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Rangers not to be denied at home

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers forward Marian Gaborik scores the second of his three goals vs. the Oilers' Nikolai Khabibulin to tie the score 2-2 at 7:12 of the second period.

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By Jim Cerny,

It was a sequence that easily could have proven to be the Rangers’ undoing in their Sunday afternoon matinee against the Edmonton Oilers at Madison Square Garden. In a span of just 28 seconds early in the second period, a 1-0 Rangers lead dissipated into a 2-1 deficit and the young visiting squad was clearly buoyed by their goal splurge against their hosts.

Instead of caving in, the Rangers grew strong, scored a pair of goals in rapid succession themselves, and rode a four-goal second period to an 8-2 victory over the Oilers in the finale of their four-game homestand.

“It was huge how we reacted to that,” said Marian Gaborik, who scored three times and added an assist for a four-point outing in just his second game back from a 12-game injury-related absence. “We scored a couple of big goals and then just rolled from there. But we have to be careful about these breakdowns.”

It was Gaborik who provided the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 1:35 into the game, scoring off a sensational one-man effort. Behind a fairly strong first period, the Rangers carried that lead into the second when their moment of truth on this afternoon arrived.

Edmonton pulled even at 2:45 of the second when a wide-open Ryan Jones hammered a rebound past Martin Biron and into the back of the cage. Only 28 seconds later Biron was handcuffed on a seemingly-routine right-wing shot by Shawn Horcoff, and again the puck found the back of the net, putting the Rangers in a quick and surprising 2-1 hole.

At that moment, the game could have gone distinctly one way or another for the Rangers. But without a trace of panic, the Rangers regained control with their aggressive forecheck and strong down-low play. And before too long, their top offensive weapon struck again to tie the score.

Sprung past the defense on a perfect long pass by Erik Christensen, who notched three assists in the game, Gaborik sped in alone on a breakaway before beating Nikolai Khabibulin with a nifty fake and forehand finish at 7:12.

A very happy Alex Frolov celebrates while sitting on the ice after the first of his two goals, with this one coming in the final seconds of the second period.
There was a brief scary moment, however, for the Blueshirts after the goal was scored. Gaborik crashed full speed into the goalpost, knocking it off its magnet. He remained prone on the ice for several seconds before gathering himself and celebrating with his teammates.

“I think it was a big boost of confidence for the whole team,” Gaborik said of the game-tying goal.

The brief delay did not derail the Rangers. Brian Boyle converted a pretty feed from Ruslan Fedotenko off a 2-on-1 rush just 25 seconds after Gaborik’s goal, and just like that the Rangers had regained their one-goal advantage, while Oilers coach Tom Renney -- the former head coach of the Blueshirts -- called timeout to settle down his reeling team.

The Rangers were not to be slowed down the rest of the period. Seizing the game’s momentum, they  secured a three-goal lead before the middle period was over on Artem Anisimov’s sixth goal of the season at 13:17 and Alex Frolov’s third with 4.8 seconds to go.

“It’s a great feeling to score, it takes some pressure off,” said Frolov, who scored twice and had two assists on Sunday. “It was a really good game for our line (Frolov, Christensen, and Gaborik) and now we have to build off this. It was a great two points for the team.”

As important as the goal scoring was, how Biron rebounded after allowing the two quick goals, including the admittedly shaky one to Horcoff. Starting his second straight game in the place of the ailing Henrik Lundqvist, who has been battling flu symptoms, Biron made several strong saves before the period was over to keep the home team ahead 5-2.

In fact Biron’s sensational pad-save on Andrew Cogliano’s shorthanded breakaway at the 13-minute mark of the second set the stage for Anisimov’s goal mere moments later.

“I felt like I was in the right place at the right time (on Horcoff’s goal), but I got handcuffed on the shot,” said Biron. “But, to me, the most important thing is how you respond to that. And fortunately I did not have to respond too much, the guys responded for me which gave me the chance to just settle in.”

The third period turned into a slugfest, as a series of fights closed out the final 20 minutes of play. Heavyweights Derek Boogaard and Steve MacIntyre fought twice, but the real main event took place with 8:42 remaining in the game.

Rangers center Erik Christensen had a strong game, as he picked up three assists in the 8-2 runaway win.
After Sean Avery and Ladislav Smid were escorted from the ice following their center-ice fight, a brawl erupted by the Rangers bench. So out of control was the situation that Rangers head coach John Tortorella was holding players by the backs of their jerseys so that those seated on the bench did not get involved in the melee.

During the brawl Brandon Prust engaged Edmonton’s Zach Stortini in a long punishing fight, and Boyle and Theo Peckham hammered at one another by the Oilers’ bench.

When the dust settled and the penalties were handed out, the Rangers proceeded to break the game wide open, scoring three more times. Frolov scored his second of the game at 12:14, before Fedotenko netted his third of the season 45 seconds later.

Gaborik completed the 11th hat trick of his career -- and second as a Ranger -- with a breakaway goal at the 14:22 mark of the third.

The victory was important to the Rangers as it assured that they would not have a losing homestand. After dropping the first two games of this four-game homestand, the Rangers -- backstopped by Biron in both games -- finished with a 3-2 overtime win over the Sabres on Thursday and Sunday’s 8-2 victory over Edmonton.

The Rangers now bring their two straight wins on the road, where they have won five of seven games this season, when they skate against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Biron. “We had a four-game homestand and lost the first two. This could have easily gone south really quickly, but we were able to salvage it with two big wins at the end. Now it’s for us to take that momentum and apply it to our road game which has been really good.”
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