Like a tornado that suddenly appeared in a calm sky, Sean Avery cut through the unusual silence of his season last night, yapping and shoving and most importantly, scoring against any team, especially his old one.
Avery's power-play slapshot past Dallas' Marty Turco tied the game at 1 after a deflection had given Dallas the lead just 3:22 earlier in the first period. But Avery, who had just four goals and 11 assists on the season. was far from done. His bump-and-grind was back. In the end, with three assists as well, he tied his single game career high, March 17, 2007 against Boston, as the Rangers kayoed the Stars, 5-2.
"It's a pretty good night when you have four points against a team that didn;t want you," said Henrik Lundqvist. "He was Sean at his best tonight, a lot of energy..."
Avery's 13:20 effort in a chippy game---OK, he was off for 12 minutes in penalties, including a silly misconduct---was relentless and pushed the Rangers to their second consecutive win at the Garden, the first double-shot since Oct. 14 . The victory also lifted the Rangers to 7-1-2 in the last 10, and they will face the Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday night.
"I can take a lot of good things out of tonight, but it really doesn;t mean anything unless I play that way tomorrow," said Avery, who had been signed to a four year deal by Dallas and then banished for his "sloppy seconds" comments last season. "I think in general our game is starting to come."
Coach John Tortorella was pleased by Avery's long-overdue performance. "I'm happy for the guy. As I said prior to the game, he has strggled of late. I wish he didn;t take the misconduct (for charging Jere Lehtinen after Ales Kotalik's goal). He plays with an edge. He makes a helluva play of Dru's goal (when he stole the puck from Matt Niskanen along the left boards deep in the zone, spun to the net and found Drury in front for a deflection that made the score 4-2.) He is an important part to our hockey club when he plays on edge and when he plays a north-south game."
Give the penalty kill (six for six) major credit also. The Stars had just four shots on goal in 10:33 of PP time, including 54 seconds of a 5 on-3, when Dan Girardi blocked two and perhaps three shots and finished a plus-3 in a game-high 23:09.
"It would be nice to get on a roll here," said Kotalik, whose long blast from 8:23 in the second blew past Turco for a 3-2 lead. "I don't know if Turco didn't see it or what, sometimes it's just best to put it on net, that's what the coaches are telling me."
BY THE NUMBERS
Lundqvist (25 saves, including a flat-out robbery of Jamie Benn on a breakway that preserved a 3-2 lead) has held opponents to two of fewer goals in 13 of the last 16...Erik Christensen had an assist on Gaborik's 28th goal, and has two goals and three assist in four games. He could have had another goal if not for a belly-slide by Stephane Robidas in front of a net that Turco vacated trying to make a stop at 4-2....Matt Gilroy had his first assist since returning from the minors eight games ago.... Michal Rozsival has eight assists in his last 10 games...Dallas' Mike Ribiero didn't return after an incident in the second period when Chris Higgins inadvertently caught him in the throat with his stick at center ice....Both Dallas goals came on deflections, the first caromed off a sliding Marc Staal and the second glanced off Drury's stick... Turco had an assist on the first goal and Lundqvist appeared to kick the puck before Callahan's rush for the final empty-netter, but it was officially unassisted...