Marian Gaborik scored a hat trick while Alex Frolov score twice as the Rangers beat the Edmonton Oilers 8-2 in a fight filled matinee at Madison Square Garden Sunday.
The line of Gaborik, Erik Christensen and Frolov was key for the Rangers, totaling five goals and six assists on the afternoon. Both Frolov and Gaborik broke lengthy goal scoring droughts. Their linemate, Christensen, ended the game with three assists and all three linemates were a plus-five on the afternoon.
“We have some chemistry going,” Frolov said. “It’s a long season. For some reason we couldn’t score goals for a few games. You try too hard sometimes. When it clicks, you have to stick with it. You have to play loose, have some confidence and chemistry.”
Gaborik was thrilled with his three-goal effort, the 11th of his NHL career. “I felt good. It is definitely good to go out there, score and get one under your belt. It’s important for us to click together as a line and for myself to feel comfortable.”
This was a tough game for the young Oilers who were playing the final game of a five-game road swing that saw them go 1-3-1. Edmonton’s inexperience showed and they allowed the Rangers at least a dozen quality scoring chances out of the 31 shots on goal the Rangers managed.
Rangers Coach John Tortorella was pleased with the way his team started this game.
“I was very concerned with how we were going to approach this,” he said. “We have ended up taking a step backwards in these type of trap games. I thought we handled ourselves well as far as preparing and playing the way we should play at the start of the game.”
The result was a quick goal by Gaborik, his first of the season at the 1:35 mark of the opening period. The goal light actually went on earlier in the sequence when a shot hit the side of the net, but play continued as Christensen carried the puck behind the net and sent it to Gaborik for a tap in just to the right of the crease.
The Rangers played a strong defensive first period, outshooting the Oilers 7-4 and blocking six Edmonton shots.
The tide turned early in the second period as the Oilers scored twice in 28 seconds. Ryan Jones netted the first goal on a rebound before Shawn Horcoff let a long shot go that eluded the glove of Rangers starter Martin Biron to give the Oilers a brief 2-1 lead.
Despite allowing two quick goals, Tortorella was pleased with the way his team bounced back.
“I think we were playing well,” he said. “I felt that if stayed within ourselves, we’d be able to fall back into it. It’s important not to try to do it all at once or maybe you’re down by two goals.”
The Rangers tied it on a breakaway goal by Gaborik four minutes later set up by a pinpoint long pass by Christensen. They took the lead 25 seconds later when Brian Boyle finished a mini 2-on-1 with a one-timer into the vacant right side of the net.
Late second period goals by Artem Anisimov and Frolov extended the Rangers lead to 5-2
The game devolved into a “Slap Shot” sequel midway through the third period. After enforcers Steve MacIntyre and Derek Boogaard had two tussles, Sean Avery was in the thick of a long brawl that broke out at the 11:18 mark of the period.
Avery had put a nice check on Oilers forward Colin Fraser and the two players exchanged words. According to Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham, Ladislav Smid of Edmonton challenged Avery to a fight but the Rangers pest said, ‘No, next shift,’ before dropping his gloves and going after Smid. Avery continued to hit Smid after he was down on the ice which further enraged some of the Oilers.
Ryan Whitney started yelling at Avery and then Peckham followed Avery down the tunnel leading to the Rangers dressing room. A scrum broke out between the entrance to the tunnel and the Rangers bench which resulted in four game misconducts and 124 penalty minutes. The Rangers Brandon Dubinsky, who was on the bench when the melee broke out, was given a 10 minute misconduct for his actions during the scrum.
“I watched my teammate ask a guy to fight,” Peckham said after the game. “Avery turned around and said, ‘No, next shift and as soon as Smid turned around, he [Avery] sucker punched him. Then he skated by our bench laughing. I definitely made a little mistake and went wonky, but we’re a family and sometimes you’ve got to stand up for one another.”
“We responded back,” Rangers goalie Martin Biron said. “We picked it up for our teammates.”
The league is certain to have a further say in the matter and fines and suspensions will almost certainly be handed down in the next few days.
The Rangers closed out the game with three more goals in the three minutes that followed the fight with Frolov, Ruslan Fedotenko and Gaborik rubbing salt on the Oilers wounds.
The Rangers were feeling good about winning the final two games of their four-game home stand.
“We have been able to settle things a little bit and work as a team,” Biron said. “We played extremely well on both sides of the ice. It just got crazy at the end. We were having fun.”
The Rangers return to action Monday night when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins.
Todd White and Michal Rozsival were the Rangers scratches.
Singer Cyndi Lauper was at the game.