There is no doubt that in two or three years the Edmonton Oilers will be one of the best teams in the league due to their massive depth of young talent, but unfortunately for them, that time has not come yet, and rookie mistakes and countless turnovers led to an 8-2 destruction at the hands of the New York Rangers this afternoon at Madison Square Garden. For a game that got off to such an unassuming start, with one goal in the first and only minor physicality, it would end up being anything but.
The Rangers would get off to an early start in the goal scoring department just a minute and a half in, when Marian Gaborik would score his first of the season, just a game removed from missing twelve due to a shoulder injury. Gaborik came flying into the zone and toward the net and almost scored a moment earlier, when the puck bounced wide, but it was recovered by Christensen who set up Gaborik, before it was slid between the legs of Nikolai Khabibulin. The rest of the period would pretty much be uneventful, with Derek Boogaard and Steve McIntyre coming together a few times, refusing to drop the gloves.
The second period would be a little more wild and rambunctious, and we would see both the Jekyll and Hyde sides of the New York Rangers. The Oilers would strike less than three minutes in to tie the game, when Ryan Jones was left all alone in front, and Biron did not have a chance. 28 seconds later, Shawn Horcoff would take a wrist shot from the right circle that deflected off Marc Staal, then off the glove of Biron and in. Though it was deflected, Biron had more than enough time to adjust, and it was a very soft goal that was all on him.
With the Rangers playing extremely sloppy, Gaborik would get the team on the right track with his second of the game when he was sprung on a breakaway with a nice pass from Christensen. To counter the Oilers two quick goals, 25 second later, Brian Boyle would score on a two-on-one with Fedotenko on a one-timer pass. Prust would also get an assist as he chipped it out of the Rangers defensive zone. Six minutes later, the Rangers would keep pouring it on, when Derek Stepan saucered a pass to Artem Anisimov who swatted at it and missed, but it went off his skate and in. After a brief review, it was announced as a good goal, and the Rangers had a 4-2 lead. Avery would also get an assist on the play, his team-leading eighth of the season. But the Rangers were not done–with just five seconds remaining in the period, Christensen would get his third assist when he slid a pass to a wide-open Gaborik in the crease, hoping for a tap-in. The puck would never get to Gaborik, though, as Alex Frolov (already with an assist on the first goal) who desperately needed a goal, would get to it first and put it in the back of the net. The crazy period would end with the Rangers up 5-2.
The third period, however, was a little more one-sided for the Rangers, but before the Rangers would add more goals, fists would fly. Boogaard and McIntyre would finally go at it after dancing around in the first. Boogaard would pretty much wreck him, but then just minutes after the majors ended, the two would go at it again, with Boogaard getting a marginal victory—it would not end there.
After Sean Avery threw a hard check on Colin Fraser a little less than nine minutes into the third, Ladislav Smid would quickly skate over and challenge Avery to a fight. At first it looked like there was going to be no deal, but then the gloves flew off and with one punch, Smid hit the ice. The game then went to a commercial break when a good old-fashioned donnybrook broke out. As Avery was being led to the locker room, Theo Peckham skated over and got into a shouting match with him, as the linesman desperately tried to get Avery off the ice. Zach Stortini then skated over and locked up with Prust. As Avery was forced to the locker room, all hell would break loose. Prust would fight Stortini, Brian Boyle fought Peckham, and Fraser would start punching Dubinsky on the bench before Eminger rushed over and tied him up. John Tortorella could be seen on the bench holding Dubinsky back so he would not get involved.
When all was said and done, there would be more than 80 penalty minutes assessed between the two teams, 7 fighting majors, two misconducts, and five game misconducts—all at the 11:18 mark of the third period.
With the trouble makers sent to the locker room, the Rangers then polished off their best game of the season. Alex Frolov would score his second of the game on a wrist shot from the slot, an unassisted play made off a turnover. Fedotenko would then net one forty seconds later, with Stepan getting his second assist of the game, and finally, Marian Gaborik would put the exclamation point on the afternoon with a hat trick goal on a breakaway, after an excellent breakout pass by Frolov.
This game was a very important victory for the Rangers, not just because of the win and some much-needed toughness showing through, but because Gaborik looks to be in fantastic shape, and perhaps Frolov will now break out of his struggles, after having a four point game today. Martin Biron was quiet in net, making only 19 saves as the Rangers kept the Oilers to the outside for the entire game, with the exception of a sluggish first few minutes of the second period.
The Rangers top line of Gaborik, Frolov and Christensen would finish each at +5, with a total of five goals and six assists.
Today’s game was the most exciting of the year, and was very reminiscent of old-time hockey. It is not often that line brawls happen anymore, and it was fun to see one here today; too bad it all happened during the TV timeout and we had to learn about it via replays. Also it is worthy to note that there were no powerplays for either team when play resumed after the fights, but I would expect there to be some suspensions coming, as Edmonton clearly initiated it.
The final stats for this game include: 10 goals, 16 assists, and 153 penalty minutes. Who says fighting is bad for hockey?