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Gaborik a hit at Garden in Rangers' debut

by Brian Hunter
The New York Rangers and their fans at Madison Square Garden finally got a look at free-agent signing Marian Gaborik on Monday night. And the wait to see the talented Slovakian winger take the ice proved to be well worth it.

Gaborik used his strong skating to set up a power-play goal, one of three scores by the home team in the first period, and also played a sound defensive game as the Rangers claimed a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

"It’s going to take some time but I don’t think I was out of it that much," Gaborik said. "I got used to it more and more as the game went on. It’s a very fast pace. You’re forechecking, so you have to really skate to get pucks, and I think we did that very good except in the second period."

Fellow newcomer Vaclav Prospal's power-play goal started the scoring, Enver Lisin and Ryan Callahan also tallied early and Artem Anisimov continued his bid to make the roster with an empty-net goal as the Rangers won their second straight preseason game.

Detroit goalie Daniel Larsson's hooking penalty at 5:10 led to Prospal's goal just three seconds later, as the Wings won the ensuing defensive zone draw but put the puck right onto Prospal's stick in the slot.

"It's a confidence builder. Every time you score it's a joy," said Prospal, whose first regular-season point with the Rangers will be the 600th of his career. "I live by the saying there is not enough goals in this game. I'm more than happy when I put one in the net."

Gaborik, who missed most of last season in Minnesota and had been out of action with a sore groin, set up Lisin for another power-play goal at the nine-minute mark. He worked the puck along the right boards, then took it behind the net before coming out in front for a backhand pass that found Lisin in the right circle for a shot that beat Larsson.

"It was the power play and they were pressuring very hard so I just tried to keep the puck, and find the open guy, and Lisin was open right in front," Gaborik said. "Everyone was running around, so I just tried to pass to him and he put it in. Nobody was around him, they were all spread out so he was wide open."

"You have to be born with that," Prospal said of Gaborik's talent. "He's a natural shooter and he can make the play as well. We all (saw) it tonight. There's not too many guys like that who put up the goals that he can put up, but he just needs to stay healthy."

Evgeny Grachev, another young player still in camp, set up Callahan's goal with hard work along the boards to take the puck away from defenseman Jakub Kindl. Grachev found Callahan streaking down the middle and found him with a pass. Callahan put the puck past Larsson at 10:25 for a 3-0 lead.

Ville Leino beat Henrik Lundqvist off a 2-on-1 with 1:43 left in the first and Kirk Maltby ripped one in off the post and past Stephen Valiquette at 9:34 of the third, but the Rangers got a combined 28 saves from their goaltending duo.

Anisimov ended any thoughts of a comeback by the Wings with 15 seconds remaining, after Dan Cloutier had left for an extra attacker. The veteran Cloutier, in camp trying to earn the job backing up Chris Osgood, stopped all eight shots he faced in relief.

Detroit, which has won consecutive Western Conference titles but failed to repeat as Stanley Cup champions last season, is still rounding into form, losing its second straight after two wins to start the exhibition season.

"It's just to get back to a rhythm," veteran forward Tomas Holmstrom said. "You can't really cheat yourself, you have to go hard every game to get into a rhythm and that's what you try to do."

Canadiens 4, Penguins 3

Montreal continues to receive early bang for its buck from the fresh talent the Canadiens brought in over the summer.

Scott Gomez scored shorthanded to spark a three-goal third period and Brian Gionta capped the outburst with his second of the night in a victory over defending Stanley Cup champ Pittsburgh at the Bell Centre.

The Penguins led 2-1 heading into the final 20 minutes and had time left on a double high-sticking minor to Jaroslav Spacek near the end of the second. But while the new Canadien defenseman sat in the penalty box, his teammates worked a little magic on the penalty kill, with Gionta setting up Gomez at 1:40 for the tying score.

Guillaume Latendresse put the Habs ahead to stay when a loose puck found him at the left of the net with Penguins goalie John Curry out of position. Latendresse made it 3-2 at 7:40 of the third.

Gionta's insurance goal at 9:47 came after defenseman Andrei Markov kept the puck in at the blue line along the left-wing boards and passed down low to Mike Cammalleri. Another of Montreal's heralded offseason acquisitions, Cammalleri set up Gionta for a one-timer past Curry.

"The older we get, there's always going to be pressure -- that's just the way the League works," Gomez said in addressing the expectations he and his fellow free agents face in Montreal. "It's just part of the job. There's only one real kind of pressure, and that's to win. Each one of us has got to do our part. It's a great team, a group of guys, and if we all go together we can be a dangerous team."

Gionta opened the scoring with 1:48 left in the first period by banging away at a loose puck that Curry couldn't cover until he finally put it in the net.

Pittsburgh answered in the second on a Sergei Gonchar drive from the point that beat Carey Price at 3:27 and an Evgeni Malkin goal 4:01 later, a wrist shot off a feed from Ben Lovejoy. Bill Guerin added a power-play goal with 3:14 left in the third to draw the Penguins closer.

