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Gilroy's patience pays off in big way

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Defenseman Matt Gilroy sparked the Rangers' offense with a career-high two goals on Monday night, including the second-period game-winner.

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For the past several days, Rangers head coach John Tortorella has repeatedly praised defenseman Matt Gilroy for stepping into the lineup last Thursday for the ailing Michael Del Zotto and playing a strong game against the Lightning.

On Sunday, Tortorella further showed how pleased he was with Gilroy’s play when he announced that -- even though Del Zotto was healthy again -- Gilroy would remain in the lineup for Monday’s contest at Madison Square Garden against the Islanders.

It took Gilroy only 44 seconds of Monday’s game to make his coach look very wise. Gilroy scored the game-opening goal en route to a two-goal performance, and the Rangers routed the Islanders 7-2.

“Even when I sat him out and we played the other six, we didn’t feel he was that far away,” Tortorella said of Gilroy. “Right now I think he is one of our six (defensemen). He has hung in there and done the right things to be ready to play and has taken advantage of the opportunity.”

Gilroy, the Long Island native who had not scored a goal in 21 games so far this season, netted his first in more than a year when he sent a left-point wrist shot through an Artem Anisimov screen at the 44-second mark of the opening period. The last time that Gilroy had scored a goal was on Nov. 28, 2009, a span of 64 games played.

“Especially playing against the Islanders and watching that rivalry growing up in New York and knowing the history of the two teams my whole life, it was even more special tonight,” said Gilroy. “The biggest thing for me is confidence. When you feel confident you can just play your game. And when (the coaches) show confidence in you, it goes a long way.”

Rangers rookie forward Derek Stepan celebrates the final goal in the Blueshirts' 7-2 rout of the Islanders at MSG. Stepan's goal was his 11th of the season, which ties him for second among all NHL rookies.
Growing in confidence with his strong play of late, the smooth-skating Gilroy also scored the eventual game-winning goal -- snapping a 2-2 tie -- at 12:08 of the second period. Gilroy collected a bouncing puck on left wing and slipped a shot past the gloved hand of Islanders netminder Dwayne Roloson for the first two-goal game of his National Hockey League career.

“To his credit, he didn’t let it affect him when he wasn’t playing, even though he wasn’t happy about it,” Brian Boyle said of Gilroy, who is his roommate on the road. “He’s a great kid and he’s got a ton of ability, we all know that. I am really, really happy for him because I know tonight was real special for him.”

Gilroy was not the only standout for the Rangers on Monday night, as 12 different Blueshirts recorded at least one point. Boyle led the way with three points, scoring his career-high 13th goal and adding a pair of assists, and Mats Zuccarello notched his first NHL point by assisting on Derek Stepan’s third-period goal.

The Rangers did, however, have to rally from a 2-1 deficit as they allowed the Islanders a pair of quick scores in the opening period after Gilroy had put the home team up 1-0. Despite outshooting the Isles 8-1 in the early going the Rangers could not push a second goal past Roloson and then surrendered goals to Rob Schremp at 7:51 and PA Parenteau at 9:43.

Marian Gaborik -- back in the lineup after sitting out the previous contest with the Lightning due to a sore groin -- pulled the Rangers even with a power play goal with 50.4 seconds left in the first period. Gaborik’s crucial goal -- his 10th of the season -- set the stage for Blueshirt domination the remainder of the game as the Rangers finished the match with a season-high 52 shots, while Henrik Lundqvist faced only 20 Islanders shots.

“That was a huge goal for us off of the power play,” said Boyle. “And it was huge for Gaby, too. He’s been sore lately, and he works extremely hard, so he deserved that one. That goal felt really good and picked our whole team up.”

Lundqvist faced only four shots during the second period, but he made several big-time saves to keep the game tied, while Roloson at the other end of the ice did the same for the Islanders until Gilroy’s goal at 12:08.

Less than 20 seconds before Gilroy’s go-ahead score, Lundqvist made a sensational one-on-one arm save to rob a wide-open John Tavares from the lower slot, probably Lundqvist’s most important stop of the night.

Forwards Marian Gaborik and Mats Zuccarello react to Gaborik's power-play goal at 19:09 of the first period. The goal pulled the Blueshirts into a 2-2 tie and was the first of six unanswered Rangers goals.
“Their four shots on net were Grade A chances, and the fifth one was shot wide on a 2-on-1,” said Tortorella. “Hank came up big for us there.”

With 1:39 left to play in the second period, Boyle scored to give the Rangers a two-goal advantage. Flying down right-wing, Boyle whipped a backhand shot towards the net which beat Roloson to the short side, putting the Rangers up 4-2.

After firing 18 shots on goal in each of the first two periods, the Rangers peppered a beaten Roloson with 16 more in the final period, scoring three more times to turn the game into a rout as the Islanders watched their three-game winning streak slip away.

Brandon Dubinsky netted his team-high 15th at 4:14; Ruslan Fedotenko crashed the crease to pot a rebound at 9:05; and Stepan scored his 11th goal at 10:34, the Blueshirts’ second power play tally of the game.

Zuccarello picked up the secondary assist on Stepan’s goal, feeding Gaborik who, in turn, set up Stepan in the slot. Playing in only his second NHL game, Zuccarello had his first point after leading the Swedish Elite League in scoring a year ago.

“Of course it’s something I will always remember, but it’s really not that important,” said Zuccarello. “The most important thing is that while I am here we keep winning. But it means a lot to me to have my family here and have them see me in my first game and see my first point. It couldn’t be better for me.”

Like Gilroy, Zuccarello knows that as long as he keeps performing well within the team system, and keeps producing, he will continue to remain in the lineup.

“It’s tough, but I can only control what I can control,” said Gilroy. “I am only as good as my last game. I just hope to be in there next game.”

That next opportunity comes on Wednesday when the Rangers cross the Hudson River to skate against the Devils in Newark, the start of a three-game road trip.
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