Marian Gaborik’s second power play goal, at 3:12 of overtime, gave the Rangers a 4-3 win over the Devils tonight. Gaborik’s new left wing, the former King Alexander Frolov---in his first game as a Ranger--- was named first star at MSG with a goal and two assists. 

                          But the man in the middle, 20-year-old Derek Stepan, didn’t disappoint in his first stroll onto the big stage either.

                        Playing on the Rangers’ top line, Stepan circled in the high slot on the power play, found Frolov in the left circle and saw Gaborik beat Martin Brodeur just 6:43 into his Broadway debut.

                       “He was very good, he had some jump, had a few (four) shots,” said Gaborik. “He’s not afraid to make plays.” 

                        Stepan played 18:14, was 5 of 10 on faceoffs, skated on the power play and penalty kill: “I don’t think he gets too uptight about who he’s playing with,” said coach John Tortorella. “He did a pretty good job. That’s what I like about him. I think he can handle these situations and not get blown away by it.”

                      With his performance at the Traverse City prospects tournament and in scrimmages, Stepan, the team’s 2008 second round-draft pick from Hastings, Minnesota, has forced himself into the debate over whether he can make the jump from college and contribute as a pivot for the Rangers this season. 

                       “Things keep getting faster, from college to scrimmages to here,” said Stepan, who had 42 assists to lead the NCAA, and captained Team USA to the gold medal in the 2010 World Junior Championships. “I’ve got to learn how to fend off bigger, stronger guys on faceoffs, but it was a good start. It was a good atmosphere.”

                       Although Tortorella shifted Erik Christensen between Gaborik and Frolov late in the game, Stepan had said he expected to be moved around. “We’re trying to get used to each other,” he said. “You just hand off the puck to them,” said Stepan, who was on ice for two of the Devils goals, but was solid overall. “I was telling Ryan (McDonagh, his Wisconsin teammate), the first scrimmage, I picked up the puck, I turned around, and Gabby was already behind both defensemen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.”

                   McDonagh, the other former Badger who left school early to turn pro, played 19:21, almost all with veteran Michal Rozsival, had no shots, but was a plus 1. “He had some really good shifts and other times, he struggled, but we expect that. There was a little bit of speed coming down his side where at times, there was a little bit of a struggle, but he’s got good feet. He just has to understand handling the gap, not lunging. That’ll come, I think.”

***

Notes & Quotes

                        The Rangers were 2-for-7 on the power play, not bad considering they just rolled lines at the start, didn’t practice the man-advantage in camp and discussed it for about 10 minutes before the game….Frolov had a team high six shots with Ruslan Fedotenko… Marc Staal led in ice time with 27:37…Dale Weise and Dan Girardi also registered assists….Brian Boyle led the team with four hits and dropped the gloves with Adam Mair at 4:45 of the first…Martin Biron stopped 17 of 19 shots in two periods before Chad Johnson came in an allowed a Zach Parise blast to trickle underneath him at 18:14 to force OT.

 

 

                      Tortorella on Frolov:  “It’s not just his goal-scoring, you can see how strong he is in the corner, I used him tonight killing penalties and he may be able to help us in that area.  I’m gonna keep him with Gabby a little bit here and try to figure out the center. It’s another step in offense for us. You have a guy who’s played first-line minutes and scored goals, and it puts other guys in different spots.”

 

                   On Boyle: “I think Brian Boyle wants to improve. He did throughout the year last year and I think he’s looked at the people who are here and know’s where he’s at (fighting to win a job at center).”  Said Boyle: “I just said I was going to go out there and bang.” His goal came when he muscled past Eric Gelinas to the crease and slid one off Broadeur at 14:20 of the second.

 

                     Tortorella on why Derek Boogaard received a 10-minute misconduct with 9:18 left in regulation.”

 

                     “They were challenging Prust all night long, Mills and LeBlonde, and Boogey started answering and wanted to fight LeBlond and the ref (Chris Rooney) felt he was the only one talking. It was all night long from the other team too, and that’s why I asked him, ‘You can’t just give a guy a 10-minute misconduct, you need to see what’s been going on the rest of the game.’ He said he didn’t realize that was happening.’’

                     See y'all tomorrow.....

 

 

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