For a month the Rangers had been cross-examined about their lack of goal scoring.
For a month, they had promised that it was just under the surface, just waiting to break out.
Last night, against a presumed-to-be budding Western Conference power, the bubbling finally morphed into a volcanic eruption.
The Rangers’ 7-4 thrashing of Columbus Monday night may or may not have been a return to early season form, but it was much needed, if only for their psyche. Over the previous 14 games, opponents had outscored the Rangers (12-10-1) 46-33. Not coincidentally, the Rangers were 4-9-1 in that stretch.
Last night’s outburst was well-timed as the Rangers prepare for a three game road trip. They will visit the Panthers on Wednesday, the much-improved Lightning on Friday and take on the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins Saturday night.
“It showed tonight that if we keep at it, (goals will) come in bunches,” said Ryan Callahan. “Every (game, we believe we) have the capability to score. It’s nice to get a breakout game like this.”
Nine Rangers recorded a point. Marian Gaborik had four points—two goals and two assists—and is now tied with San Jose sniper Dany Heatley for the league lead in goals with 18. Rookie center Artem Anisimov finished with three points (goal and two assists). P.A. Parenteau and Chris Higgins had two assists each, while Sean Avery scored two goals. Avery’s first goal—a power play stuff in at 6:12 into the second—was his first in 16 games.
“I think it’s certainly important. It will help guys loosen up on the stick and relax. Saying that, it should be a challenge for us to push harder and keep scoring. It’s one game. Realistically, if we don’t do this on a consistent basis, we’re not going to win too many games,” Avery said.
Columbus’ grind line of Derek MacKenzie, Jared Boll and Raffi Torres scored the first two goals of the game by playing a simple forecheck and cycle game. MacKenzie snapped a shot over Henrik Lundqvist at 5:38 of the first. Boll’s one-timer 4:07 later doubled the Blue Jackets’ lead to 2-0
Following Boll’s goal, John Tortorella called timeout to, according to multiple Rangers, reassure the team that the game was still in hand. Following the timeout, the Rangers scored seven uninterrupted goals in a span of 21:18 between the first and second periods.
Gaborik cut the lead in half, finishing off a pretty give-and-go from Higgins with a quick snapper that beat Steve Mason high. Anisimov’s deflection of a Wade Redden point shot tied the game at two. Anisimov’s goal was the first in 212:19 that was recorded by a Ranger who wasn’t Gaborik or Vinny Prospal. Michael Del Zotto finished a brilliant individual rush with a bullet that froze Mason and gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Avery and Gaborik scored three goals in a span of 1:21 in the second to push the advantage to 6-2. Matt Gilroy’s third of the season increased the lead to 7-2.
The across-the-board scoring was a theme that Tortorella had been harping on, along with developing stability in all facets. He was pleased with the effort but cautioned that more work needs to be done.
“When you’re going through a tough time, as we are right now, you just need to stay with it. You just have to try to stay within the concept and play the right way. I thought our guys played well,” Tortorella said. “We still have a quite a bit of work to do to try to gain some consistency within our game.”
Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves. Mason, the reigning Calder Trophy winner, allowed four goals on 18 shots before being pulled at 6:12 of the second period. Mason was replaced by Mathieu Garon, who stopped 12 of 15 shots. Kristian Huselius and Jakub Voracek scored meaningless third period goals for the Blue Jackets.
The match marked the return of Fedor Tyutin to Broadway. Tyutin, who had played for the Rangers for four seasons, was traded to Columbus (12-7-3) in the summer in the summer of 2008 with Christian Backman for Nik Zherdev and Dan Fritsche. Needing a power play quarterback, the Rangers signed Wade Redden to a six-year, $39 million contract. The Rangers traded Fritsche to Minnesota in January for defense Erik Reitz, and did not tender a contract to Zherdev following an oft-invisible 2008-09 campaign in which he recorded 58 points (23 goals and 35 assists).
“I think everything happens for a reason. No regrets or complaints,” Tyutin said a couple hours before the game, while being greeted by a multitude of Rangers and MSG employees. He finished the night -2 with one shot and a hit.
Newly inducted Hall of Famer Brian Leetch was at the Garden for the game.
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