It took Scott Gomez a month to get accustomed to being a New York Ranger. But since November 1st, having scored just two goals and one assist in eleven October games, Gomez has registered points in 25 of 28 games, 33 in total on seven goals and 26 assists. Last night, he extended his latest point streak to a dozen games (four goals, thirteen assists) with a pair of first period assists that staked the Rangers to a 2-1 lead. Along the way, he helped jump-start Brendan Shanahan from an early season goal drought -- Shanahan's overtime game winner was his 13th goal since the end of October. And now he has helped re-start the slumping Jaromir Jagr, who scored his fourth goal in three games in extending his own point-scoring to seven games (four goals, eight assists).
That revived scoring came in handy against a Montreal Canadien team that was virtually a lock to win once they scored their third goal of the game -- they were 17-1-2 so far this season when scoring three or more goals, 13-0-1 the last fourteen times they have done so. Especially since the Rangers, offensively challenged so much of this season, didn't look like they were going to get another sniff at the net after getting only one shot on goal during the entire second period -- only that one shot from the time they took a 2-1 lead late in the first period on Jagr's goal through almost all of the first three minutes of the third (though they did attempt fourteen shots during that span, most of which were blocked, compared to fifteen total shots by the Habs, eight of which were on net, and two in the net).
But from that point on it was all Rangers -- Montreal only got two more shots on goal in the third period (three shots on goal total) and attempted only three other shots. The Rangers meanwhile came close to scoring once when Fedor Tyutin's wide angle shot hit the crossbar, and scored less than a minute after that to tie the game and send it into overtime. When the Rangers were struggling, nothing bounced their way. Tonight, they got the bounces -- Paul Mara's point shot hit Sean Avery square in the skate, but it rebounded right to Chris Drury for the equalizer. And Remember when the Rangers had a great overtime scoring chance, but lost on a breakaway when Shanahan fell? This time, with Montreal attacking four on two, the puck bounced to Dan Girardi, and a Shanahan breakaway resulted for the game winner.
So the Rangers finish the year with a three-game winning streak in which they've outscored their opponents 14-6, getting at least four goals in each game. And this one could have been easier had the Habs not blocked 20 shots (the Rangers attempted 54 shots to 36 by Montreal). Jagr and Shanahan are scoring, Gomez is on fire, three others are scoring at a point per game clip -- Martin Straka has five goals and six assists in his last nine, Drury has three goals and five assists in his last eight, and Michal Roszival has two goals and seven assists in nine -- and Dan Girardi has two goals and two assists in the three wins. And the centers went 41-19 on draws in this game -- Blair Betts was 9-2, Brandon Dubinsky was 4-1, and Drury was 15-6. Now they head out on the road, starting the new year with a rare visit to western Canada -- Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton, three games in four nights.
We usually start with the New York area game reports, but today we have to go first to the Montreal Gazette, where the story of the game from the Montreal perspective was that they were happy with themselves despite the loss. "I thought that we played one of our best games this season," Hab coach Guy Carbonneau said. That's a turnaround from just a couple of weeks ago where the Rangers were lamenting that they were playing well enough to win but were losing instead. Unable to stop the Rangers in the first, the Canadiens went into a defensive shell in the second period, leaving it to their power play to win the game for them with two man-up goals (five on four and six on five on a delayed penalty call). But the Rangers broke the shell in the third period.
Other game reports: Daily News, Journal News, Newsday, Times, Post, AP, SNY, and NYR.com. Look at who got the third star of the night from the NHL -- Dan Girardi, who wasn't even one of the three stars of the game! More from Newsday on Petr Prucha and from Dan Rosen at NHL.com on Marc Staal. Stan Fischler and Dave Kolb check in at MSG.com -- see here and here. Interesting items in Slap Shot on the difference between the Rangers and Knicks and the anomaly of the Rangers playing all six Canadian teams in a seven-game span, including five in a row. Hartford got a jolt from Nigel Dawes, who tallied twice during a five-goal half-period burst that broke a scoring drought of nearly 120 minutes for the Wolf Pack in a 5-2 win -- see the Courant. For other prospect action, see Prospect Park. The Rangers made Hockey's Future's top ten in their organizational rankings.