Before the game I spoke about the lack of production beyond the top offensive line for the Rangers, despite the team being on a five-game winning streak at the time. Tonight, in their 5-1 defeat of the Carolina Hurricanes to make it six straight, the secondary scoring responded with an astounding performance and happened to score all five goals for New York. If you would've showed me tonight's boxscore before the game I probably would have called you crazy. I think that's the best way to describe the list of players on the scoresheet tonight.
It all started at 9:43 of the first period when Sean Avery scored his first goal of the season on a breakaway. On the previous play, Carolina botched a 3-on-2 opportunity, and a block by Jeff Woywitka bounced all the way out into the neutral zone. Hurricanes defenseman Brian Allen couldn't control the bouncing puck at his own blue-line, and in swooped Avery to pick up and head towards the net. The shot itself was even prettier than the play, as Avery perfectly lifted the puck over Cam Ward and off the crossbar to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
That lead stood until 16:22 of the second period, when the Rangers were caught with Brad Richards on defense following a failed powerplay and the Hurricanes took advantage. It was Alexei Ponikarovsky who found the open space, walked in on Lundqvist and fired through his five-hole to tie the game at one. Carolina deserved to even the game up at that point because in my opinion they were the better team out there in the second period. The Rangers appeared to have lost some of their energy in the middle stanza after not converting on some prime opportunities, but boy did they ever get it back in the third.
At 10:47 of the third and final period, Brad Richards showed great patients when finding an open Dan Girardi in the slot, whose quick wrister gave the Blueshirts the lead back. Then, just nine seconds later, Brandon Dubinsky would bury Ryan Callahan's rebound for his first goal of the season to finally break the slump.
Three minutes later, Ryan Callahan scored one of his own as he poked home a loose puck in a scrum in Cam Ward's crease. That made it 4-1 Rangers and at that point the game was clearly over, but just to make sure, Brad Richards stripped Cam Ward of the puck behind the goal and scored on the empty-net in the final minutes of the period. That's just the way things have gone for the Hurricanes as of late.
Once again, Henrik Lundqvist came up big when the Rangers needed him to. The Rangers allowed 12 shots on goal in the second period, and Lundqvist stopped eleven of the them. Lundqvist struggled a bit for stretch a few weeks ago when the Rangers first came home after the road trip, but he's back at 100-percent now.
I think the real standouts tonight, though, were Brandon Dubinsky and Sean Avery. Starting with Dubinsky, I called him out this morning about having to break his slump, because no matter how well he's played on the defensive side of the puck, he is someone the Rangers count on for secondary scoring and he needed to start bringing that. He did that tonight, and not only with his goal, but just the way he played all together. He was strong on the puck, forechecked hard in the offensive zone and was one of the more dominant players out there for either team. That's the Brandon Dubinsky we know and love.
As for Avery, he put it best when he said in his postgame interview that this was the exact game he needs to play every night. He drew two penalties, scored the goal and earned himself some additional ice time from coach Tortorella. Avery was a difference-maker in this game, and that's the only way he is going to earn his minutes on this hockey club. He needs to stand out, and if he continues to play the way he did tonight, that shouldn't be much of a problem.
Also, although he didn't score, Marian Gaborik played another excellent game. He was unstoppable with the puck on his blade and finished the game with 7 shots on goal. Cam Ward was good, but was his absolute best on Gaborik. If any other goalie was in net, I think Gabby may have had at least one tonight.
And how about Dan Girardi on defense? I feel like I talk about him in every postgame, but he absolutely deserves it. Between the shot-blocking and the sliding efforts, this guy is a man of steel on the Blueshirt blue-line. He's become so fun to watch and almost makes you forget that Marc Staal is not in the lineup. Almost.
It's amazing to think that the Rangers are now on a six-game winning streak and just two points out of first place (Pittsburgh beat Dallas tonight) in the Eastern Conference after that dismal start that had the majority of the fan base in panic mode. Going from 3-3-3 to 9-3-3 is amazing and this team should be as confident as ever right now.
Oh, and one last thing; did Tortorella forget his tie at home tonight?