It took three games and five days, but the New York Rangers earned their first victory of the shortened 2013 regular season. For Marian Gaborik, it was well worth the wait, as his hat trick buoyed the Rangers past the Boston Bruins 4-3 in OT on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The victory comes two games after the Blueshirts lost the season opener in Boston on Saturday night.
The Rangers wasted no time getting on the board. 4:36 in to the 1st period, Gaborik scored his first goal of the season on a beautiful feed from winger Rick Nash. Just 2:13 later, the Slovakian Sniper lit the lamp again – this time on a rebound off of a Michael Del Zotto shot. The Rangers won the 1st period, but Boston wasted no time clawing their way back in the game in the 2nd. An early Marc Staal slashing penalty led to a Brad Marchand power play goal to cut the lead to 1. A ticky-tack tripping call on Taylor Pyatt soon after allowed the Bruins to steal the momentum and keep the Rangers on the defensive. At the 12:24 mark, Milan Lucic put back a rebound left by Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game. The momentum shift didn’t last long, as Taylor Pyatt put the Rangers back in front just 44 seconds later with a backhand shot from the slot.
In the 3rd period, the Rangers became a little conservative with their play. A badly played clearing attempt by the Rangers allowed Bruins winger Nathan Horton to tie the game on a 4-on-4 with just 4:23 remaining. Gaborik just missed on an opportunity to end the game in regulation with 52 seconds left, but he wouldn’t miss in the extra period. The Bruins tried to set up shop in the Rangers zone early in overtime, but Gaborik jumped on a mishandled puck by Defenseman Andrew Ference. Gaborik’s speed created a breakaway opportunity. Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask made the first save, but Gaborik batted in his own rebound to get the Blueshirts in the win column for the first time in 2013.
The story of tonight’s game is obviously Marian Gaborik’s hat trick. But a main reason for his big night was his line mates. After two games where the Rangers struggled offensively, Head Coach John Tortorella shook up the lines. Torts went top heavy, having Brad Richards center between Gaborik and Rick Nash. Not that Gaborik hasn’t had quality line mates in the past – but Richards is a true center, and Nash is capable of being both a play-maker and a finisher. With those three on a line together, one of them is going to find open space to work from more often than not. Another shake up was on the 2nd defensive pairing. With Arron Asham out sitting out with a groin injury, Defenseman Stu Bickel moved up to his spot on the wing (Steve Eminger was the 6th defenseman). Bickel is usually paired with Del Zotto, but Tortorella decided to play Marc Staal with Del Zotto. Both Del Zotto and Staal were the main culprits in setting up Gaborik’s 2nd goal of the night.
PLUS – LW Taylor Pyatt – The former Phoenix Coyotes winger was brought in to provide size, leadership, and penalty killing. Three games in to the young season, the winger has two goals in three games. Pyatt had 9 goals (19 points) all of last season. This pace won’t last, but it should be noted that John Tortorella likes his offensive game enough to put him on the 2nd Power Play unit.
MINUS – LW Carl Hagelin – Hagelin is off to a rough start in his sophomore season. He was -1 in the game tonight, and has already been moved to the 3rd line (after spending much of last season on the top line). It’s still very early in the season, so it could just be a matter of him griping the stick too tight or needing to shake off more rust. Either way, he provides speed and solid forechecking to the Blueshirts. The rest of his game needs to start coming together though.