"It's a big play at the end by Dubi," said Head Coach John Tortorella following a last minute victory by the New York Rangers in their final preseason home game.
With just over one minute remaining, Brandon Dubinsky took a cross ice pass from Marian Gaborik and worked the puck along the boards, warding off the Washington defense as he entered the offensive zone.
Dubinsky fought the puck to the net just enough to catch Jose Theodore off-guard and give Chris Higgins a shot at the goal.
Higgins capitalized and the Rangers held on to win 3 - 2, in the two teams' first meeting since Washington ousted the Rangers from the playoffs in seven games last season.
Dubinsky, in his first game of the preseason following his week-long holdout, didn't look out of place and had a little extra jump in his step, working hard to be the first player to the puck nearly every shift.
"I felt good all week, but you never know since it's preseason and there is still another level to jump to," said Dubinsky.
He must have felt particularly good with new linemate Marian Gaborik who tallied two goals of his own and added an assist on the game-winner.
"He was great tonight and that shot of his is pretty scary," said Dubinsky. "If I play with him it's just an indicator that I'm trying to get him the puck as much as I can in scoring areas..."
Higgins was equally impressed with his Slovakian linemate's first two games.
"He's such a phenomenal talent, it's pretty much a guaranteed goal," said Higgins who added an assist on Gaborik's second goal.
Originally, Vinny Prospal had centered Higgins and Gaborik, but Dubinsky was phased into that spot later in the game. Tortorella, however, has not committed to either combination and vows to continue and "try different things there and see where it goes."
The game went back and forth and featured a lot of time on specialty teams. Both teams took seven penalties apiece , but neither could rally any momentum from the power play.
Gaborik broke the game open early in the second period with a breakaway shorthanded goal that went five-hole on Theodore, nearly knocking him over.
Later in the period, following a strong defensive play by Matt Gilroy on Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin corralled the puck from the corner and out to the faceoff circle before roofing a shot over Henrik Lundqvist's pads.
The teams traded goals again as Gaborik got the lead back at 12:37. However, the Rangers missed a coverage on the backcheck and Alexei Semenov was left all alone to face a 2-on-1 with Ovechkin and Keith Aucoin. Ovechkin slipped a pass beyond Semenov's reach and Aucoin buried it with three minutes left in the period.
During the third, neither team had a tremendous number of opportunities, but the physical play did pick up with big hits on both sides. There were a couple fights to speak of as well, as Donald Brashear and Brandon Sudgen had a quick spat in the second period followed by a near minute-long re-match in the third.
Brashear won by decision.
Throughout the game, Brashear sat for four penalties, much to the dismay of the Garden faithful. But the smattering of boos, cheers, and jeers were heard by more than just the fans.
"Donald Brashear is gonna be a big part of this hockey club, I don't think he needs to be disrespected," said Tortorella. "[The media] disrespected him when we brought him in here...He's gonna serve to be a pretty important guy for this hockey club."
Tortorella also intends to use Brashear in a variety of roles, including the power play which he saw some time on tonight, setting himself atop the crease.
The Rangers now look to Sunday as they travel to Washington to close out the preseason. Both teams used predominantly veteran lineups in preparation for next week's start to the regular season. There may be at least one more cut prior to Sunday's game.
GAME NOTES AND STATS:
- Henrik Lundqvist played the full game, recording 23 saves for the victory
- Wade Redden was a +2 and led the team in time on ice with 23:50. He was named Third Star of the Game. Dubinsky received the Second Star and Gaborik the First Star
- Gilroy and Semenov were both -2