UNIONDALE, NY – The Rangers entered last night’s match against the Islanders determined to get another win for new coach john Tortorella. The Islanders, on the other hand, just wanted to put a hurting on Sean Avery.
The much maligned wing made his return to the NHL last night and the Isles, who were playing a number of call-ups from Bridgeport, made sure that Avery would remember the match by taking a number of hits, some fair and some, well….Avery would appreciate them.
“That felt good to get that out of the way,” said Avery, in his second stint with the Rangers. “If there was any nerves coming in, I certainly got rid of them quick. It felt good to be playing for this team again and getting the win. That’s what I came here to do, try to win some games.”
To his credit Avery didn’t do too much and stood in there to take the punishment. Of course he was still chirping away, sitting next to the Islander bench for most of the game, which is something that Tortorella wants his wing to do.
“Sean kept his discipline,” Tortorella said. “I didn’t see his [cross-checking] penalty at the end of the game, but I thought Sean did some good things. He held onto the puck, he created some things and some offensive zone pressure. And he stayed within himself.”
Avery was the side show in the 4-2 Ranger win. More importantly, the two points earned further secured their tight playoff position. More importantly, the goals came from the Rangers top forwards with Nikolai Zherdev, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Markus Naslund lighting the lamp. The Rangers took advantage of Islander mistakes and even had some success of the power play.
Both Drury and Naslund were able to come through with the man advantage, while Gomez’s goal came on a beauty after two Islander collided freeing Zherdev and his linemate for the 2-on-1 on the other end of the ice.
“I haven’t seen plays like that where it’s 2-on-1 and they make it look that easy,” said defenseman Derek Morris, playing his first game with the Rangers after Wednesday’s trade. “It’s fun to play with great hockey players.”
And it seemed like the Rangers were finally having some fun. With the trade deadline over and a new coach in place, all the team needs to do now is win. Of course, the Rangers will do that behind the strong netminding of Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped a couple of clear Islander shots in the beginning of the game, en route to his 28 saves.
But two defensive faults by Dan Girardi allowed the Islanders their two goals, so Tortorella does see room for improvement.
“It was an ugly win,” the coach said. “We have some things to work on. But good teams win when they’re not playing that well, and I thought we did that tonight.”
As for Avery, he lived to play another day. Although his post game comments were subdued, his drive still seems to be there.
“How would I assess my first game?” Avery said. “I will assess it by the two points.”
Notes: Besides Avery and Morris, Nik Antropov also playing in his first game after coming from Toronto in a trade. He said asked to be traded to an Eastern Conference team and seemed to be happy in New York. Although he was surprised by the Islanders play against the Rangers.
“I will just say that I have never seen the Islanders play that way when we played against them with the Maple Leafs,” he said. Antropov ended up with a primary assist on Drury’s goal.