Scott Gomez 2

Gomez and Drury Lead the Way in Total Team Effort

by Mark Owens

Gomez assisted on two power play goals and Drury assisted on all three markers to lead the Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Devils. Both teams now have 91 points and five games left. Gomez’s Willis Reed-like appearance despite bruised ribs energized fans and teammates alike. Gomez played with passion all night and assisted on the Rangers’ first and second goals. Drury assisted on all three Ranger goals, and could have had another when he sprung Ryan Callahan for a third period breakaway that Martin Brodeur snared with his glove. (It looked like a better save than it actually was, as Callahan had telegraphed his intention to shoot over the glove.)

After a scoreless first period, the Rangers struck first on Brendan Shanahan‘s power play goal, off a nice pass from behind the net by Gomez, whose stickhandling left Devils’ defenseman Mike Mottau spinning like a top. Patrik Elias answered six minutes later by deflecting a point shot past Henrik Lundqvist. Contributing to that goal was a tired fourth line, which was trapped on the ice too long, unable to clear the puck for a line change. Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr did not see much ice time after that.

Despite outshooting the Devils in the first two periods, it was the Devils who were dictating the tempo of play, asserting themselves physically, and leading 2-1 after two thanks to a brutal giveaway by Christian Backman that led to a Zach Parise goal. I’m not sure what was said in the locker room after the second period, but the Rangers played like a bunch of wild dogs in the third period.

The Rangers were awarded their second power play early in the third period, and Backman atoned for his earlier gift to the Devils by roofing a wrist shot over Mary’s ‘ I mean Marty’s ‘ right shoulder, off another slick feed by Gomez, to tie the game at two.

Both teams exchanged scoring chances and heavy hits for the next 15 minutes or so, and it appeared another overtime/shootout was on the way. One thing was obvious, though. The Rangers were taking it to the Devils, out-hitting and out-hustling them in all three zones.

When Brodeur stoned Callahan’s breakaway, many Ranger fans probably wondered if that was going to be their last, best chance to beat the Devils in regulation. However, the Rangers continued to apply pressure and drive to the net. Their determination was rewarded when the rebound of a Drury shot caromed off the shoulder of a sliding-on-his-back Dawes, who had been upended by the Devils’ Travis Zajac, and trickled into the net along with a jubilant Dawes. After video review, the goal was awarded (as every Ranger fan watching the game knew it should be), to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead with 3:06 remaining.

The Rangers constructed a wall around Lundqvist’s net from that point on and withstood a furious attack by Elias and Parise in particular to cement the win. Tom Renney wisely called a timeout with nine seconds left to ensure he had the right players on the ice and each player knew their assignments.

For the game, the Rangers outhit the Devils 57-47, led by Fedor Tyutin‘s 10 hits. Brandon Dubinsky and Dawes added seven hits each. Paul Mara and Michal Rozsival blocked three shots each. Dan Girardi was physical in front of Lundqvist, dumping David Clarkson to the ice before he could release an in-close shot in the third period. Dawes also contributed an important play earlier in the third period, checking Parise in front of Lundqvist, just before Parise was able to fire a shot from close range.

If Thursday night’s game is a preview of the intensity that awaits in the playoffs, Ranger fans should be comfortable knowing that Gomez, Lundqvist and Drury ‘ the game’s first, second and third stars ‘ will be leading the way. And Glen Sather most definitely enjoyed his post-game stogie after watching his highly paid nucleus thrive in a playoff-like atmosphere.

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