Dan Girardi and Sean Avery each scored twice and the Rangers busted open a 3-2 game in the third period last night, overwhelming the shaky Toronto Maple Leafs with four goals en route to their fifth straight win.
After the 7-2 trouncing at Madison Square Garden, Leafs coach Ron Wilson pinpointed exactly the type of team the Rangers have become.
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"Their young defensemen really move the puck. Just about everybody up front was playing disciplined, getting the puck in and forechecking," Wilson said. "You are seeing the influence John Tortorella has on the team, the relentless work ethic they have right now."
Consider: Besides Girardi and Avery, six other players had at least two points: Wade Redden, a goal and two assists; Marian Gaborik, a goal and assist; Artem Anisimov, two assists; Vinny Prospal, two assists; Chris Drury, two assists; Brandon Dubinsky, two assists. It was the first time the Rangers had scored seven goals since April 1, 2007, also against Toronto.
Five of the goals were at even strength; the others came on the power play, which has scored seven times in the last 20 opportunities, a 35-percent pace.
"If you are going to win consistently in this league, we need to get scoring all the way through the lineup and we have been stressing that with our D," Tortorella said.
The chief beneficiary of that newfound offense has been Henrik Lundqvist, who was forced to try to win low-scoring games behind the Rangers' anemic offense last season.
"It's a good feeling to know you have guys that can score when the game is really tight," said Lundqvist, whose toughest period was the second, when the Leafs bore down and fired 13 shots, and he stopped all but Alexei Ponikarovsky's pop-in off a scramble. "Not only the first line, three or four lines that can score - it's huge for us."
Girardi, who scored four goals last season, has three, with both last night coming on long shots from the blue line, one just 26 seconds into the second period that gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead, and the sixth goal at 13:41 of the third.
In the second period, said Girardi, who had the first multi-goal game of his career: "We lost a lot of battles down low in our own zone and didn't get enough pucks deep. They were cycling pretty good, but in the third period, we really bore down . . . I was just fortunate tonight."
Prospal, who played fro Tortorella in Tampa, said the coach wasn't happy after the second period. "We let our play slip quite a bit. When you are up 3-2, don't stop playing, get the fourth goal," Prospal said. "Some coaches teach it the other way. We don't sit back. We took the play back to them and scored the fourth goal [Avery's first, on a rebound] right away."
Tortorella's aggressive style, according to players, makes it tougher for teams to create scoring chances, but Drury believes that the stress on conditioning also is making a difference in the final periods, when the Rangers have outscored opponents 12-3.
"It's nice mentally to have that in the back of your head, that you spent a month doing all that stuff," Drury said. That mental game is another one the Rangers seem to finally be winning.