If you follow me on twitter (@RangersTribune) you would have seen my prediction just before puck drop, calling that Marian Gaborik would score his first goal of the season this afternoon. Well, Marian made me look like a genius just 1:35 into the first period when his hard work on the rush resulted in a blue collar goal at the top of the crease. I'll admit, I am no psychic so that was just pure luck, but either way was pretty cool. Anyway, the Rangers did a great job of defending that lead for the remainder of the period, killing off two penalties and outshooting the Oilers, 7-4. That was definitely one of the most strategic twenty minutes the Blueshirts have played all season long.
Things opened up in the second, though, as six goals were scored between the two teams. Ryan Jones would first bury a rebound from the side of the net to tie the game at one. Just 28 seconds later Shawn Horcoff's long wrister deflected off the stick of Marc Staal and knuckled past Martin Biron. The Rangers came booming back, scoring three straight unanswered goals. The first came when Marian Gaborik took an Erik Christensen pass on the breakaway and deked Nikolai Khabibulin out of his skates. That would be Gaborik's second of the game and tied things up at two.
Following that, before fans could even sit down after the Gaborik goal, 24 seconds later Ruslan Fedotenko fed Brian Boyle for a one-timer, which Boyle slapped to the back of the net for his eighth of the season and the go-ahead tally. Later in the period, on the powerplay, Derek Stepan made a very strong move out of the corner and threaded the needle with a beautiful pass to Artem Anisimov. The puck actually went off of Anisimov's skate, so the play was reviewed, but ultimately deemed a good goal. And then Christensen got his third assist of the period when Alexander Frolov (!!!) redirected his pass behind Khabibulin. The Rangers' four goals in the second set a season high for a single period.
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The third period was a real treat as we got to see some old time hockey as well as another three goals by the Rangers. It all began when heavyweights Derek Boogaard and Steve MacIntyre went at it to open the third. I give Boogie the edge in that one since he landed some big rights to MacIntyre's head. A little over five minutes after that, they dropped the gloves again in what was more of an even scrap. Then things erupted when Sean Avery sort of gave Ladislav Smid a cheap shot. Smid wanted to fight Avery after a hit on Fraser and it looked like Sean originally turned it down. But then Smid looked back at him and said something so Avery dropped the gloves and socked him square in the face.
The official was leading Avery off the ice and into the locker room when three Oilers tried chasing him into the tunnel. Thank goodness Brian Boyle was there to block them, otherwise there would have been a brawl in reach of the fans and things would have gotten ugly. Meanwhile, Brandon Prust was fighting Zack Stortini and Brian Boyle was going at it with Whitney. Also, Brandon Dubinsky was trying to grab an Oiler and throw some fists from the bench, which prompted coach Tortorella to grapple him down and out of trouble. I found that part of the madness pretty comical actually.
Anyway, Brandon Dubinsky was thrown out, Sean Avery was thrown out, Brandon Prust was thrown out and so was Brian Boyle. If that's not old time hockey then I do not know what is. I think it sparked the Rangers even more, though, as they went on to score three additional goals in the same period. Alex Frolov capitalized on a turnover and scored his second from the slot. Ruslan Fedotenko's spin-around shot beat Khabibulin after that, and then Marian Gaborik scored on the breakaway to complete the hat-trick. I am out of breath just recapping that entire third period, which was comprised of a total of 23 penalties.
Marian Gaborik, in only his second game back from injury, was obviously this afternoon's player of the game. He was flying out there and that directly led to all three of his goals. To me, he looks 100 percent, especially since he got up after sliding shoulder first into the post in the second period. And not only did he lift himself with his performance, but he also lifted his linemates as well.
Erik Christensen had three assists in the contest in what was by far his best game of the season. Also, Alexander Frolov scored TWICE. Not once, but TWICE. It is about time he found the back of the net and you see the impact he can have on a game when he starts scoring. The first line led the team to victory today and that was the bottom line.
Artem Anisimov played very well yet again, as did his wingers Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. They did not exactly input a whole lot offensively, but I thought they were the best defensive minded trio today. The Oilers did have some chances earlier in the game and these three, especially Callahan, hounded them. Containing Edmonton early was key, because then they were worn out by the third period when the Rangers took over.
Derek Stepan I think also deserves a shoutout here because he played some smart hockey. The pass to Anisimov for the goal was tremendous and he backchecked like an animal too. He is improving every game right before our eyes.
On defense, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi were phenomenal. First of all, Staal made rookie Taylor Hall's life a living hell this afternoon. I highly doubt Hall has received so much physical abuse in his entire career as he did today, but I give him credit because he handled it well. Also, Staal made the defensive play to shutdown a breakaway which led to the Boyle goal in the second.
Hopefully the Rangers saved some goals for those Pens, because we know they will be much more of a challenge than the Oilers were today. Tom Renney's boys were simply too sloppy in this game and were burned on costly turnovers. This game meant a lot to Tom, but he walked back to the locker room with his head hung low today.