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Sauer scores his first goal in style

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Sauer proudly displays the puck that ended up in the back of the Senators net for the game-winning goal at 14:41 of the third period on Thursday night at Ottawa. The goal was Sauer's memorable first as an NHL player.

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An unlikely goal, and a goal from an unlikely source, highlighted a three-goal third period for the Rangers on Thursday night as the Blueshirts erased a 3-2 deficit en-route to a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place.

Erik Christensen’s goal from a sharp left-wing angle pulled the Rangers even 3:30 into the final period, and Michael Sauer’s first National Hockey League goal proved to be the winner with 5:19 left to play, as the Blueshirts won their league-leading 11th road contest while also avenging a 3-1 loss to the Senators four days ago at Madison Square Garden.

“To go from a game like Sunday night where we lost it late to a game like this where we just never gave up is just great,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 24 saves in the game. “It was a really good effort coming back three times, especially after that tough loss at home. I feel really great about how we responded.”

Trailing by one entering the final period the Rangers caught a break when Christensen chased a Michal Rozsival pass towards the left-wing corner. Christensen turned and fired a forehand shot from right along the goal line that somehow hit the back of goaltender Brian Elliott’s leg and caromed into the net, tying the game 3-3.

Christensen’s fifth goal of the season was not only his most fortunate, but perhaps his most timely, as well, because  it put the Rangers on even terms against a team that had entered play Thursday with a perfect 10-0-0 record when leading after two periods.

“Obviously the goal from the corner gave us a little boost and some confidence,” said Ruslan Fedotenko, who scored his fifth goal of the season earlier in the game. “When we fell behind 3-2 I didn’t think it was a good situation for us, but we battled through and found a way to score some goals. We’ll take it.”

The two teams traded chances until a critical penalty by Ottawa’s Chris Neil -- for charging Ryan Callahan -- sent the Rangers to the power play at 12:46 of the third. The Rangers had been 0-for-3 with the man advantage on Thursday, and the early part of their fourth power play struggled to create scoring chances.

Playing alongside Marian Gaborik on the Rangers' top line on Thursday night, rookie Derek Stepan put in a strong performance, scoring the Rangers' first goal just 106 seconds after Ottawa took a 1-0 lead.
However with just a few seconds remaining on the power play Sauer hopped on to the ice, found an open area in the slot, accepted a quick pass from Brandon Prust, and hammered a slap shot past Elliot with five seconds left on the man advantage to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.

A power-play, game-winning goal ended up being Sauer’s first NHL score. It will be quite a memory for the Rangers second round pick in the 2005 draft.

“It’s something I am always going to remember,” said a smiling Sauer after the game. “It was great that it was a game-winning goal, especially that late in the game when it was so tight. To get that one to squeeze in definitely makes me excited.”

By scoring that goal, Sauer more than made up for his defensive miscue which led to Ottawa’s game-opening goal 2:54 into the first period. With Ottawa on the power play Sauer skimmed a pass towards Steve Eminger in the Rangers slot that was intercepted by the Sens’ Nick Foligno. Lundqvist made a sensational save on Foligno’s rising shot, but Mike Fisher capitalized right afterwards to put Ottawa up 1-0.

“You have to have a short memory because things happen, and it was just one of those plays,” said Sauer. “It was early in the game so I had to regroup and get going again, make sure I refocused because there was a lot of game to play. To finish like I did makes it sweeter, that’s for sure.”

Rangers head coach John Tortorella was pleased with how Sauer put the mistake behind him and persevered the rest of the game.

“It’s nice to see him bounce back and get rewarded there,” Tortorella said of Sauer. “Hopefully, he continues to play well for us.”

After Fisher’s game-opening score, the Rangers struck back quickly when Derek Stepan converted a rebound of Marian Gaborik’s blocked shot in front. Stepan’s goal, his seventh of the season, came at 4:40, less than two minutes after Fisher’s goal.

Rangers forward Brandon Prust applies pressure in the first period against Ottawa goalie Brian Elliott. Prust set up the game winning goal with a perfect pass from along the boards to defenseman Michael Sauer with only 5:19 remaining in the third period.
Ottawa grabbed a 2-1 lead 34 seconds into the middle period when Jason Spezza scored another power-play goal for his first tally in nine games. But again the Rangers answered in quick fashion when Fedotenko roofed a left-wing shot over Elliott’s shoulder 69 seconds later.

“It was huge,” said Lundqvist. “They get the momentum and we kill it right away with a couple big goals there. The key is that we kept our composure.”

Only 25 seconds after Fedotenko’s goal, Fisher -- and the on-ice officials -- believed that Ottawa had once again taken a one-goal lead on Fisher’s right-wing blast. However, his shot caromed off Lundqvist, hit the crossbar then the far post, and never crossed the goal line, and the goal was nullified by video review.

Fisher did score again, however, at 8:47 of the second period, to push the Sens lead to 3-2, a deficit the Rangers erased in the third period on goals by Christensen, Sauer, and Brandon Dubinsky (into the empty net).

“It was a battle on both sides all night long,” said Sauer. “To get the win on the road it’s definitely important, a big two points. It’s nice to have gotten this one.”

The Rangers did lose two players to injury during the game. Derek Boogaard was hurt during a first period fight with Matt Carkner. After the game Tortorella said he believed that Boogaard “busted his nose”, but was not 100 percent sure. Also, Eminger’s back “locked up” after a third period hit and he, too, did not return.

Carrying their league-high 11 road wins with them, the Rangers now head to Columbus where they will skate against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
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