"We're still hungry and we realize the challenges ahead of us," said Guerin, a 17-year veteran who was put in the position of defending a Stanley Cup earlier in his career with New Jersey.

Both goalies played the entire game. Price stopped 28 shots for the Canadiens, while Curry made 24 saves for the Penguins.

Blue Jackets 5, Wild 1

Columbus is hoping for big things out of Derick Brassard this season. He didn't disappoint against Minnesota.

Brassard contributed a power-play goal and two assists as the Blue Jackets cruised past the Wild at Nationwide Arena. Steve Mason enjoyed a relatively easy night in goal, needing to make just 16 saves.

Raffi Torres, Grant Clitsome, Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash also scored for Columbus and Kristian Huselius collected a pair of assists.

"We had way more pace to our game. We were sharper everywhere, with the puck and we protected a lot better," Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The biggest thing was our pace was up. The other team has to react (when you play like that). From start to finish we had strong pace – it's a good sign."

"We had way more pace to our game. We were sharper everywhere, with the puck and we protected a lot better.  The biggest thing was our pace was up. The other team has to react (when you play like that). From start to finish we had strong pace – it's a good sign."
-- Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock

Brassard, who turns 22 on Tuesday, was emerging as a top talent last season with 10 goals and 25 points in just 31 games before his season ended Dec. 18 due to injury. The Jackets' top pick in the 2006 Entry Draft one-timed a Huselius backhand pass from across the goalmouth for a 5-0 lead at 7:54 of the third period.

"We found each other on the ice and it's not hard to play with those guys," Brassard said of Nash and Huselius. "Tonight was the first game we played with a full lineup. We had three lines and our focus tonight was to push the other team and I think we did a good job."

Mason did have to make two point-blank stops on Petr Sykora during a Minnesota power play in the second. Moments later, Vermette stole the puck in the neutral zone and scored a shorthanded goal for Columbus.

Kyle Brodziak ended Mason's shutout bid and got the Wild on the board with 7:57 left.

"I thought we battled hard," said Minnesota goalie Josh Harding, who stopped 30 shots. "Maybe we were a little bit tired from the trip and playing last night. I thought overall we battled with them. Obviously they made some good plays; you have to give them credit. Especially the Nash line, they made plays and they make you move as a goalie."

Thrashers 4, Hurricanes 2

Nik Antropov assisted on three goals in his Atlanta home debut, including the go-ahead score by Bryan Little in the third period, and Johan Hedberg finished with 20 saves.

Antropov, who played center, also set up the Thrashers' first two goals by Pavel Kubina and Mark Popovic. Jim Slater closed out the scoring with 2:33 remaining.

"It was a little weird," said Antropov, a natural right wing. "It's going to take a while to get used to it. I thought I did all right except faceoffs. Faceoffs were my weakest point."

Ilya Kovalchuk had the primary assist on Little's goal, as Atlanta played more of its regulars in this tune-up for the regular season.

"I think we probably had a little more talent in the lineup than we had the past two games," Anderson said. "I think that was pretty evident. You saw some really good plays tonight."

Carolina received a pair of special-teams goals, with Bryan Rodney scoring on the power play to open the scoring in the first period and Brandon Sutter creating a 2-2 tie with a shorthanded tip-in during the second.

Sabres 2, Capitals 1

Buffalo had trouble putting pucks past Jose Theodore for most of the game, but they managed to score twice within 11 seconds in the middle period and that was enough.

Drew Stafford opened the scoring at 5:55 of the second and Patrick Kaleta immediately doubled the lead for the Sabres, who played Patrick Lalime in goal and received 19 saves from the veteran.

Theodore, who lost his starting job to Semyon Varlamov during last season's playoffs, got his first action since relieving Varlamov in a Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh in the second round. He also made 19 saves.

"Both goals were deflections that beat him," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I haven't seen the second one looked a little weird. It happened really quick and I just know one of our guys didn't get back to the front of the net as quickly as he should have. But everything that he saw, he stopped. I didn't think there was a tremendous amount of chances, but he did what he was supposed to do and kept us in the game."

Alex Ovechkin also played in his first game of the preseason and was held scoreless. The Capitals got on the board with 6:49 left in the second when Keith Aucoin beat Lalime.

Buffalo remained unbeaten in three preseason games.

Ducks 3, Sharks 2

A pair of special-teams goals helped Anaheim take control in the third period, as Teemu Selanne snapped a tie on the power play and James Wisniewski's shorthanded goal added some necessary insurance in a win over San Jose at Honda Center.

Selanne and Corey Perry each scored their first of the preseason for the Ducks, who got a 23-save effort from Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"We weren’t very excited about our first four games of the preseason," Giguere said. "Being at home with these guys on the ice, it was important for us to show a good effort, and we did that tonight."

