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Rangers scoring leader Marian Gaborik
played in another winning Olympic effort for Slovakia on Saturday night in Vancouver, as the Slovaks routed Latvia 6-0 to improve to 2-1 in their round-robin schedule.
Gaborik did not score any points for the Slovaks, who stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back. Indeed, Slovakia only needed Lubomir Visnovsky's goal at 2:44 of the first to stand up as the winner in a 21-save shutout by goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
Although his status for Slovakia's first three Group B round-robin games had been in question due to the knee laceration he suffered when cut by teammate Henrik Lundqvist
's skate during the Rangers' Feb. 9 practice. Not only did he play in all three, but he scored the team's first goal of the tournament on Wednesday and was among the Slovak forwards who logged the most ice time.
On Saturday, Gaborik saw 16:07 of ice time, again skating on a line with former NHL players Jozef Stumpel and Ziggy Palffy. He had a total of four shots on goal, including three in the second period, and was on the ice for Stumpel's even-strength goal that made it 3-0 at 17:08 of the first. He was also on the ice for Slovakia's second of two power-play goals, scored by Marian Hossa for a 4-0 lead a 1:07 of the middle period. His 16:07 of ice time ranked fifth among Slovakia's forwards.
Through three games, Gaborik has 16 shots on goal and ranks second on the Slovak team to Marian Hossa, who has 17 shots.
Slovakia's final goal against the Latvians was scored by 2003 Rangers draft pick Ivan Baranka
, a former Blueshirts defenseman who now plays in the KHL.
Slovakia completed its Group B schedule with five out of a possible nine points. The Slovaks did not earn enough points to gain an automatic berth in the quarters and will play in Tuesday's qualification round for a berth in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Their opponent is yet to be determined.
In an earlier game on Saturday, Switzerland edged Norway 5-4 in overtime on a goal by Romano Lemm. Rangers prospect Andres Ambuhl, a forward with the Hartford Wolf Pack, saw 16:16 of ice time in that game and had one shot on goal in the second period. Like Slovakia, the Swiss will be part of Tuesday's qualification round.
Sunday's schedule features three marquee games in Russia vs. the Czech Republic (3 p.m. ET), Team USA vs. Canada (7:30 p.m.) and Sweden vs. Finland (midnight ET).
In what promises to be one of the most exciting tripleheaders in the history of Olympic hockey, four of the five Rangers players competing in Vancouver will take part in Sunday's three games, and all six teams in action will have a shot at the four automatic berths in the quarterfinal round.