Richards tallies twice as Rangers rally
March, 11, 2012
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com
AP Photo/Kathy KmonicekBrad Richards (19) had plenty to celebrate about on Sunday night.NEW YORK -- Brad Richards didn't notch a third goal for the first career hat trick that continues to evade him, but he didn't come through the Rangers' inspired 4-3 overtime win against the Islanders empty-headed.
The 31-year-old center emerged from a stellar two-goal, three-point effort with the well-deserved Broadway Hat for his MVP performance in helping the Rangers snap a worrisome three-game losing streak at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Richards tallied twice on the power-play and the Rangers erased three one-goal leads to tie the game in regulation before Marian Gaborik scored the game-winner with less than six seconds remaining in overtime.
With the dramatic win, the Rangers tightened their grip on both the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division standings with the surging Penguins coming to town on Thursday.
"I've been feeling better. Not counting the [New Jersey] game -- that was awful -- but I felt progress and that's the only thing I can really tell you," said Richards, who set up Gaborik's power-play goal at 4:54 in overtime. "The production sometimes doesn't come but I just feel better seeing the ice. You've just got to trust it. Tonight, some things happened for me that I got rewarded, and that obviously gets your confidence up."
Richards carried the puck up the ice virtually untouched and fired one from between the circles to give the Rangers their first power-play goal in five games for his 20th goal of the season with 1:13 left in the first period.
With Brian Boyle parked in front of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, Richards rattled off his second man-up goal with a slap shot from the left point to knot the teams at 2 late at 16:03 in the second.
Despite having the most goals (241) of any forward in history without ever recording a hat trick, (according to Elias Sports Bureau), Richards remained patient rather than trying to force his third.
A tripping penalty by Travis Hamonic gave the Rangers a 4-on-3 power-play with 2:02 remaining in overtime. With the clock winding down and the crowd at Madison Square Garden imploring the Rangers to shoot the puck, Richards finally dished off to Gaborik at the left circle for Gaborik's team-leading 33rd goal of the season.
"It's a lot harder than you think out there. You get fooled because there’s so much ice. You get fooled looking from the outside, thinking that it should be easy, but those three defenders can just stay together in that diamond and its hard," Richards said. "We did a good job of just moving it around, dragging it, dragging it. ... They were so desperate to block shots we were able to get Gabby a clear shot."
Gaborik's was the third power-play goal of the night and the team's first game with three power-play goals since Feb. 11 against the Flyers.
"We've been struggling on the power play and we needed to get going. Hopefully we can take off from here," Gaborik said. "PP won us the game, which we need coming down the stretch."
Richards, whose production has dipped and peaked concurrent with the team's power play all year, led the unit Sunday as the Rangers opened a seven-game homestand with a relentless rally.
"I have a tremendous amount of faith in him," said coach John Tortorella, "and if this is the time of the year where he gets going on all cylinders, it's going to help the team tremendously."