Sean Avery now has five points in five games on four goals and an assist. The huge amount of energy he is bringing to New York Rangers games is inspiring the team to play like, well, Sean Avery. The Rangers' fourth goal in their game with the Buffalo Sabres was first given to Avery, but later changed to an assist.
The New York Rangers, playing aggressively, made it three wins in a row for the second time since their turnaround at the start of March, beating the 10th place Buffalo Sabres, 4-1. It was their fourth win in a row at home in Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have scored 33 times in their past nine games after totaling just an unlucky 13 in the previous eight games. The turnaround happened when coach John Tortorella was hired, Avery returned to the Rangers, and GM Glen Sather traded at the NHL deadline to get forward Nik Antropov and defenseman Derek Morris.
The Rangers needed a scoring, a blueliner, and spirit. Now they've got it.
Avery played over fifteen minutes, was credited with five shots, three blocked shots, two missed shots, and four hits, as well as an assist. He also took a few big hits.
Markus Naslund, the Rangers leading scorer, got the first goal of the game almost halfway through the first period. Nik Antropov got a shot on goal with four Rangers heading for the net and Naslund knocked in the rebound for his first goal in seven games.
Assists on Naslund's 22nd goal of the year went to Marc Staal and Nik Antropov. Staal, a defenseman, joined in the rush, following coach John Tortorella's new game plan, featuring aggressive attack. Chris Drury was the other forward on the rush and Dan Girardi was the defenseman hanging back for protection.
Just before the goal, Sean Avery took a huge hit. Gomez got hit in the first half of the period and got his revenge at the end of the period. Sabres goalie Patrick Lalime stopped Lauri Korpikoski on a penalty shot.
Buffalo outshot New York 14-9 but the Rangers outscored the Sabres 1-0.
Interviewed between periods, Derek Morris said, "Sean Avery as a teammate has been great. He plays with a lot of energy, skates well, gets under the other team's skin, and he's playing great hockey right now."
Former Ranger Pete Stemkowski was asked about Avery, too, and he pointed out Avery is an effective hockey player in many areas outside of the role as agitator.
Two former members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dominic Moore for the Sabres and Antropov for the Rangers, saw each other play for their new times for the first time. Antropov had three goals in his previous five games. Moore had a goal and an assist in his last five. Moore got a goal against the Rangers. Antropov got two assists against the Sabres.
In the second period, the Sabres got called for having too many men on the ice. Naslund, Drury, and Avery, started the powerplay and Chris Drury scored on his shift to make it 2-0.
Antropov got the puck back to the point, Paul Mara took a shot and Drury tipped it in. Seconds after Drury scored on his old team, Moore, a former Ranger, scored when the puck went in the net off his skate.
Ryan Callahan scored on a breakaway to celebrate his 24th birthday. After taking a pass from Brandon Dubunsky, Callahan split the defense and went one-on-one with Lalime. It was Callahan's 18th goal of the season. He has thrived under the Tortorella system.
Avery hit the post at the start of the second period and later earned an assist when Zherdev scored at the end of the period to make it 4-1 for the Rangers. The goal was first announced as Avery's.
Dan Paile scored for the Sabres to keep them in the game.
Clark Macarthur scored just 18 seconds into the third period and Toni Lydman scored with just over a minute left in the game, making it 4-3.
Callahan got his second goal, an empty-netter, to finish it with 24 seconds left. Henrik Lundqvist had 38 saves in the Rangers win.
The Rangers picked up two points with the win and the Washington Capitals did not beat the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, so New York was unable to jump over Carolina into sixth place.
The Rangers are now two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins/Flyers game on the Thursday with be the NBC Game Of The Week.
The Montreal Canadiens were beaten by the Toronto Maple Leafs and are now in danger of being replaced by the Florida Panthers for eighth place in their division and the last playoff spot.
New York's playoff push continues tomorrow when the Ottawa Senators play in MSG. Winning their fourth game in a row would put them in a three-way tie for fourth place with the Flyers and the Penguins.
The Rangers are 7-3-1 since Tortorella became coach and 7-2-1 since Avery returned and Antropov joined the team.
P.S. "Sean Avery was the most noticeable player on the ice, as the 18,200 in the Garden repeatedly chanted his name. He disrupted play and created goals," according to The Buffalo News.