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Avery, Girardi lead Rangers to fifth straight win @NHLdotcom

NEW YORK -- At the Toronto Maple Leafs' morning skate Monday, Mike Komisarek was asked the best way to avoid letting the Rangers' Sean Avery get under your skin.

Komisarek laughed and said you simply can't let his talking get to you because words aren't going to put the puck in the net.

A little more than seven hours later, Avery let his game do the talking.

In just his second game back in the lineup after missing the start of the season with a knee injury, Avery scored twice in the third period to help blow open a close game and give the Rangers a 7-2 victory, their fifth in a row and seventh straight win at Madison Square Garden dating to last season.

"He plays a certain way," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said of Avery. "When he is on top of his game, he is a great player. It is good for him to get a couple of goals and feel good about his game."

"Sean played well. He played well (against Anaheim on Sunday) and he gets rewarded tonight with a couple of goals," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I think he's staying within himself. And that's important. He's playing a game on edge. He's doing all the things we want him to do, and he's not sitting on the box. He was a pretty effective player in his first game and he was pretty effective tonight."

The Rangers appeared to lose focus during a second period that saw the Leafs apply consistent pressure. The Rangers' 3-1 lead was cut in half when Jason Blake registered a power-play goal late in the period. But the Blueshirts scored four goals in the third period to finish strong, and have now outscored their opponents 11-3 in the final period this season.

"We came out and had a good first period. I think with any team you get that comfortable mindset," Avery said when asked why there was a lull during the middle period. "Torts told us before the game, great teams are the teams that stay consistent no matter what the score is or who you are playing. I think we pulled our socks up and came out and had a good third."

"After the second period, I felt real good about our chances, real good about how we were playing," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We were back to competing but (we made) an elementary mistake of not moving the puck quickly, and they turned it into a forecheck chance and it ended up in our net."

Defenseman Dan Girardi, whose career high in goals is 10, also scored twice Monday. He had the game-winner on a shot from the point that found its way through traffic in front of the net and past goaltender Vesa Toskala, who allowed all seven goals.
With a sea of reporters eagerly waiting for Girardi a few feet from his locker, he tried to play it cool by waving everyone over with a confident look on his face. But the laughter of the media horde forced Girardi to crack a smile and return to his humble nature.

"No, I don't think so," Girardi said with a laugh when asked if he's expected to deliver two goals a game every night now. "I was fortunate enough tonight to get a couple goals. Hopefully that happens often for me, but I know it's really not gonna."

"Torts told us before the game, great teams are the teams that stay consistent no matter what the score is or who you are playing. I think we pulled our socks up and came out and had a good third." -- Sean Avery

Fellow blueliner Wade Redden, who was serenaded with boos by his home fans at points last season, was cheered loudly when he moved down low and ripped home his first goal of the season off a beautiful feed from Vinny Prospal. Redden added two assists and drew praise from Tortorella.

"He's been good. He hasn't been great, but he's been good," Tortorella said. "If we can get him in that type of mindset of playing offense…it's a good sign for Redds. He deserves a lot of credit because he's hung in there because he's been banged around. But he's done a real good job protecting the puck."

Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik also scored for the Rangers. Gaborik's goal gave him a point in all six games this season.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Leafs tough guy Colton Orr, who signed as a free agent during the summer after four seasons with the Rangers. And Orr did what you'd expect a player with 478 penalty minutes the past three seasons to do -- he dropped the gloves and fought Donald Brashear halfway through the first period.

"I have some friends over there," Orr said of his former New York teammates. "But once you hit the ice you play hard, and there are no friends on the ice."

Not having friends on the ice is something that could be said for Avery. But through two games, he's doing all the right things and focusing on the team concept that Tortorella is trying to instill in his players.

 "The majority of it is mental," said Avery, who has yet to find himself in the penalty box this season. "We have a certain game plan and a certain way we have to play and if one guy doesn't play that way, that is what leads to holes for the other team to capitalize on."

If his words are as solid as his play was Monday, then Avery should stay in Tortorella's good graces for a long time this season.

-- Dave Lozo, Staff Writer

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