Engulfed in a semi-circle by reporters, Erik Christensen was told that Marian Gaborik had said the Rangers’ shootout specialist had counseled him on how to be successful in the one-on-one.
“A 40-goal scorer doesn’t need advice from me,” was Christensen’s deadpan response.
The Rangers could laugh after their 2-1 shootout win over the Ducks Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves, while Christensen and Gaborik scored in the shootout. The Rangers are now 5-3-3 in the early season. They have two more games remaining on their homestand — Saturday against Montreal and Sunday against Winnipeg.
Gaborik’s goal was the game-winner. Gaborik deked Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller to the ice before sliding the puck behind into the goal
“I had my move before I went,” Gaborik said.
One of the most skilled players in the game, Gaborik’s shootout record was, by his admission, not “good.” He was 2-for-19 all time before last night.
“I looked at him and he was challenging me a bit,” Gaborik said.
Jeff Woywitka opened the scoring at 17:32 of the first period with a slapshot from the left circle that rolled under Hiller’s pads. Woywitka’s goal was his first of the season and the ninth of his 257 game NHL career.
“I just shot it. I wanted to get it past the first set of legs. Once I heard the crowd cheer and everything, I was like ‘Well, it must have went in,’” said Woywitka with a wide grin across his face and the Broadway fedora atop his head. “I was excited.”
The Rangers had the lead, but were unable to expand on it because Hiller was brilliant. The Anaheim goaltender finished with 24 saves, including robbing Ryan Callahan twice and Gaborik three times.
“He played well against us tonight,” Callahan said. “When a goalie’s hot like that, to come out with two points, it’s big for us.”
Anaheim’s top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry is widely regarded as the league’s best. Entering the 2011-12 campaign, the trio recorded 272 goals and 402 assists (674 points) in the three full seasons they have played together. Entering last night’s match, they had 13 goals and 20 points.
Ryan McDonagh suggested after Wednesday’s practice that the best way for the Rangers to contain Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry was for the Rangers to forecheck and cycle in the offensive zone while limiting the time and space the line had with the puck.
The Rangers did employ the sound strategy, but the threesome finished with 11 shots on goal and combined on Ryan’s goal that tied the game at 1-1 with 1:42 left in the second period. Getzlaf corralled a loose puck — a Brandon Dubinsky pass for Brad Richards jumped over Richards’ stick — in the defensive zone. Getzlaf moved the puck to Perry, who in turn found Ryan in the neutral zone. Ryan fired a long wrist shot that beat Lundqvist stickside.
“It’s easy to say and hard to do,” Callahan said. “All three of those guys are so big and they protect the puck so well. The thing about them is they have skill too and can make plays out of the corners and off the rush. I thought we did a pretty good job containing them.”
Anaheim grew in confidence following Ryan’s goal. The Ducks outshot the Rangers 15-4 in the third, but the game remained tied because Lundqvist matched Hiller save for save.
Teemu Selanne scored Anaheim’s only goal in the shootout.
Last night’s match was the second, and presumably last meeting of the season, unless the two teams find themselves competing for the Cup in June. The Ducks beat the Rangers in a shootout, 2-1, in Stockholm on Oct. 8.
Follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for information on all the local teams.