Monday, December 05, 2005

Petr The Great Gives Rangers Wild Victory

With all the attention on talented rookies Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, Petr Prucha has quietly made an impact for the Rangers. Just call him Petr The Great. In Monday night's 3-1 triumph over Minnesota (10-12-4) at The Garden, Prucha's two power play goals proved to be the difference.

The 23-year-old Czech who was signed before the season now ranks second on the team with nine goals- second to Jaromir Jagr- who shares an apartment with Prucha to help him adjust to North America. So far, it's paying dividends for the Blueshirts, who ran their MSG winstreak to five and rebounded from a blowout loss to the Caps.

With Martin Rucinsky back from a sore knee, Coach Tom Renney juggled his lines putting Rucinsky with Martin Straka and Jaromir Jagr while moving Michael Nylander down to center Ville Nieminen and Marcel Hossa. Renney also shifted Dominic Moore to left wing on a line with Steve Rucchin and Jed Ortmeyer. Only Petr Prucha, Blair Betts and Jason Ward stayed intact.

The changes worked as Rucinsky assisted on all three Ranger goals while Jagr's line had a strong game. Jagr notched two assists to tie Ottawa's Jason Spezza for the league lead with 43 points.

On a power play, Prucha tallied when he rebounded a Jagr shot and backhanded it past Dwayne Roloson 4:00 in for a 1-0 lead.

After almost going ahead two, Henrik Lundqvist bailed them out on two Wild shorthanded chances. Back in net after being pulled Saturday for the first time in his NHL career, Lundqvist was strong in making 22 saves. First, he stopped Marc Chouinard from in close. Minutes later, he slid across to deny Pascal Dupuis to keep the Rangers in front as the period closed.

In the second, Rucinsky nearly made it 2-0 but Roloson robbed him. The Minnesota netminder had a strong game, finishing with 37 saves. His clutch stops allowed his team to draw even with less than 30 seconds left in the stanza. When Dupuis one-timed home an Alexandre Daigle pass on a delayed penalty, the game was tied heading to the third.

But a determined Ranger squad took control in the final period, outshooting Minnesota 19-4. Owning much of the play, they tested Roloson often but were foiled- including denials on Rucinsky, Straka and Betts. Finally rewarded with their sixth man-advantage due to hard work from the Jagr line, Prucha worked even harder to score the winner. Off a feed from Straka, Prucha rebounded his own shot and batted it just over Roloson to make it 2-1 with 8:29 left. It was Prucha's sixth PP tally and first two-goal game of his NHL career.

When Straka scored into an open net with 19 seconds remaining, it gave the Rangers their seventh win in eight.

Notes: Tom Poti (groin) missed his third consecutive game while Ryan Hollweg (eye) sat out his second straight. ... Rucinsky took the place of Colton Orr. ... Kevin Weekes (ankle) missed his fourth game in a row. ... Lundqvist improved to 8-1-1 at MSG. ... Rangers (18-8-3) travel to Chicago (10-14-2) Wednesday for the first of a four-day three-game road trip with stops at Nashville and St. Louis.

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