By Larry Fleisher
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- The New York Rangers reached the All-Star
break in better shape than their previous two seasons and
emerged from the hiatus with another close victory.
Scott Gomez collected a goal and an assist as the Rangers edged
the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, on Tuesday.
Brandon Dubinsky netted the eventual game-winning goal for New
York, which has won five of its last six games. Rookie Lauri
Korpikoski also scored as the Rangers opened a two-goal lead in
the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Markus Naslund added a pair of assists and Stephen Valiquette
made 33 saves for the Rangers, who have allowed two goals or
less in each of their last six victories.
"We realize how important this is to play well right now,"
Valiquette said. "Our urgency is there. Coming off the break,
everybody had that type of focus when we all met yesterday."
Ryan Bayda netted a first-period goal and Tuomo Ruutu registered
a tally and an assist for the Hurricanes, who had a two-game
winning streak snapped and fell to 2-6-0 in their last eight.
"No one's happy," Ward said. "We lost. This is a big stretch
for us. We have to win hockey games. No one's going to be
satisfied with coming close."
Being well over .500 at this point in the regular season is
unfamiliar territory for New York, which was battling for the
final playoff spot at the midway point each of the last two
"It's nice," Dubinsky said. "Our goals and our aspirations are
really high. We want to do everything we can to chase down
Boston for the conference and win the division and guarantee
ourselves home-ice advantage for most of the playoffs. That's
where our focus is, and that's what we're shooting for."
"We've got to get a little bit better," Gomez said. "We got the
lead in the third and we've still got to get the puck in deep
and still got to keep the high guy. There's still stuff that
we've got to get better at, but I think the last two weeks,
everyone's taken another step towards that."
This season, the Rangers have a chance at the Atlantic Division
title and one of the top three spots in the Eastern Conference
partly due to their ability to win close games. They continued
that trend in this one, improving to 18-4-4 in one-goal
"We said that right from the outset," Naslund said of the team's
ability to win close games. "We lost some good players, and the
identity of this team was to play as a team and play hard for
one another and find ways to win. I think that has been our
identity for most of the year."
The night began with an outstanding effort on both ends by
Korpikoski, resulting in his third career goal and first on home
After Korpikoski caused a turnover in the defensive zone,
Naslund carried the puck up the left wing on a 2-on-1 rush and
passed to Gomez. Gomez's shot was stopped Ward, but Korpikoski
hustled down the ice and banged in the rebound just 4:21 into
"It kind of came close to my feet," Korpikoski said. "I just
pushed it in."
The Rangers doubled their lead with 9:57 remaining in the
opening session, when Naslund and Gomez teamed up again.
Defenseman Michal Rozsival moved the puck up the ice to Naslund,
who made a nice stickhandling move in the slot and left it for
Gomez to lift a one-timer from the right faceoff circle over
Carolina halved the deficit just over three minutes later
following a turnover in the right corner by New York blue-liner
Marc Staal. Bayda wound up with the puck on the doorstep, and
his shot trickled past Valiquette's right pad.
The Rangers scored a much-needed insurance goal when Dubinsky
finished off a nice pass from Nikolai Zherdev on the doorstep
with 7:50 to go in the third. But Ruutu tallied just 25 seconds
later, when his shot from the right circle got past Valiquette
to draw the Hurricanes within one.
"We had a really good start to our game, but they scored a goal
against less-than-adequate coverage," New York coach Tom Renney
said. "We seemed to take a step back from what we have been
doing. Then I thought we recovered."
After that, Carolina was unable to muster any scoring chances
and could not pull Ward for the extra attacker until there were
less than 30 seconds remaining.
"I don't think we can keep giving away our chances and our looks
around the net," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "They got
one more than we did at the end of the day. That was about it."