PP cashing in with Backstrom scoring more conventionally, buring a Brooks Laich centering feed from the slot. Just like that, the Caps struck twice in less than four minutes to go in front.

In past years under a different system with less speed and skill, the Rangers wouldn’t have bounced back. But these aren’t your grandma’s Rangers. For most of the night, Gaborik had been held in check. But like any dangerous scorer, he can explode at any moment. That’s the kinda skill the 27 year-old Slovak possesses. Tort came back with his top line and it didn’t take long for Gaborik to tie it. 18 seconds. Taking a Vinny Prospal pass, the new No.10 exploded with the puck before firing a rocket past Theodore. Big goal.

He wasn’t done. With Boyd Gordon in the box, this time Del Zotto made a nice seam pass at center ice. Gaborik did the rest. Using his incredible stride, he backed up the Caps and then used Tom Poti as a screen, firing a laser for his second straight 2:33 later.

But if they were going to win, it would come the hard way. Donald Brashear- who had another solid game- got nabbed for a trip. But the Ranger PK wouldn’t be denied. Not even with their franchise netminder committing a gaffe that will be replayed on blooper reels along with Nikolai Khabibulin’s Edmonton debut.

None of it mattered because the Rangers were the better team. Statement made.

Notes: Gaborik has points in all four games going 4-2-6. Dating back to last year, the Big Ticket has an 11-game point streak (11-8-19). He’s 14-9-23 in his last 14 with only Calgary keeping him scoreless. … Aside from the miscue, Lundqvist was fine making 25 stops including the last seven. Theodore also was better than his numbers finishing with 25 saves. … Anisimov’s assist on Kotalik’s goal was his first NHL point. … Semin finished with a goal and assist while Backstrom notched his first two goals. … With a helper, Prospal continues to produce with four points in four games. … Special Teams: NYR 1-of-5 PP, Wsh 1-of-9 PP. … Rangers blocked 22 shots to the Caps’ 8 with Drury pacing everyone with four while Poti’s three led Washington. … The Caps controlled faceoffs going 36-for-61 with David Steckel (9-4) and Backstrom (9-7) strong while Drury (11-9) was the Blueshirts’ most effective. … Rangers (3-1-0-0, 6 Pts) return to MSG for a Sunday matinee versus the Ducks at 5 PM.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Nicklas Backstrom, (1st 2 goals of season incl. 90 footer, 5 SOG, 9-7 draws, +1 in 21:43)

2nd Star-Ryan Callahan, (SHG, 2 SOG, 2 hits, 2 blocked shots, takeaway, +1 in 22:12)

1st Star-Marian Gaborik, (2 goals in 2:33 span incl. PP GW, 4 SOG in 21:04)

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