Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Sykora Makes Successful Debut

In his Ranger debut, ex-Devil Petr Sykora didn't disappoint the Garden faithful. Wearing his old number 17 which he wore in New Jersey, his goal and assist sparked the Rangers to a 4-2 comeback victory over Calgary (25-13-5) Tuesday night. It was the Rangers' second consecutive win- the first time in a month they have strung together back-to-back victories.

It didn't start well however. In a tightly contested first period, Calgary jumped ahead with two goals 38 seconds apart. First, Calder hopeful Dion Phaneuf one-timed a Roman Hamrlik pass past a surprised Henrik Lundqvist for a power play goal at 14:25. On the very next shift, Rhett Warrener's right point blast eluded Lundqvist with traffic in front to put the Flames up 2-0.

With his new team trailing by two in the second period, Sykora, the seventh Czech to join the Rangers took matters into his own hands. After Lundqvist denied Jarome Iginla's shorthanded opportunity, Sykora setup countryman Martin Straka in front for a backhand, which beat Miikka Kiprusoff as a power play expired to cut it to 2-1 at 5:03. It was Straka's third goal in the last three games.

Sykora tied it up 7:06 later on a fortuitous bounce. Off a pass from Petr Prucha, he circled behind the net and centered a pass which deflected off both Phaneuf and Kiprusoff for his first goal as a Ranger. As his name was announced for the tying goal, the MSG crowd gave him a loud ovation. Sykora's idol Straka picked up the other assist. Both grew up in the same town of Pizen back in the Czech Republic.

"I'm going to be telling my kids that Straka got a helper on my first goal," Sykora told reporters.

Feeding off the momentum, the Blueshirts nearly went ahead on the next shift but Kiprusoff closed up the five-hole on Michal Rozsival to keep it knotted heading to the third.

With both teams pressing for the next goal, another flukey play helped give the Rangers the lead. On a rush up the left wing, one-time '04 Flame Ville Nieminen moved in on Kiprusoff and fanned on a shot. But it turned out okay because Nieminen recovered the puck and found a wide open Jason Ward for an easy tip-in, which gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead with 14:23 remaining. It was Ward's first goal in 17 contests.

The Flames had a power play a few minutes later with a chance to knot the game. But New York forced them to the outside, allowing Lundqvist to glove a harmless Iginla slapshot and kill it off.

Off a turnover, Straka had a chance to ice the game but his wrist shot was gloved by Kiprusoff with under five minutes left.

Calgary's Kristian Huselius took a high sticking penalty with 2:13 to go which should've ended any last threat. But Michael Nylander was whistled for a sketchy hooking call with 1:08 left, which led to four-on-four. Given a golden opportunity, the Flames pulled Kiprusoff for an extra skater and nearly tied it. But former Ranger Tony Amonte's tip-in attempt deflected wide. Seconds later, Dominic Moore scored into an empty net from center ice to break a 24-game scoring drought to seal it.

Sharper the rest of the way, Lundqvist had 19 saves while Kiprusoff turned aside 25 of 28.

Notes: Straka has a three-game point streak (3-3-6) and 16 points (7-9-16) with a plus-10 rating in his last eight games. ... With an assist on Straka's first goal, Fedor Tyutin has a goal and five helpers in the last six. ... Jaromir Jagr was held without a point for the 10th time this season. It was only the Rangers' second win under such circumstances. ... Rangers (24-12-7) will honor The Captain Mark Messier Thursday night when they retire Number 11 to the rafters in a special ceremony before facing off against the Oilers (24-15-4). He will join Eddie Giacomin, Rod Gilbert and Mike Richter as the only Rangers to see their sweaters retired. Messier led Edmonton to five Stanley Cups but is best known for helping the Rangers break a 54-year Cup drought in 1994. Doors open at 5:30 PM and the ceremony is scheduled for 7 sharp.

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