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1st 2nd 3rd

One thing is certain after last night's game, and that is the Rangers may have the best fourth line in the NHL. Without a doubt, Theo Fleury is the best, and highest paid, fourth line player in NHL history.

The Rangers did virtually everything right last night. From the drop of the puck, to the final whistle, it was their best effort in recent memory. They did what they had to do, and that was take advantage of a young, tired, Tampa Bay team. They did it with their fourth line. They did it with a 6-1 trumping in front of a sporadically sparse Garden crowd.

Fleury scored his first hattrick as a Ranger, and continues to slowly erode Rangers fan's memories of last year's debacle. He netted two power-play goals, and a shorthanded goal off a brilliant feed from Mike York. York had a whale of a game too. It seemed like he was everywhere the puck was in the blink of an eye.

On one down note, it seems York is becoming Low's new Todd Marchant. A speedy defensive specialist, who excels at special teams. York has drawn the top checking assignment in almost every game this season. Last night it was young stud Vincent Lacavalier. To some this may not seem like a down note at all, since York has been doing it, and doing it well the last few games. However, in the opinion of this website, his skills are being wasted on checking assignments that should go to Mark Messier. York is a much better offensive player than Todd Marchant, and Messier does not seem to be much of an offensive threat at even strength anyway.

Eric Lacroix, Sandy McCarthy, and Tim Taylor all scored their first goals of the season to add to Fleury's hattrick. None of the top lines of Nedved, Messier or York were needed to provide offense. Likely a luxury that will not surface too often this season.

Behind all that scoring was some solid defensive play when it had to be there. Mike Mottau is starting to look real comfortable out there, and seems to be very strong. You don't often see him pushed around by even much bigger players. He handled big Frederick Modin on several occasions with little problems, and seemed to be jumping up on the offense more also. Mottau recorded his first NHL point on a pass that set up Taylor's first goal of the year. Brian Leetch also collected three assists on the night, and continues to lead all NHL defenders in scoring.

Mike Richter did not need to stand on his head all night, but he was called on to make some real big saves. Lacavalier took advantage of a Rich Pilon errant pass up the middle, and started a three-on-one, which ended with Richter making two brilliant saves. He did make the saves when he was needed, like Richter almost always seems to do.

So the Rangers have now won two straight, and realistically this shouldn't even be a big deal. They should beat Boston and Tampa Bay at the Garden, and they should beat them convincingly, which they did. However, tonight will be a much different story.

Tonight they take on one of the NHL's big boys on the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa is hot, and have only lost one game all year. Tonight we will see just how far the Rangers are from the top of the Eastern Conference. Last year's team would inevitably choke each time it had the chance to get to .500. The Rangers will have that chance tonight, albeit it will not be easy against Ottawa. The return of Alexei Yashin, and the blooming young talents like Marian Hossa, Magnus Arvedsson, and others, have that team at the upper echelon of the NHL. The Rangers will need their "A" game, and they will need to prove they didn't just beat Boston and Tampa because they are struggling teams.

Scoring Summary


Scoring: None.

Penalties: Pilon, ny (high sticking), 6:16; P Mara, T.B. (holding), 8:51; Warriner, T.B. (hooking), 12:02; P Mara, T.B. (slashing), 14:04.


Scoring: 1, NY , Fleury 7 (power play) (Leetch, Messier), 3:16. 2, NY , Taylor 1 (Mottau, Fleury), 3:38. 3, Tampa , R Johnson 1 (Drulia, Primeau), 12:30. 4, NY , Fleury 8 (power play) (Leetch, Messier), 15:15. 5, NY , Mccarthy 1 (Johnsson, Taylor), 19:04.

Penalties: Warriner, T.B. (high sticking), 2:46; Graves, Nyr (interference), 6:42; M Johnson, T.B. (Ob holding the stick), 14:09.


Scoring: 6, NY , Lacroix 1 (Grosek, Johnsson), 3:34. 7, NY Fleury 9 (shorthanded) (York, Leetch), 4:33.

Penalties: B Brown, Nyr (boarding), 4:13.

Power-play Conversions: Tam - 0 of 3, Nyr - 2 of 5. Goalies: Tampa Bay, Weekes (28 shots, 22 saves; record: 3-4-0), Kochan (4:33 of 3rd period, 8, 8). NY Rangers, Richter (32, 31; record: 2-2-0).

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