NEW YORK – It’s been a long time coming for Brandon Dubinsky.
After his first goal of the season gave the Rangers (9-3-3) a 3-1 lead in their eventual 5-1 win over Carolina (5-8-3) Friday night, he leaned back, tilted his head up in the air and screamed in relief. His long nightmare of 14 games without a goal to begin the season was over.
“Picture’s worth a thousand words, isn’t that the phrase? If you take a still shot of me with my head back, my arms up, it was just like ‘mercy, finally, thank God. Something gave.’ That’s what you need,” Dubinsky said. “Puck going off my butt or something, it was pretty dang close with a puck on my stick and an empty net in front of me 15 feet away.”
Dubinsky’s tally came just nine seconds after Dan Girardi gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead on the power play. Off the ensuing faceoff, captain Ryan Callahan skated the puck to under the hash marks, where he put a bad-angle shot on cage. When the rebound bounced off the pads of Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, who finished with 35 saves, it came right to Dubinsky’s stick for the put-back with 9:04 remaining in the third.
“We work on bad-angle shots all the time,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We talk about taking more shots, Cally throws a bad angle shot on the pads, and Dubi bangs a rebound in. We just get a couple of fortunate rebounds. That’s what we’ve been really trying to get our team to do more of, is give ‘em a chance to bang in some rebounds.”
“It’s real good. He’s working hard, he keeps shooting, he’s crashing the net, some of the bounces he hasn’t been getting,” Callahan said. “It’s nice to see his first one go in for him.”
Added Sean Avery, who also scored his first goal of the season tonight: “That was good. Dubi – I don’t think we were as happy as he was, but he was pretty happy.”
Dubinsky, one of the heart-and-soul players on this team, had just started answering questions about the third-longest goal-less streak of his career (23 games in 2009, and 15 games in 2007). With six assists on the season entering play tonight, it’s not that he wasn’t producing — he just wasn’t putting the puck in the net.
“Dubi was playing really well. It [was] just a matter of time until he scored,” defenseman Dan Girardi said. “I think everyone was happy to see him get one – obviously, he was really excited too, you can see his celebration. I was just as excited, coming into the pile I was looking at the skies too.”
Dubinsky’s goal elicited the loudest ovation of the night, followed by loud chants of “Dubi! Dubi! Dubi!”
“It’s like the weight of the world comes off your shoulders,” said Dubinsky, who earned third star honors after adding an assist later in the third. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s just a matter of preparing every game the same, and taking care of our own end, and trying to play hard hockey, forechecking and skating. Now that one went in, hopefully the puck finds my stick more often.”
When the National Hockey League released the 127 names on the ballot for the NHL All-Star Game yesterday, a familiar face on Broadway was conspicuously missing. Dan Girardi, the Rangers’ best defenseman with Marc Staal on the shelf, was left off the ballot. The snub left coach John Tortorella fuming after the game.
“Our league is so ass-backwards when it comes to that,” Tortorella said. “It’s not just this year that he’s underrated. This guy’s been a really good player. But if you don’t have the pedigree in this league, they don’t look at you.”
A group of Rangers fans are planning to engage in a write-in campaign to try to get Girardi voted in to the midseason exhibition.
The Rangers are 5-1-1 at home this season through their first seven home games, including five straight wins. Last season, the Rangers were 20-17-4 at Madison Square Garden.