NEW YORK – Marian Gaborik vaulted to the top spot on the NHL goal list and earned first star honours with a performance that helped the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak.
But Broadway’s newest flashy forward didn’t get a chance to celebrate his big night on the ice because of an injury that ended it early.
Gaborik scored two goals, moving him into a tie for first in the NHL with 10, and added an assist in the Rangers’ 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night. He was on the ice when teammate Enver Lisin closed the scoring with 8:13 left, but didn’t finish the game.
He limped to the dressing room, creating concern throughout Madison Square Garden. There was no definitive word on what ailed Gaborik, but he said it wasn’t related to his groin or hip that caused him to miss significant time in previous seasons.
“We’ll see how everything is in the morning,” Gaborik said. “I collided with one of their players, but it’s nothing major. It happened with about five minutes left and the game was pretty much over.”
Gaborik has 16 points in 12 games, quickly paying dividends on the big free-agent contract the Rangers gave him this summer to pry him from the Minnesota Wild.
“He adds a different level that we haven’t had since (Jaromir) Jagr,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves. “He brings it every night. He has been huge for us.”
The Rangers scored two goals on five shots in the first period and two more on only six more attempts in the second to chase goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
Gaborik did most of the damage. His first goal gave New York a 2-0 lead, and his second made it 4-0. In between, Gaborik set up Vinny Prospal’s goal.
That was enough for the Rangers to snap their losing streak (0-2-1) that came on the heels of a seven-game winning run. Artem Anisimov scored for the second straight game.
“We know how to win,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “We put together a nice stretch there in the beginning of the year. We know what we need to do.”
Phoenix seemed to get a bit of a lift after former Rangers goalie Jason LaBarbera replaced Bryzgalov. The Coyotes cut the deficit in half on a goal by defenceman Ed Jovanovski and a short-handed goal by Vernon Fiddler with 41 seconds left in the second.
This wasn’t the start the Coyotes were looking for as they began a three-game road trip following a 3-1 homestand. Bryzgalov was in the nets for three of Phoenix’s first four road games this season and posted a 3-0 mark with a 0.97 goals-against average – including two shutouts.
“It’s tough anywhere you fall behind 4-0,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “We’re not going to win games when we do that. Our power play really let us down. They got two, we didn’t get any on ours.”
Phoenix allowed only five goals in its first four road games, but New York nearly matched that in 40 minutes. The Coyotes have lost two straight, including a 5-3 defeat against Los Angeles on Saturday.
“We’ve got to go back and work at it,” Jovanovski said. “We don’t want to lose three in row.”
Anisimov scored his third goal, and second in two games, just 2:31 in. Gaborik doubled the lead 7:39 later with a power-play goal.
Dubinsky, who was benched for the second half of Saturday night’s 5-4 overtime loss at Montreal following a critical turnover, made up for it. He streaked down the left wing, carried the puck behind the net and found Gaborik in the slot for a quick one-timer.
Christopher Higgins, still looking for his first goal with the Rangers, was benched with Dubinsky on Saturday, but coach John Tortorella said both played well against Phoenix.
“You make a mistake and pay the consequence and learn from it,” Dubinsky said. “I came in here focused on making the right plays with the puck and taking care of it.”
New York finished the first period with only five shots, but held a 2-0 lead.
The onslaught continued in the second, and the Rangers showed off their speed and transition game. After Lundqvist stopped Scottie Upshall, New York went up ice. Gaborik and Prospal ran a give-and-go with Prospal cutting to the net, shifting to his backhand and beating Bryzgalov at 6:05.
Gaborik struck again on the power play 1:45 later, 57 seconds into Adrian Aucoin’s tripping penalty.
Phoenix got on the board on Jovanovski’s goal at 15:47 of the second, and Fiddler brought the Coyotes within 4-2 on his first of the season.
NOTES: Fiddler’s previous goal was scored last April 7 against Chicago. … Lisin was acquired by the Rangers from Phoenix during the off-season. … LaBarbera made 12 saves.