Confidence is like an elixir; without it, an athlete's game can shrivel. With it, an athlete looks like a different player.
"I lost a little confidence," said Matt Gilroy, the North Bellmore product who had played only 21 games this season before last night. "But I think I'm gaining a little and they're showing some confidence in me and that helps."
Game No. 22 certainly was a meaningful one for Gilroy, who got his first two goals of the season after only four goals in 80 previous NHL games. He was awarded the first star at Madison Square Garden after a 7-2 rout of the Islanders.
"I got some lucky bounces," he said, "but I'll take it."
In his second consecutive game subbing for Michael Del Zotto, Gilroy lofted a shot that deflected past Dwayne Roloson at the 44-second mark of the first period. He put the Rangers ahead to stay with a coast-to-coast left-side rush that produced a 3-2 lead at 12:08 of the second. Gilroy played 18:21, had three shots, blocked four and was a plus-3.
"When he plays with confidence, you can tell - the way he moves the puck, the way he skates," Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "It's been ups and downs, but that's part of learning. He earns his minutes right now."
The Rangers earned their 21st win, launching a season-high 52 shots and scoring six straight goals to erase their suburban rivals' 2-1 first-period lead.
Marian Gaborik tied the score at 2 with a power-play goal at 19:09 of the first to cap a wild period. Then the ice tilted toward the Blueshirts in a sequence midway through the second period with the score still tied.
Roloson turned away the Rangers' 31st shot, a slapper from Erik Christensen on a setup from Sean Avery, with his blocker. Lundqvist made his best save of the game to that point with 8:08 left, stoning John Tavares with his right arm from the doorstep on a pass from Matt Moulson, and the Rangers capitalized moments later with Gilroy's goal.
The Rangers opened a two-goal lead when Brian Boyle, who had assisted on Gilroy's second goal, came down the right side, got past Jack Hillen and backhanded a high knuckler that squeezed short side between Roloson and the post at 18:21.
"We wanted to get to Roloson," said Boyle, who had three points. "We haven't gotten as many shots as weve wanted to, but tonight, everyone was looking to shoot, everyone was hungry. There's been times during the year when we had lulls in games, but tonight we had our foot on the gas all night."
Rangers coach John Tortorella indicated that he thought the Islanders ran out of gas, noting that his troops "caught the Islanders at a good time," playing their sixth game in 11 days. The Islanders were 4-0-1 in their previous five. The Rangers were coming off a three-day break.
Derek Stepan (11th goal), Brandon Dubinsky (15th) and Ruslan Fedotenko (seventh) continued the onslaught with goals in the first 10:34 of the third period, and the surprisingly large crowd that braved the bad weather roared for more. It was the third time the Rangers scored at least seven goals this season.
The Rangers improved to 3-1 against the Islanders this season.
"I grew up about two miles from that rink [Nassau Coliseum]," Gilroy said. "I saw a lot of games there. It's good to be a part of the rivalry and get a couple goals."