NEW YORK – When John Tortorella put Marian Gaborik with Brad Richards and Rick Nash on the Rangers top line, this is what he had in mind.
Well, maybe not exactly this.
Marian Gaborik scored his 14th career hat trick – batting the puck out of mid-air 27 seconds into overtime to give the Rangers (1-2-0) an exhilarating 4-3 win over Boston (2-0-1); New York’s first victory of the season.
“You want to get that first win, so you can stop talking about not having it,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (26 saves). “A lot of times when you lose, people tend to focus on bad things and you have to answer lot of questions about things not working. It’s a lot easier to talk about the good stuff.”
It really was the Marian Gaborik show all night. He opened the scoring 4:36 into the first when Brad Richards touch-passed Michael Del Zotto’s head-man feed to Rick Nash, who streaked into the zone and sent a brilliant cross-ice pass to Gaborik for the goal.
“It was a great breakout play,” said Gaborik. “DZ made a nice play to Richie, Richie redirected, Nasher came with speed. Nash took a nice look and got it to me. It was a nice play.”
Gaborik added a second tally 2:07 later when he deposited the rebound in the crease after Del Zotto’s point-blast.
“He doesn’t get enough credit,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said of Gaborik. “He has changed himself as a player since he’s been here. He was a perimeter guy when he got here. He was a perimeter guy who didn’t want to practice because he was sore. He wasn’t injured; he has grown so much mentally in how he conducts himself. Always on the ice, plays all the games, I bet you 80% of his goals last year were between five and seven feet from the net. He’s a very talented player that’s willing to be there. When I first met him, I didn’t think he was willing to be there.”
Gaborik’s final goal was his prettiest. After intercepting the puck in neutral, he accelerated past Bruins defensemen Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk. Gaborik’s initial shot was saved by Tuukka Rask (29 saves), but popped up into the air.
No problem for Gaborik, who calmly batted the puck into the net out of mid-air, then dropped to one knee and pumped his fist while his teammates surrounded him, and hats rained down from the sell-out crowd of 17,200 at Madison Square Garden.
“Ference fumbled the pick, I just tried to chip it in front of me, get some speed,” explained Gaborik. “The puck was bouncing. finally I settled it down and tried to shoot to the blocker. Got a fortunate bounce on the rebound; happy it went in.”
“When that line’s clicking, it’s going to be hard to defend,” said Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. “Richie’s such a good playmaker, those two guys on the wings can fly, be strong with the puck. They had a ton of chances tonight; we could have had the lead a couple times tonight but Tuukka had a good game. When those guys are buzzing, we feed off their energy.”
The rest of the combination was as impressive as you can get without actually scoring. Gaborik, Richards, and Nash had eight of the Rangers 11 first-period shots, and combined for 15 of their 33 volleys on net. For Nash, it was a virtuoso performance – he routinely skated through the Bruins defense as if they were standing still, sending the crowd into an expectant murmur every time he touched the puck.
“He beats people one-on-one, he protects the puck, he’s killing penalties for us, third period he had a couple quality chances to win the game, he’s there,” Tortorella said of Nash. “And I don’t think he’s in great shape, but he’s really exciting to me as far as what he’s going to be for this organization.”
“When our top guys are our top guys, all the way down the line that gets everyone elevating their game and motivating themselves to be better,” Girardi said. “When those guys are leading the way, we have to come right behind them and follow them up.”
Taylor Pyatt was the other goal-scorer for the Rangers, tallying with 6:50 remaining in the second on a rebound of Derek Stepan’s initial shot.
The Rangers have won 10 of their last 14 games against the Bruins, and 12 of their last 15 against Boston at MSG, dating to 2005.
Gaborik’s 14 career hat tricks are tied with Jaromir Jagr for second among active NHL players.
INSIDE THE RANGERS LOCKER ROOM