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Gaborik clicks with new linemates

Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers attempts

Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers attempts a wraparound against Rick Dipietro of the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. (Dec. 2, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Marian Gaborik's 12th career hat trick and second of the season was the number that stands out in bold in the Rangers' wild 6-5 victory over the Islanders last night at Nassau Coliseum.

But the play of Gaborik's new linemates - three assists from Sean Avery and a goal and an assist from Erik Christensen for a nine-point night for the trio - is a figure that can't be ignored.

Coach John Tortorella boiled down the formula that clicked for the trio to a simple notion:

"They had the puck," he said. "Sean did a great job on the forecheck and Erik and Gabby followed. They managed to keep the puck. They were a pretty important line tonight. Sean seized the opportunity."

Avery, a thorn in the Islanders' side for years, had been a fixture on the fourth line before showing some energy and aggressiveness on the recent road trip, said Tortorella, who thought Avery's speed, grit and forechecking could be a fit with more finesse players like Gaborik and Christensen.

"Two of the last three games, he'd been effective," Tortorella said, and his impact on last night's game was clear.

"He controls the puck down low, and you can see he uses his body well," said Christensen, whose snap shot from a sharp angle gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 8:11 of the first period. Avery, who calls Christensen "Crusher,'' was awarded the primary assist.

Avery then set up Gaborik for his second goal of the game at 3:31 of the third, a score that propelled the Rangers to a 5-3 lead. Avery scooped the puck out along the right wall, darted behind the net and slid a backhand pass in front to Gaborik, who didn't miss.

Gaborik's third goal, the game-winner at 14:35, came when he grabbed a bouncing shot that hit a defenseman in front and beat Rick DiPietro.

"I think we came out strong early and stayed with it," said Avery, who played 14:42 and said his ability to click with Gaborik was based on observations. "We talked a bit, but I know where he likes to be," Avery said. "I've watched him enough. And you can feel where he's going to be because he reads the play so well. "

Gaborik, who missed 12 games with a separated shoulder and one more with a strep throat, has eight goals in 14 games. He was double-shifted at times and had a game-high eight shots and four points in 20:18. "He's so efficient as a skater," Tortorella said. "He hasn't played a lot, so we'll keep on putting him out there."

A healthy sniper certainly can be dangerous, and a boost that the Rangers (15-11-1 and on a 5-2 run) can use.

"The strep throat knocked me out, but I felt good," said Gaborik, who enjoyed the shower of hats from the Rangers fans in a crowd that was announced at 13,742.

The crowd surely will be larger tonight at Madison Square Garden in the second game of the back-to-back, which Henrik Lundqvist, who relieved Martin Biron at 12:30 of the second period, will start.

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