Slumping Marian Gaborik hadn’t scored in eight games and had just three in the past 19 games.
But the Slovak sniper exploded last night against the Maple Leafs, scoring four goals and adding an assist by the 14:44 mark of the second period as the Rangers trounced Toronto 7-0 at Madison Square Garden.
Gaborik’s breakout performance was aided and abetted by center Artem Anisimov, whose four assists was a career high in points, and three from Sean Avery, who was paired with that duo when coach John Tortorella was forced to shuffle his lines when he learned in the afternoon that Brandon Dubinsky would miss three to four weeks with a stress fracture of the tibia in his left leg.
Gaborik’s began the first four goal game for a Rangers since Radek Dvorak in 2001 at 10:55 of the first when he settled at pass from Avery at the left of Jonas Gustavsson, deked, and pulled the puck around his extended left pad and across the line.
“It kind of bounced over my stick so I couldn’t shoot a one timer,” said Gaborik, who had a huge grin on his face, “and I saw Gustavsson didn’t have a stick so I just made a move on him. To get the first one, it was a big relief. It got the monkey off my back and then we got rolling. We were talking that we had to get a good start and we did. You have to give a lot of credit to Aves and Artie, they were great.”
And just like that, the goals came in waves.
“It’s been kind of a battle for me lately in terms of getting goals and I needed to get going, skating and forechecking and getting my legs going,” he said. “After the first one, it just took off from there.”
“It was a big lift for us, we’re all happy for him,” said Brian Boyle who scored a power play before Gaborik’s second came at 13:21. His third, and 14th of the season, was on a bad angle shot that trickled in at 11:15 of the second period. All in all, it was vintage Gaborik, playing at full speed and finding the open ice for shots. His fourth came off passes Anisimov and Wojtek Wolski on a power play in which Gaborik, on the point, was the fourth forward in a new alignment with the main advantage.
It all was reminiscent of his five-goal game against the Rangers in Minnesota on Dec. 20, 2007. He had been the first player in 11 years to reach that
magic number. He added an assist in that game for his career high of six points.
Lost in the shuffle was Henrik Lundqvist’s seventh shutout of the season, tied with the Bruins’ Tim Thomas for the league lead. He made 22 saves. And the seven goals were one shy of the season high, the 8-2 vanquishing of Edmonton..
Before he left with a shoulder injury, Ruslan Fedotenko’s low slapper from the point had made it 4-0 on the second shot that J.S. Giguere faced in relief of Gustavsson at 15:40 of the first.
By the time Mats Zuccarello made it 7-0 in the third period, on a 2-on-1 with Derek Stepan, the crowd was chanting not only for a fifth goal, but a shutout.
“It’s definitely a good feeling, four goals,” said Gaborik. “Now I have to build on it.”