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Thomas denies Rangers a victory

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers forward Marian Gaborik looks to shoot on Boston goalie Tim Thomas on Wednesday night. Thomas made 34 saves for the 3-2 Bruins victory, but Gaborik did score one of the Rangers' two goals.

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The Rangers wore their brand-new Heritage jerseys for the first time in a game on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden and they put forth a collective effort worthy of the team’s 85-year history the jerseys represent.

Unfortunately, the Rangers ran into the hottest goaltender in the National Hockey League, Boston’s Tim Thomas, and as a result dropped a 3-2 decision to the Bruins despite outshooting Boston by a 36-20 margin.

“I have no problems with how we played,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “Thomas was certainly the difference.”

Thomas, who has now won 10 of his first 11 starts this season, entered played on Wednesday with a league-leading 1.32 goals against average and a league-best .960 save percentage. The 2008-09 Vezina Trophy winner has also posted an NHL-best four shutouts after blanking the Devils 3-0 on Monday night.

On Wednesday Thomas stopped 34 of 36 Rangers’ shots, only surrendering goals to Brandon Dubinsky in the second period and Marian Gaborik in the third. He was at his best in the final period when he made 15 saves against a desperate Blueshirt push.

“We generated a lot of chances and deserved better than we got,” said Gaborik, who matched Ryan Callahan with a team-high six shots on goal. “Thomas was good. So we just have to look at the positives.”

After Gaborik pulled the Rangers within a goal of Boston at 3-2 early in the third period, the Blueshirts had numerous opportunities to tie the game, none better than the 1:45 worth of a two-man power play advantage beginning at the 14:13 mark of the period.

However, the Rangers could not dent Thomas, not even when Derek Stepan’s centering pass took a crazy bounce off a Bruins skate in front, deflecting the puck sharply towards the opposite side of the net from where Thomas was moving. Thomas alertly dove back the other way to stop the puck just as it reached the goal line, denying the Rangers their best opportunity on the 5-on-3.

“There wasn’t enough puck movement, we’re holding on to it too much,” Tortorella said of the 5-on-3 power play. “The guys were not letting the puck work. Instead they just held on to it. It’s something we have to work on.”

The Rangers now have had four 5-on-3 power plays this season and have not scored on any of them.

Blueshirts forward Brandon Dubinsky scored the game's opening goal on a power play at 7:10 of the second period. It was his team-leading 11th goal of the season and put him back into the NHL's top five.
“Five-on-threes are huge and we have to find a way to get better chances on them,” said Gaborik. “The game is on the line there. We have to capitalize on it.”

The Rangers did, however, find a way to grab a 1-0 lead 7:10 into the middle period when Dubinsky beat Zdeno Chara down the right side before zipping his team-leading 11th goal of the season past Thomas.

Before they could increase that lead the Bruins not only tied the game, but scored the next three goals to take a 3-1 advantage by early in the third period. Milan Lucic tied the game at 11:06 of the second; 18-year-old rookie Tyler Seguin scored off a partial breakaway at 16:35 of that same middle period; and veteran Mark Recchi beat Henrik Lundqvist to the short side 1:10 into the third with the eventual game-winner to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

“It was a terrible goal,” Lundqvist said of Recchi’s score. “It somehow squeezed through. I was surprised. It was a real tough goal to give up.”

Gaborik trimmed the Bruins lead to 3-2 when he scored his fourth goal at 5:26 of the final period. Stepan made the play by stealing the puck from Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg just outside the blueline on left wing. Stepan then raced with the puck into the offensive zone, with Seidenberg right on his back, before sliding a pass into the slot where Gaborik received the pass and whipped a shot past Thomas.

“For me, it was the first bounce in a while that went my way,” said Stepan. “From there Gaby was yelling to me to get (the puck) over, and he finishes better than anyone.”

The Rangers had a slew of scoring chances after Gaborik’s goal, with Gaborik himself having the best of them, including a shot that rang off the crossbar behind Thomas at the 10-minute mark.

Thomas, however, stood strong, and the Rangers fell short. With the loss the Rangers three-game winning streak came to an end.

“It comes down to getting one by the goalie, and he played well,” said Stepan. “You have to tip your hat to him.”

The Rangers will now head out west for games in Colorado on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday before returning to MSG to host the Calgary Flames next Monday night.
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