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The Wrap: Rangers 5, Tampa 2

 
   
    Henrik Lundqvist baited Sean Avery, and it paid off during a penalty shot.
    “I challenged him a couple times in practice and told him he would never do a move like that in a game,” said Lundqvist, “but he did today. It was awesome.”
      With the Rangers down 2-0 and sleepwalking in the first period, Avery’s hustle forced Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster to pull him down, drawing a penalty shot at 1:40 of the second period against goaltender Mike Smith.        
                                Avery, who had scored just once in the last 19 games, coolly started  wide on his backhand, cut to the middle and drew Smith way out and to his right. Smith dove and from a sharp angle 14 feet away, fired it into the top right corner of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
                                “Once I saw him take it wide and I saw where Smith was, I didn’t think there was any chance,” said coach John Tortorella. “But give him credit, it was a great shot and it got us right back into the game.”
                                 Vinny Prospal scored on a four-on-four at 6:07, his third consecutive game with a goal, and center Erik Christensen added two more in 1:46 as the Rangers decked Tampa Bay 5-2 for their second straight win and third in four games to go into the Olympic break on a little roll.  
                                  With leading scorer Marian Gaborik and defenseman Michael Del Zotto injured, the Rangers began sluggishly. “After the first period we weren’t very happy with the way we played,” said Christensen, who assisted on Prospal’s goal for a three-point afternoon, his most productive game as a Ranger. “We came out with a big effort in the second.”
                                 Christensen, claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Dec. 2, has been immensely valuable as playmaker after a rocky start. “I did a few things that I wanted to improve on,” he said. “The last home game I had a lot of chances to shoot from where I scored my first goal. Torts wanted me to, instead of looking for passes, and shoot for rebounds, and obviously, he was right.”  Christensen just missed a natural hat trick, hitting the post late in the third. "You get one, you crave more,” he said. “It's like a drug."        
                               Tortorella, who said Christensen is becoming more consistent in his play, has tremendous skills and put him in lofty company on his second goal. “There’s only one other person on his team who can do that, and that’s Gaborik, as far as getting from backhand to forehand and putting it in the top corner.’’   
                              For the fourth consecutive game, Lundqvist---one of five Rangers headed to Vancouver---shone as well, allowing just seven goals in that quartet. He stopped all 22 shots over the final two periods, including critical ones on Steve Downie just before the penalty shot and Martin St. Louis just before Prospal’s tying goal.  
                              Tortorella, an assistant coach for Team USA, said the almost two-week break would refresh the team, which is tied with Tampa for ninth place in the East with 63 points.       
                               “We got some tired guys,” he said. “I’m sick of looking at them and I’m sure they’re sick of looking at me. That’s healthy. It’s not an easy ride when you’re not winning. I’m glad they’re going out on a good note.”
 

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                 The next time you will see Lundqvist is wearing the Tre Kronor of Sweden in Vancouver. In 2006, of course, the Swedes won the gold in Torino.
                 “I don’t feel that much different,” Lundqvist said after yesterday’s game. “I put the same pressure on myself. You really want to go in playing your best.”  
                  Although he has played 54 games, the three-time Vezina finalist who is 25-22-6 on the season, said he wasn’t tired. “John (Tortorella) has been really good at giving us days off, I don’t go to morning skates as much as I’ve done in the past, just try to stay away from the game. And it saves a lot of energy. For a 20-minute skate, it’s a four-hour process. I just feel fresh going into games and it’s a lot more fun to come to the rink when you stay away a little more.”
 
 
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                      Beside the goals, a buzz went through the crowd in the second period on the video board, when a young fan, Nick, was rudely turned down for a marriage proposal, with his girlfriend Melissa getting up and stomping away.
                     “I turned to Vinny (Prospal) and I said “Was that real?” said Erik Christensen. “I didn’t know whether it was staged because of Valentine’s Day. I thought it might be something funny to do. I know my girlfriend said if I ever did something like that she would definitely not be happy. I think you can find a different way to be original.”
 
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                      Chris Drury’s goal was the 600th point of his NHL career…Sean Avery’s only other penalty shot came as a member of the Los Angeles Kings in 2006 against the Lighting. He missed….Artem Anisimov said he told Avery one thing: “Score”…It was the first Rangers penalty shot since Michal Rozsival scored in Los angeles on Dec. 17, 2008….Christensen finished a plus 3….Steven Stamkos scored his 35th goal and had an assist for the Lightning…The Ranbgers are 5-0-1 in afternoon games this season….Defenseman Corey Potter and goaltender Matt Zaba were re-assigned to Hartford to play during the break…

 

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           The Rangers have scored 13 goals in the last two games against Tampa, who have scored 4....The next Rangers game is at Ottawa, March 2, 7:30 p.m. There are 20 to play...Many Rangers expect to be back at the training center for practices with assistant coaches Mike Sullivan and Jim Schoenfeld starting the 24 or 25th...
 

 

 

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