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Biron shines as Rangers blank HC Sparta Prague

Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 3:33 PM / 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Biron shines as Rangers blank HC Sparta Prague
Martin Biron shines as New York Rangers blank HC Sparta Prague.
PRAGUE -- The slow start wasn't what Rangers coach John Tortorella wanted, but it probably was expected considering his squad was still getting adjusted to the new arena, the slightly larger ice sheet and the totally foreign crowd.

At least goalie Martin Biron had no problem getting used to the elements here at Tesla Arena. If he did, the Rangers could have been in serious trouble in the first of their four European preseason games.

Biron, though, was sharp in the first period and the rest of the Rangers picked up their game in the second. Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko scored back-to-back goals in a span of less than three minutes and the Rangers controlled the second half of the game, cruising to a 2-0 victory over HC Sparta Prague.

Biron made four key saves in the first to preserve the scoreless tie. His first came early in the game when he closed his five-hole just in time to stop the puck from sliding through. The last, and perhaps toughest, came when Sparta drove in on a 3-on-1 rush in the final minute of the period. Biron hugged the post and made the save.

The Rangers, who were slow and too passive in the first, found their legs and their game in the second. The bulk of the final 40 minutes were played in Sparta's end.

Marian Gaborik and Ryan McDonagh each had chances before 15 seconds had elapsed in the second, giving the Rangers the jump they needed. They finally cashed in when Anisimov used his backhand to beat Sparta goalie Tomas Popperle from the slot 5:45 into the period.

Brandon Dubinsky started the play from the right wing with a diagonal pass to Tim Erixon, who was standing on the goal line to the left of the net. Dubinsky's pass made the defense turn and Popperle went to hug the left post. Anisimov was left open in the slot and Erixon's pass first bounced off Popperle's pads and then went right to him.

Anisimov had time to settle the puck on his backhand and roof it into what was basically an empty net because Popperle was slow in getting across.

Fedotenko made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at the 8:30 mark of the second.

It was a similar play to the first goal, only this time it was Derek Stepan moving the puck from the right wing to Michael Del Zotto, who was down low on the goal line to the left of the net. Del Zotto looked up and found Fedotenko in a similar spot as Anisimov.

Sparta's problem was again it failed to cover the slot area, leaving the shooter all alone to take his time and fire into the right side of the net. Fedotenko did just that.

The Rangers were guilty of putting it on cruise control roughly midway through the third period and if not for Biron, Sparta would have closed the gap to one.

Steve Eminger coughed up the puck deep in the Rangers zone, but Biron came up with a monster point-blank save on Petr Tenkrat, who tried to beat the goalie with a one-timer from the high slot off a feed from Ivan Rachunek with 12:30 to play in the period. Rachunek, whose late brother Karel played in the NHL, was the forechecking forward who forced Eminger to give up the puck.

Eminger's play was the last near costly gaffe the Rangers made. They hung on for the shutout, but it wasn't exactly a masterpiece.

They'll get another crack Friday night in Gothenburg, Sweden, as Henrik Lundqvist returns to the city where he got his start to play his old team.

Maybe winning one for Lundqvist will fire up the Rangers.

It better, because Tortorella will no doubt be looking for an inspired performance.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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