Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/3/11

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 08: Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers celebrates with teammate Vaclav Prospal #20 after scoring in the third period against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on October 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Two back-to-back complete 60-minute efforts from the New York Rangers? Unheard of! Well maybe not because that's exactly what we've seen from the Blueshirts in their 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Monday and now tonight's 2-1 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks. In fact, the Rangers would’ve easily run away with this one had it not been for the stellar play of Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller between the pipes for Anaheim. It took a month, but the Rangers are finally playing the hockey they had hoped to heading into the season. 

New York absolutely dominated the opening twenty minutes of this one, outshooting their opponent by a count of 10-2. By far, it was the Rangers' best defensive period of the year with two shots being the least they have allowed in any period this season. In addition to that, Jeff Woywitka's slapshot goal from the point at 17:32 gave them a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission. Really, without Hiller playing as well as he did, the Ducks probably would've found themselves in a three or four-goal hole after the first, not just one.

While the Rangers continued to play well in the second period, Anaheim began to awaken offensively and tested Henrik Lundqvist much more than they did in the opening twenty. Hank stood strong, but Bobby Ryan beat him with a wild wrist shot that went top corner to tie the game at one before the end of the second period. This specific play actually started down at the other end when Brandon Dubinsky tried feeding Brad Richards for a one-timer in the slot, but the pass was too hard and sudden for Brad to handle. The Ducks quickly turned it the other way and away Ryan went. 

The Ducks got the better of the Rangers in the third period, but Lundqvist answered the call in goal, just as his opponent Jonas Hiller did down in the opposite net earlier in the tilt. To overtime we went, but somehow the Rangers couldn't find the game-winner despite dominating play in the extra period. Ruslan Fedotenko hit a post, Ryan McDonagh missed a half-open net, Derek Stepan was stopped a couple of times, but no goals. 

Erik Christensen opened the shootout for the Rangers with a pretty one-handed goal, which would later be matched by a slick backhander by Teemu Selanne. Now prior to the shootout I said on Twitter that I thought Gaborik should get an opportunity to shoot, and of course everyone jumped on me stating that he is horrible when it comes to going one-on-one with the goalie. Sure enough, though, Tortorella picked Gabby to shoot third and Marian buried his attempt after a series of dekes that had Hiller's head spinning. Lundqvist then stoned Bobby Ryan to secure the victory for the Rangers, 2-1. 

The Rangers' best player tonight, beyond shadow of a doubt, was Marian Gaborik. Gabby finished with seven shots on goal, an assist and of course the winning tally in the shootout. Marian was flying out on the ice tonight and it was the best I've seen him skate since his first season as a Ranger. I don't think there's any way to debate the fact that Gaborik has been the most improved player from last season so far, and without him, the Rangers probably wouldn't have been in half of these games. He's been that good.

Also in the spotlight tonight was defenseman Ryan McDongh, and it's unfortunate he couldn't finish the pass from Michael Sauer in overtime because that would've put a nice touch on a perfect night from him. Tortorella put it best when he said after the game that McDonagh's confidence has grown in all facets of the game. He's playing just as well offensively as he is defensively, and the coaches are noticing it. This kid is on the right path for sure. 

Michael Del Zotto, I thought, had another reasonably sound game as well. His passing is improving and he is making fewer mistakes out on the ice. It's been a rough road for the youngster, but he is finally moving in the right direction toward where he eventually wants to be as a player. There are still things that need work, and I think speed may be one of them as Torts hinted in his postgame comments, but he's looking much better in each game. 

The entire defensive unit has actually looked better in each game, as they've finally buckled down here and are playing how they did last season. The new strategy that I discussed after Monday's win over the Sharks has been a big part of that, because it's preventing them from running around and chasing the puck, as opposed to clogging the lanes and forcing the play outside. In turn, Henrik Lundqvist hasn't been relied on as much to win this team games. 

Consecutive wins against skilled Western Conference clubs is impressive, but the challenge now is to build on this. The Rangers will finish out their homestand this weekend when they play back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets on Saturday and Sunday. Both of those teams have struggled, so it’s entirely possible for the Rangers to take both, which would obviously be huge.

Also, if you didn’t see before the game, the Rangers have signed Anton Stralman to a one-year, $900,000 contract (article here). 

NOTE: Wojtek Wolski left the game in the first period with a groin strain and did not return. 

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