NEW YORK – The New York Rangers long dormant attack came alive at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, as the Blueshirts trounced the Colorado Avalanche 6-1.
In a game that was all but decided after 15 minutes, a half dozen different Rangers scored in the team’s first six goal performance of the season. Scott Gomez led all scorers with three points (one goal, two assists), Nikolai Zherdev, Markus Naslund and Chris Drury had a goal and an assist each. Lauri Korpikoski added two assists for the Rangers, who got just their second regulation time victory in the month of February.
“This was big for a lot of reasons,” Brandon Dubinsky said of the victory, the team’s first in five games and second in nine. “The main reason is just because of the losses that preceded this. We felt we deserved to win those. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.”
Scott Gomez said John Tortorella had been pushing the team to score a second goal after taking an early lead. Failure to do so resulted in losses in each of the new coach’s first two games in charge, at Toronto on Wednesday and against Florida Thursday. “Torts has definitely been preaching that, just get that second one and watch what will happen,” said Gomez.”I’m not saying we’re going to do that all the time but it was sort of ‘wow we can score two goals, here we go’.”
To put the offensive fireworks in perspective, it was the first time in 2009 that the team scored even five goals, a feat it has accomplished just three times all season. The six goals were equal to the team’s offensive output its last four games combined.
Despite these lackluster performances, or perhaps because of them, Tortorella has been quick to defend way the team has played his first two games in charge. “When you see your team compete, play well defensively and create scoring chances, you need to feel good about the team,” he said. “It’s very important as a coach to understand how your team is playing. It’s not always about the end result.”
Still, going into the game “I was worried,” he admitted. “Let’s say we’re down 1-0 and all this stuff that has been going on around this hockey team, I was just worried about their mental attitude.”
Tortorella did not need to worry long. The game had barely started when the Rangers got their first chance and first goal. Dubinsky fed Ryan Callahan who had no problem putting the puck in the net after only 28 seconds. The Garden faithful were still celebrating when Zherdev doubled the Rangers lead. New York ended up scoring four times in the first period-the first time that has happened since the third period of the Dec. 29 victory over the New York Islanders. The only other time the Rangers scored four times in a period this season was in the “Sarah Palin game” at Philadelphia on Oct. 11.(the Alaska governor dropped the celebratory first puck at the Wachovia Center).
Action of a different sort consumed the closing minutes of the game. Three different players were given game misconduct penalties by the officiating crew after several fights. Rangers players shrugged off the events. “Boys being boys,” said Dubinsky. “They wanted to leave with some pride […] It got a little chippy but that is just part of the game.” Tortorella was glad to see his players stick up for one another. “That’s part of an identity you want to have,” he said. “You want to be a hard team to play against.”