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No Dubinsky, no problem vs. Leafs

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers forward Marian Gaborik celebrates with teammates after scoring his third of four goals on Wednesday night at The Garden. The hat trick was Gaborik's third of the season and second at home.

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By Jim Cerny,

Just as the Rangers were set to embark on a crucial -- and grueling -- stretch of five games in seven nights, word came down on Wednesday that one of the club’s most indispensable players would be joining the long list of Blueshirts sidelined due to injury.

The latest casualty is winger Brandon Dubinsky, who will miss the next three-to-four weeks of action due to a stress fracture in his left leg. He joins Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Vinny Prospal, Alex Frolov, and Derek Boogaard as Rangers who currently are unable to play because of injury.

As they have done all season, however, when facing adversity the Rangers showed tremendous resolve on Wednesday night and scored four first-period goals without Dubinsky in the lineup en route to a 7-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden.

“It was very disappointing to hear that news about Dubi because he’s been such a key guy for us,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped 22 shots to earn his league-high-tying seventh shutout of the season -- and 31st of his career -- on Wednesday. “But I think it’s important that we don’t use this news as an excuse for not winning or getting points. This is the response we needed, but we have to keep going because we have a tough stretch ahead.”

Marian Gaborik, who had gone eight games without scoring a goal, sparked the Rangers by scoring a season-high four goals and recording a season-best five points. His four goals were the most he has scored in a single-game as a Ranger, and was one shy of his own personal best -- set with the Minnesota Wild against the Rangers back on Dec. 20, 2007.

Gaborik also fell one goal shy of tying the franchise record of five goals scored in a game, a record shared by Don Murdoch and Mark Pavelich.

Rangers center Brian Boyle reacts to his deflection goal that beat Toronto netminder Jonas Gustavsson for a 2-0 Blueshirts lead at 12:45 of the first period.
“I feel more responsibility, and it’s a big challenge for myself, and for everyone here in this room,” said Gaborik. “A lot of guys need to step up, including myself. It happened tonight, but we have to keep going. We’ve had a lot of injuries this year, but we can’t make excuses.”

Sophomore center Artem Anisimov established a new career single-game high with four assists and four points on Wednesday night. Anisimov assisted on each of Gaborik’s four goals. Sean Avery, Wojtek Wolski, and Marc Staal all notched a pair of assists in the big win.

“It’s so fun to play like this, and it’s so much more fun when the team wins a big game like this,” said Anisimov. “I know Gaby is a great player, so I tried to get him the puck as much as I can. He makes it easy for us.”

Gaborik opened the scoring at the 10:55 mark of the first when he accepted Avery’s pass in front and made several dekes before curling around Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to tuck the puck inside the near post on right wing.

After earning a secondary assist on Brian Boyle’s 16th goal of the season at 12:45 -- a deflection of Staal’s power-play slap shot -- Gaborik put the Rangers up 3-0 with 6:39 to play in the opening period by converting a goalmouth feed from Anisimov.

“Gaby played a real good game, and was obviously the fastest guy on the ice, using his speed to his advantage,” noted Avery. “He wants to score, and he came through.”

Trailing 3-0, Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson switched goaltenders after Gaborik’s second goal, removing Gustavsson -- who surrendered three goals on 11 shots -- and replaced him with J.S. Giguere.

Two minutes---and one save on a Mats Zuccarello break-in---after entering the game, Giguere was beaten between the pads on a long, low snap shot from the high slot by Ruslan Fedotenko and the Rangers upped their lead to 4-0.

While the goal was a highlight for Fedotenko, his night came to an abrupt end in the second period when he was knocked out of the game with an injury to his left shoulder. No word was available following the game as to how long Fedotenko could be sidelined.

With Gustavsson back between the pipes in the second period, Gaborik finished off his third hat trick of the season -- and 13th of his career -- when he slipped a bad-angle right wing shot into the Toronto net on the short side at 11:16.

And with 5:16 to play in the second period, Gaborik rifled a snap shot from the slot past Gustavsson for his fourth goal of the game -- and 15th of the season.

Forward Derek Stepan congratulates linemate and fellow rookie Mats Zuccarello after Zuccarello scored the Rangers' final goal off a give-and-go with Stepan for a 7-0 lead at 0:53 of the third period.
“It was a big relief to get the first one, to get the monkey off my back, and then it just was rolling,” said Gaborik. “It’s nice to get four goals, definitely a good feeling. Now hopefully I can be more consistent and go from there.”

Gaborik’s heroics -- as well as the strong all-around contributions from up and down the entire Rangers lineup -- helped, at least for one night, to ease the loss of Dubinsky, the team’s top scorer this season.

Prior to the game, Rangers head coach John Tortorella explained that Dubinsky had been “struggling” with pain in his left leg, but had been able to play, as well as practice, as late as Tuesday. The stress fracture was confirmed and announced shortly before Wednesday night’s game.

“It’s a big hole, and I’m not going to shy away from that,” Tortorella said of Dubinsky’s injury. “He’s a huge piece here. He’s a huge penalty killer for us. He’s our leading scorer. He adds jam on our forecheck. He’s done everything, and has deserved the credit for how well he’s played this year while also becoming a big leader for us.”

Dubinsky leads the Rangers in all three major areas of scoring with 17 goals, 21 assists, and 38 points. Of his 17 goals -- which are just three shy of his previous single-season high -- four have come on the power play and another two have been scored shorthanded.

In playing in every important game situation, Dubinsky, 24, ranks third on the team -- and tops among all forwards -- in ice-time, averaging more than 20 minutes per game.

“It’s a surprise, but you have to move right by it,” explained Tortorella. “It gives other guys opportunities. And now we just have to go out and play.”

Ten different Rangers recorded at least one point in Wednesday’s victory, including Zuccarello, who closed out the scoring 53 seconds into the final period when he converted a give-and-go pass from Derek Stepan.

A total team effort -- led by its star sniper -- is what propelled the Rangers on Wednesday night, and will be what they will need to continue to do on Thursday evening when they skate against the Carolina Hurricanes at Raleigh, N.C.
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