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TURN AROUND? Blueshirts, Avery’s Best Effort of the Season, Could Be Turning Point for the Rangers


By Tony Grater

Am I just being overly optimistic here? Probably, but I’m going to give the Rangers a chance here. Hopefully, it won’t come back to bite me, otherwise I will not be too happy tomorrow.

In what was perhaps their best effort of the season, the Rangers defeated the Dallas Stars, 5-2, last night at the Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves, and continued his strong play over the last month plus. Chris Drury scored for the first time in 6 games, and Marian Gaborik scored his league leading 28th goal of the season, but the night really belonged to Sean Avery.

Playing with the snarly edge that can make his teammates sometimes love him, sometime hate him (just ask Dallas)and 29 other teams hate him, Avery was in the Stars faces all night. Taunting and bumping players after whistles, and yapping at goaltender, Marty Turco, who didn’t have his best game. But the real damage Avery did was on the score board, scoring a goal and adding 3 assists to tie a career high 4-point game.

The Stars opened the scoring just 2:07 into the game, with Brad Richards scoring on a shot that deflected off Marc Staal and past Lundqvist to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. But the Rangers tied it 3 minutes later as Avery scored on the power play with a slap shot past Turco.

Gaborik put the Rangers ahead with 4:13 to play in the first, as he took a back hand pass from Avery, and slid his own backhander through Turco’s five hole to give the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead. They never looked back after that, as Ales Kotalik scored on a blast from the blueline in the second period. Then in the 3rd, Drury scored on a beautiful tap-in from Avery, who did a nifty spin-o-rama to avoid a check from defenseman, Matt Niskanen, and slid a pass across to the Captain, who was driving to the net. Ryan Callahan potted an empty netter with 1:05 to go, to give the Rangers back to back victories at the Garden for the first time since November 1st. The Blueshirts, now 7-1-2 in their last 9 games, look to carry that momentum into Atlanta tonight, with a 7 pm tilt against the Thrashers.

Atlanta has dropped its last 9 games, going 0-6-3, and have allowed 41 goals in those games, and are just 8-7-3 at home. But don’t let any of that fool you, tonight will be a big test for the Blueshirts, as they have dropped both previous meetings against the Thrashers, both at the Garden. Atlanta currently sits at 11th in the Eastern Conference, despite the fact that they are 6th in the league in scoring, and 3rd in the conference. This is a typical trap game for the Rangers. It’s the 2nd of back to back games, and the Thrashers are desperate for a win. They need to be sharp, and not take this game for granted. They play the Bruins on Saturday, in Boston, before returning home on Tuesday, to play the Devils. Neither of those games will be easy, and they need to carry as much momentum going into them as possible. Last night was good start. They need to build on it tonight.

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