Confidence is like an elixir; without it, an athlete's game can shrivel. With it, an athlete looks like a different, more potent player.
"I lost a little confidence," said Matt Gilroy, the North Bellmore native who played just 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 scored twice after recording just four in 80 NHL games and was awarded the first star at Madison Square Garden following 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 and put the Rangers ahead to stay with his second goal on a coast-to-coast left side rush at 12:08 of the second that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. 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," said Henrik Lundqvist. "It's been ups and downs but that's part of learning. He earns his minutes right now."
The Rangers, too, earned something, their 21st win, launching a season high 52 shots, and scoring six straight goals to erase a 2-1 first period lead by their suburban rivals.
The ice tilted toward the Blueshirts with a sequence midway through the second period and the score tied at 2. Roloson turned away the 31st Rangers shot, a slapper from Erik Christensen on a set up 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. The Rangers opened up a two-goal lead when Brian Boyle, who had assisted on Gilroy's second, came down the right side, got by Jack Hillen, and backhanded a high knuckler that squeezed shortside 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 we've 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 felt the Islanders ran out of gas, noting that his troops had "caught the Islanders at a good time" after playing their sixth game in 11 days. The Rangers were coming off a three-day break.
Derek Stepan, with his 11th, Brandon Dubinsky with his 15th and Ruslan Fedotenko with his 7th, continued the onslaught with goals in the first 10:34 of the third period and the surprisingly large crowd that braved the weather roared for more. It was the third time the Rangers had scored seven goals or more this year. Marian Gaborik had tied the game at 2 with a power play goal at 19:09 of the first to cap a wild first period as the Rangers improved to 3-1 against the Isles.
"I grew up about two miles from that rink." said Gilroy, the Hobey Baker winner who had lost his spot at the end of last season to vet Anders Eriksson. "I saw a lot of games there. It's good to be a part of the rivalry and get a couple goals."