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Eventful Garden debut for Rangers' Gilroy

Matt Gilroy #97 skates in his first game

Matt Gilroy #97 skates in his first game as a member of the New York Rangers against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on September 15, 2009. The Bruins defeated the Rangers 2-1. Photo Credit: Getty Images

In the future, it would be simplistic for fans at Madison Square Garden to look back at last night's preseason game and say: "Gilroy was here."

But he was, and for the first time. And he might just stick around.

Wearing No. 97 in Rangers blue, defenseman Matt Gilroy, the North Bellmore native, was standing still on the blue line during the "Star-Spangled Banner,'' awaiting his first game at the Garden. "It was pretty cool," he said. "I definitely got chills."

And not long afterward, he got bloody.

On a power play in the second period, Gilroy was knocked down from behind, and the hit opened a cut near the corner of his right eye. "I took a swing at a puck, there was blood in my face and I whiffed on it," he said after the 2-1 loss to the Bruins. "Then I went to the bench as quick as I could."

But Gilroy, 25, wasn't on the bench much of the evening, as coach John Tortorella employed Gilroy, who was paired with Marc Staal, in all situations, five-on-five, the power play and the penalty kill.

Gilroy was credited with four shots in 21:13 overall, including 1:20 with the man advantage and four minutes shorthanded. In the third period, he was on the ice for the power-play game-winner that slipped past goaltender Matt Zaba.

"In the beginning, it was kind of hard to find my spots, but toward the end, I think I got into a little bit of a rhythm," said the Hobey Baker Award winner from Boston University, who signed a two-year, $3.5-million contract in April and has a legitimate shot to make the team for opening night Oct. 2.

Another Long Islander, Christopher Higgins, scored the Rangers' goal, sliding a rebound under Tuukka Rask at 10:05 of the third period. Gilroy almost tied it on a rush on the next shift, calling for a pass in the slot, but the puck rolled and his bid was turned aside.

"I didn't get a good bounce on the puck," Gilroy said, "but that'll come. They're giving me a lot of freedom, Torts just wants us to go."

With his dad, Frank, in the stands, and his mom, Peggy Ann, watching from home, Gilroy had the best seat of all.

"It was cool to hear the crowd get into it in the end, trying to get something going," he said. "It was my first taste and I want a lot more of it."

Said Higgins: "He's going to learn what he can and can't do pretty quickly, but even in his first preseason game, you can see him getting up into the play as a fourth forward. In this game, that's a very valuable asset to have and he's only going to get better."

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