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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Gaborik's growth, goals spur Rangers

By Katie Strang
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Coach John Tortorella was both candid and critical after his New York Rangers' first win of the season, with some harsh truths spoken about Marian Gaborik.

The player he was describing wasn't the same Gaborik of 2013, who scored a hat trick to lead the Rangers to a 4-3 overtime victory against the Bruins on Wednesday night, but the player he met when Gaborik first arrived in New York.

That stigma Gaborik carried -- a "perimeter player" who didn't like to practice when hurt -- has since been shed, Tortorella said. And the team has its first win of the season thanks to the stellar performance of the 29-year-old winger, who scored the game-winner on a breakaway against Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask 27 seconds into overtime.

Marian Gaborik
Marian Gaborik's hat trick led the Blueshirts to their first victory of the season.

"I think he has grown so much mentally in how he conducts himself," Tortorella said. "He's a very talented player that's willing to be there; and when I first met him, I didn't think he was willing to be there."

Gaborik, who led the team in scoring with 41 goals and 76 points last season, was there to provide the Rangers with the type of hot start that was conspicuously absent from the first two games of the season.

Gaborik showed tremendous patience on his first goal, ripping a delayed shot past Rask after a beautiful tipped pass by Brad Richards and slick cross-ice feed from Rick Nash set up the play on the rush at 4:36 of the first. A little more than two minutes later, Gaborik tapped one in to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead, providing a glimpse at how dangerous the team's front-loaded first line can be.

Gaborik skated on a line with Richards and Nash after spending the bulk of the first two games on the second line. The move paid dividends immediately as the three seemed to complement each other with both ease and precision.

"Richie knows how to slow the game down. He has good vision and Nash just attracts defensive players on him -- he's such a strong body and such a force to the net -- I'm just trying to feed off those guys and I think we had a good game," Gaborik said.

Both Richards and Nash picked up an assist each in the team's third game of the season and were encouraged by what they saw from their unit's cohesion.

After spending the past nine seasons in Columbus, Nash has rarely been surrounded by such talent. The result has been palpable as the star winger has become arguably the team's best player this season.

"Skill-wise, those guys are two All-Stars and two great players in the league for a long time," Nash said. "It's definitely one of the top lines I've played on."

The type of performance the Rangers received from that line was desperately needed after the troubling 0-2 start to the season. More concerning than their record was the fashion in which they were losing -- uncharacteristic of their tough, grinding style of play.

They resurrected that identity Wednesday by beating one of the most skilled, and physical, teams in the league.

"We didn't break. We didn't give," Tortorella said. "Whereas, I thought, the past couple of games, we were nowhere to be found as far as stepping back up, somebody trying to make a big play, trying to get momentum back on our side."

The Rangers will have the benefit of some momentum now as they head to Philadelphia to face the winless Flyers on Thursday. The Rangers were in a similar position before Gaborik's heroics Wednesday, and they learned to dislike it quickly.

"I can't tell you how much we wanted that win," Richards said. "We needed it. We didn't like the feeling of not having a win and things mounting around us. It was good to get that off our back."