Gomez helps Rangers edge Hurricanes - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Gomez helps Rangers edge Hurricanes

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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

campaigns.

"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

contests.

"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

ice.

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

the contest.

"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

Ward.

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."

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