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Rangers get back to winning in style

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Skating in Minnesota for the first time as a visiting player, Rangers forward Marian Gaborik showed plenty of jump from the start and punctuated his big night with an assist on the game-winning goal.

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All eyes were on Marian Gaborik on Saturday night, when the Rangers and their star sniper skated against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in his first game against the team for whom he starred the first eight years of his All-Star career.

Although Gaborik did not score a goal, he did earn an assist and played a strong all-around game as the Rangers defeated the Wild 5-2 behind Martin Biron’s 25-save performance.

“For sure it was a sweet win, especially in this building and coming back,” said Gaborik. “To get a big win here, I think, it’s one of the biggest ones.”

The victory got the Rangers back to winning after a pair of losses earlier in the week. The Blueshirts are now a very impressive 7-3-0 on the road this season as well as a perfect 5-0-0 when playing in the second game of back-to-back situations.

“We always play well in the second game because I think the will and commitment to stay with the system in how we play remains strong,” said Derek Boogaard, who, like Gaborik, returned to face his former team for the first time since signing with the Rangers as a free agent.

One night after a rough second period in which they allowed four goals in an eventual 5-1 loss in Colorado, the Rangers dominated the Wild during Saturday’s middle 20 minutes, scoring three times to break open a scoreless contest.

Artem Anisimov, Michael Del Zotto, and Alex Frolov scored in the second period for the Rangers, who outshot the Wild 17-4 during that span. Ironically, all three goals were set up in one way or another by players with Minnesota ties.

Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky puts Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns into the boards Saturday night. Dubinsky scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season and is now tied for fourth in the NHL.
Anisimov hammered a rebound of Matt Gilroy’s left-point shot past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom at 8:50 of the second to put the Rangers ahead 1-0. The play took shape when Boogaard separated Minnesota’s Robbie earl from the puck with a thunderous check in the offensive zone. St. Cloud, Minnesota native Michael Sauer hopped on the loose puck and quickly passed it to Gilroy to set the scoring play in motion.

“Boogey made the play that made the first goal,” said Biron. “He crushed that guy along the wall and he brought the physicality we were looking for in our game. He might have played one of his best games. It’s great to see.”

The goal was Anisimov’s seventh of the season, and he celebrated by throwing himself into the glass behind Minnesota’s net.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead at 14:24 when Del Zotto scored into a wide-open net with Backstrom down and out of position following a pretty cross-ice pass from Hastings, Minnesota native Derek Stepan.

“Not too many times am I going to get back to play in Minnesota and play at the Xcel, so every time I do it will be something special,” said Stepan. “(Tonight) is something I won’t forget.”

The goal, scored on the power play, was Del Zotto’s second of the season and first in 19 games.

Looking for the knockout goal before their dominating period concluded, the Rangers received just that when Frolov’s wraparound hit a Wild player’s stick and hopped over the shoulder of Backstrom and into the top of the net with exactly one minute to play in the second.

Gaborik picked up the secondary assist on Frolov’s fifth goal of the season, while defenseman Dan Girardi notched his second helper of the night.

Although the assist would be Gaborik’s only point of the game, he was one of the best players on the ice on Saturday. Clearly motivated against his former team, Gaborik stood out with his offensive play, his physical play, and his play in the defensive zone throughout the contest.

“It was a different kind of nervousness,” said Gaborik, who led the Rangers with four shots on goal. “When I got that first shift under my belt it was fine for me.”

Forward Ruslan Fedotenko closed out the scoring for the Rangers as the fifth Blueshirts player to get a goal when he made it 5-1 late in the third period.
Gaborik was in the Rangers’ starting lineup and delivered a crunching hit behind the Wild cage on the game’s first shift. On his very next shift, he had a step on the defense before whistling a snap shot on net from left wing that required Backstrom to make a solid left-pad save.

Gently booed by the Minnesota fans every time he carried the puck, Gaborik, who is the Wild’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and points, never received the overly vociferous negative reaction some predicted he would in his first-ever return to Minnesota. There were, however, loud cheers when Wild defenseman Cam Barker knocked Gaborik on his rear end with an open-ice hit at the 15-minute mark of the first period.

Gaborik had an excellent opportunity to score 5:35 into the second period, but his power-play in-tight attempt was denied by Backstrom. Moments later he was pushing and shoving with Minnesota’s Eric Nystrom after Nystrom cross-checked Gaborik as the whistle blew to end the play.

“I think it was emotional for both of us,” Boogaard said of him and Gaborik. “That’s the way things go and you just have to play through it.”

The Rangers upped their lead to 4-0 when Brandon Dubinsky scored his team-leading 12th goal off a breakaway 4:53 into the third period.

Biron lost his shutout bid with 7:12 to go when Matt Cullen scored shorthanded. Ruslan Fedotenko answered back for the Rangers, scoring his fourth goal, with 5:52 remaining in the game. Moments later Martin Havlat snuck a shot past Biron to cut the Rangers lead to 5-2.

“It was great to get that kind of win for all the guys we have that had ties to this area,” Biron said of Gaborik, Boogaard, Stepan, and Sauer. “And it was good to stop the bleeding after the way we played (Friday) night.”

The Rangers now head back to Madison Square Garden for a contest against the Calgary Flames on Monday night before setting off on a three-game road trip to Tampa Bay, Florida, and Nashville later in the week.
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