That didn't take long, did it?
When the Rangers signed Chris Drury this summer, Ranger fans, who were crushed by his game-tying (series ending) goal with 7.7 seconds left in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, anticipated that they would get to be on the long end of Drury's heroics in the clutch.
Nearly midway through the third period of his first game as a Ranger, the anticipation on Broadway was replaced by an eruption of joy. Less than two minutes after Petr Prucha tied the score at 2-2, Rangers’ Captain Jaromir Jagr threw a blind backhand on net and Florida Panthers Goalie Tomas Vokoun left a juicy rebound in front of his net that ended up on Drury's stick. The 30-year old center wasted no time in roofing a shot just under the crossbar, giving the Rangers the lead for good in a 5-2 rout of the Panthers.
Opening night at the World's Most Famous Arena got off to a dazzling start as former Ranger and future Hall of Famer, Brian Leetch returned to MSG to drop the ceremonial first puck. Leetch was introduced to a thunderous Garden ovation as Ranger fans showed their appreciation to the Greatest Ranger of all-time by chanting his name.
While Leetch, and other members of the dragon-slaying 1993-94 Rangers, will always have a special place in the hearts of the Garden faithful, the 2007-08 Rangers got off to a fast start of their own. Just like last season, the Rangers scored a goal on their first shot of the season. A year ago, it was Captain Jagr against the Caps. This year, Michal Rozsival (+4 on the evening) scored just 39 seconds into the game to put the Rangers on the board first.
The party atmosphere didn't last, however, as the Rangers seemed intent on making the perfect pass, playing right into the hands of the trapping Panthers. The Rangers would muster only four more shots the rest of the period, and another paltry four during the second period.
The Panthers took advantage of Rangers’ mistakes and took a 2-1 lead on second-period goals by Brett McLean and Nathan Horton, and held a 21-9 shot advantage after the first 40 minutes.
The Rangers, booed off the ice after a lackluster first two periods, were kept in the game by the usual solid work in goal by Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves en route to his first win of the year.
King Henrik's play kept the Rangers in striking distance in the third period. And, strike they did, peppering a helpless (and hapless)Vokoun with 16 shots in a dominating four-goal third period.
Prucha opened the scoring in the third stanza by taking a nifty feed from much-maligned defenseman Marek Malik (3 assists and a +3) and snapping a wrister under Vokoun's left arm.
Twelve seconds after Drury (goal, 2 assists, +3 and a team-high 4 shots) gave the Rangers the lead, promising rookie Ryan Callahan intercepted an attempted break-out pass, made a great move and buried a wrist shot under the crossbar and just inside the far post to provide the home team with some insurance.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the Rangers’ opening night triumph, Martin Straka closed out the scoring by converting a Malik rebound.
There were plenty of positives and negatives to take away from this opening game of the season.
On the positive side, the Straka-Drury-Jagr line combined for 6 points and a +9 rating.
Prucha and Callahan not only each tallied goals, they consistently had hard-working energetic shifts.
And, the defense played well, including a solid performance from Marc Staal in his NHL debut.
As for the minus side of the ledger, the Avery-Gomez-Shanahan line generated virtually no offense, mustering a grand total of 3 shots the entire night. It's only the first game, and they need time to mesh, but Tom Renney may need to do some more tinkering, if this line doesn't start to click.
The Rangers spent much of the first two periods playing uninspired, unintelligent hockey. The good news is they still managed to get a win. The bad news is that playing that poorly and still winning often leads to complacency. Hopefully, this team has enough veteran leadership to recognize the 60-minute effort needs to vastly improve.
And, while we're dealing with the negatives from last night, could Ranger fans at least wait for the puck to drop before booing Marek Malik? Look, he's never going to make anyone forget Brian Leetch or even Alexander Karpovtsev, but he's not Stephane Quintal or Igor Ulanov, either. What is the point of booing a guy during the opening night player introductions?
Oh, and one other thing about senseless displays of ignorance from some in the crowd, the "we want the cup" chants need to be tabled for a while. It's the first game of the year. Everyone take a breath and enjoy the season.
As for what took place on the ice, there were plenty of things to like, but none more than Chris Drury immediately showing Ranger fans his knack for the big moment.
After the game, Drury was asked about his history of coming up big when it matters most. He said, "same answer I always give. Right place at the right time."
05 October 2007
That didn't take long, did it?
Goal scored by Norman Rochefort at 1:47 PM
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