Benn Ferriero got the Sharks on the board in the waning seconds of the first period and set up a Marc-Edouard Vlasic goal with 16 seconds left in the third to make it a one-goal final. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots.

Ferriero converted on a San Jose power play two seconds before the first intermission for the game's opening goal. Perry tied the score with 2:45 left in the second, whirling from behind the net and swiping the puck past Nabokov.

Devin Setoguchi was in the box for holding the stick when Selanne gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead at 5:41 of the third. Evgeny Artyukhin's interference penalty gave the Sharks a chance to answer, but instead Wisniewski scored shorthanded at the 9:43 mark.

"It was a better game than we played last game," said Selanne, referring to a 4-1 loss Saturday in Los Angeles. "That is a little positive thing. It’s grinding time now. It's time to get into good shape. This is one step forward."

Dany Heatley played on a line with Setoguchi and Joe Thornton in his second game with the Sharks. He finished with one shot on goal and was held scoreless in 17:50 of ice time.

The meeting was the first between the Pacific Division rivals since eighth-seeded Anaheim eliminated President's Trophy-winning San Jose in six games of a Western Conference quarterfinal last season.

Canucks 5, Flames 4 (SO)

Daniel Sedin played hero for Vancouver, scoring his second goal of the game with 0.2 seconds left in regulation and then converting in the fourth round of the shootout to lift the Canucks to their fifth win in as many preseason contests.

After they blew a three-goal lead and Calgary went ahead 4-3, Christian Ehrhoff picked up the puck along the boards, whirled and found Sedin in between the circles for a shot that beat Curtis McElhinney. Vancouver thought it had tied the game with 10.1 seconds left, but the whistle blew before Mason Raymond jammed a puck under McElhinney.

Cody Hodgson scored for the Canucks in the first round of the shootout before Nigel Dawes answered for the Flames against Cory Schneider. It stayed deadlocked until Sedin went top shelf against McElhinney and Mikael Backlund lost control of the puck on the last try for Calgary.

"It was disappointing," Dawes said of the loss. "But we put ourselves in that position in the first period."

Kyle Wellwood converted a penalty shot in the first, Sedin added a goal and Raymond also scored for Vancouver, which led 3-0 just 2:25 into the second.

"As a fellow 40-something I’m anxious to see him do well … to be as successful as he was in this League, with his size, just says everything that needs to be said about him. He's an intense, intense competitor."
-- Mathieu Schneider on Theo Fleury

Calgary fought back with four unanswered goals. Curtis Glencross and Jamie Lundmark lit the lamp before the close of the second to make it 3-2, then free-agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester tied the score 1:17 into the third. Olli Jokinen's power-play goal with 7:09 remaining seemed as though it would stand up as the game-winner until Sedin's heroics.

Theo Fleury played in his third game of the preseason and assisted on Bouwmeester's goal, one night after recording a goal and an assist against the Panthers. Fleury, who won a preseason game against the Islanders in a shootout, did not take part in the penalty-shot tiebreaker against the Canucks.

"It's interesting after seeing Claude Lemieux taking a run at last year," Vancouver defenseman Mathieu Schneider said. "I'm sure it's very exciting for everyone in Calgary.

"As a fellow 40-something I’m anxious to see him do well … to be as successful as he was in this League, with his size, just says everything that needs to be said about him. He's an intense, intense competitor."

Cory Schneider won despite stopping only 13 shots. McElhinney finished with 30 saves.

Senators 3, Lightning 1

Dany Heatley may no longer be in Ottawa, but the Senators can still score goals. They found the back of the net six times against Montreal on Saturday and followed that up with a win over Tampa Bay in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Mike Fisher, who had a hat trick against the Canadiens, recorded a goal and an assist, as did Jason Spezza. Alex Kovalev, who opened the scoring against his former team Saturday with a shorthanded goal, got on the board again, converting a Spezza pass.

"Obviously Regina, they don't get to see this type of hockey too often so it's good to interact with some of the fans and see family and some of the guys from the Western (Hockey) League," said Fisher, who accommodated a group of autograph seekers after the game.

Steve Downie's second-period goal was the only offense the Lightning could muster, as they were outshot 29-12 by the Senators. Antero Niittymaki made 26 saves for Tampa, while Ottawa counterpart Brian Elliott had a light workload, needing to stop just 11 shots.

"We had a lot of young guys in the lineup," said Martin St. Louis, who along with captain Vincent Lecavalier did not play. "Obviously Ottawa had pretty much their A-squad. I thought our kids played pretty well."

Fisher went top shelf on Niittymaki to give the Senators a 1-0 lead, ripping a wrist shot from the top of the circle 3:22 into the first.

Kovalev and Downie traded goals before Spezza picked up his own rebound and came up with the third period's only score.

Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.

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