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Tortorella's decision to use Gaborik in the shootout was based not only on his play against the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night -- he was robbed of at least two goals by spectacular saves by Jonas Hiller in regulation -- but his overall play this season. Tortorella sent him out in the third round of the shootout with a chance to grab two points for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and the tactic worked.
Gaborik's deciding goal in the shootout, preceded by a snappy series of dekes that confused Hiller, gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory and lifted their record to 5-3-3.
"He's been our best player this year," said Tortorella, who has been pushing to get more out of the Slovak sniper in the past two seasons. "He's ready to take the next step. I'm glad for him. I hope it helps him."
Gaborik, who had an assist for his ninth point and a game-high seven shots on goal, said he "had my move before I went . . . I looked at [Hiller] and he was kind of challenging me a bit. I'm happy I got a chance and happy I scored. I think it was about time."
In fact, time seemed to rewind to Oct. 8 in Sweden, when the Rangers and Ducks battled through 65 minutes tied at 1. In that second game of the season for the Rangers, Anaheim's Bobby Ryan scored the lone shootout goal for the winner.
Thursday night, with the same two goaltenders, Hiller and Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers turned the tables. Erik Christensen and Gaborik scored and Lundqvist stopped Ryan -- who had tied the game with 1:42 left in the second period -- in the third round of the shootout.
Lundqvist made 27 saves through overtime, including all 15 shots in the third period. He also stopped Corey Perry's shootout bid with his glove before Teemu Selanne flipped a high backhander past Lundqvist in the second round to tie the shootout at 1.
That was the dramatic finish to the evening. There also was intrigue and injury.
Jeff Woywitka's first goal as a Ranger broke a scoreless tie at 17:32. Gaborik passed the puck to the point, and Woywitka's low blast went off Andrew Gordon's glove and skidded under Hiller. It was the sixth goal by a Rangers defenseman; the Rangers have 26 overall.
The goal by Woywitka, who was awarded the Broadway fedora afterward as game MVP (the Rangers have a new team tradition this season, with the hat given to the player of the game), came amid reports that the Rangers have signed Anton Stralman, a Swedish defenseman who was offered a contract last month.
Stralman had 11 goals and 63 assists in 212 games in two seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and two with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He and Woywitka would battle for a spot on the third defensive pair.
As expected, based on the previous matchup, the Rangers really pressured the Ducks defensively through two periods. Anaheim had only two shots in the first period, the fewest by a Rangers opponent in any period this season.
And on top of all that, Sean Avery, who cleared waivers Tuesday and practiced Thursday, might be in the lineup Saturdaynight against Montreal. Wojtek Wolski, who played in his sixth game, left the bench in the waning minutes of the first with a groin strain and did not return. The injury likely means that Avery will make his season debut Saturday.