NEW YORK – Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 halfway through the first period on home ice, New York Rangers coach John Tortorella called timeout. Whatever he said probably won’t compare with Herb Brooks’ speech before the "Miracle on Ice" game, but it certainly changed the tide of the game in overwhelming fashion.
Following the break, the Rangers scored three goals in less than six minutes, then broke open a one-goal game by scoring three more in the span of 1:11 in the second period on their way to a 7-4 blowout of the Jackets at Madison Square Garden.
"I told them to take a deep breath because I didn’t think we were playing that badly," Tortorella said. "We had some breakdowns in the defensive zone, but I thought our forechecking was decent early on and we just make a couple mistakes and it ends up in the net. I told them to take a deep breath, there’s a lot of hockey left, and they found a way to come back."
Marian Gaborik (17, 18), Sean Avery (3, 4), Artem Anisimov (5), Michael Del Zotto (5) and Matt Gilroy (3) scored seven consecutive goals for the Rangers, who had just nine goals in their previous five games. Gaborik, Anisimov, Christopher Higgins and P.A. Parenteau had two assists for New York.
The wealth of scoring – especially the secondary offense behind Gaborik and Vinny Prospal – was a welcome change for the Rangers. Entering Saturday’s game, Gaborik or Prospal scored or assisted on 10 of the team’s last 11 goals.
Tortorella was just happy to get offense – period.
"At that point, I don’t care how they get it, as long as they get the first one," Tortorella said when asked if he liked the way his team scored its first goal. "If they go up three, then who knows what happens, it could be 10-0. It was important for us to get our first before they got their third one."
What led to this outburst by a team that was finding it so hard to score?
"Who knows how all this happens. You can’t figure it out," Tortorella said. "That’s why when you guys always ask me, ‘What are you going to do to score goals?’ I don’t know. You just have to try to stay within the concept and play the right way and hopefully get a couple of breaks along the way and we did."
The loss was the Blue Jackets’ second in a row after winning three straight and marked the sixth time this season they allowed at least six goals in a game. Last season, that happened just three times.
Jackets goaltender Steve Mason, who won the Calder Trophy and was nominated for the Vezina Trophy last season, was benched in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots. He finished the game with a 3.59 goals-against average, good for 40th in the League.
After the game, Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t hide his displeasure with his players.
"We gave them a lot of life when we made the mistakes at the end of the first period," Hitchcock said. "We had a really good start to the game and we gave them those three goals at the end of the first period which really gave them a lot of life. We had some poor plays by some good people."
Blue Jackets rookie Derek MacKenzie started the five-goal first period at 5:38 with his first goal of the season. He stood alone in front of the net, took a feed from Raffi Torres from behind the net and ripped a one-timer past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-0.
Less than four minutes later, Jared Boll scored his second of the season in similar fashion to make it 2-0. He stood unfettered in the low slot, took a pass from Torres and ripped a shot over Lundqvist’s shoulder to double the lead at 9:31.
That’s when Tortorella called timeout. Not only did it settle down the troops, the Rangers came out blazing.
Gaborik scored off a pass from behind the net from Vinny Prospal to get them within 2-1 less than two minutes later. Gaborik slipped past his defender and beat Mason to the blocker side for his 17th goal of the season at 11:29.
Anisimov’s fifth goal of the season evened the score at 2-2 a little more than two minutes later when he redirected a Wade Redden blast from the point that also deflected off Gaborik en route.
"We have to put shots on net," Gaborik said. "That’s what we’re doing in practice lately, just shoot and try to look for rebounds and get pucks. Arty’s goal was a perfect example."
Del Zotto made it 3-2 on a brilliant individual effort that led to the prettiest goal of the night. The puck found its way onto the rookie defenseman’s stick in the neutral zone as the Jackets were changing lines. Del Zotto weaved through the disjointed defense and ripped a wrist shot by Mason and off the post to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Avery made it 4-2 at 6:12 of the second period on a goal that needed to be reviewed in Toronto. Parenteau broke in alone on Mason, who made the sprawling save. But Avery swooped in for the rebound and stuffed it past Mason before he could get to his feet.
There was a question as to whether the puck crossed the line entirely, but replays showed it was clearly a goal. That would be the last shot Mason would face, as Hitchcock replaced him with Mathieu Garon.
It didn’t help.
Avery scored his second goal of the game just 51 seconds after Garon took the ice to make it 5-2. Gaborik’s second of the game came a mere 20 seconds after that and made it 6-2. It got so bad for the Jackets that Gilroy, a defenseman, found himself alone on a breakaway and beat Garon with a nice move to make it 7-2 after just 27:13 of game time.
"It just tells you that the scoring is here," Prospal said. "We just have to find it on a consistent basis. It cannot be just one game. This basically puts the pressure on us to do it next game."