Was Monday night the opening of Moose season in Manhattan?
It sure seemed that way as Johan Hedberg took shot after shot during Monday night’s 3-2 shootout win in New York. In fact…the Rangers fired off 48 rounds at the Moose, who turned away 46 of them.
The shots came early…often…and constantly.
First there was the highway robbery committed by Hedberg on Ales Kotalik in the first period…diving to his right to get the paddle down to deny the goal. Then there was the stuffing of Christopher Higgins during a Ranger 2 on OH MY GAWD break with about two and a half minutes left in the third to preserve the 2-2 tie.
In between, the Moose put the Thrashers on his back and they rode him once again to a win.
All four goals scored came during special teams play. In the first period, Slava Kozlov score his sixth goal of the year while the Thrashers were on the power play. At the time, Wade Redden was sitting in the sin-bin for holding, grabbing and clutching Chris Thorburn who had just worked his way past him on the left side boards.
With 2:50 left before the second intermission, Moose was beaten by Ryan Callahan who had slipped between Zach Bogosian and Christoph Schubert coming through the neutral zone. Zach took a hooking call on the play and the Thrashers again played a man down.
But Hedberg proved to be Atlanta’s best player on the ensuing penalty kill by stopping all five shots faced during the two minute New York onslaught.
Two minutes into the third period, the Thrashers took a too many men on the ice call…but were still able to execute the oft-practiced and highly-difficult “185-foot Ron Hainsey pass down the left hand boards, wrapping around behind the back of the net to find Colby Armstrong between the right circle and the boards who then takes the puck to the net to score” short-handed type goal.
It’s a thing of beauty…really.
However, Marian Gaborik scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season during the very same power play just 59 second after Army’s.
By the time that second period ended…Moose had faced 35 shots on goal. Remember, he only faced 19 all game last Saturday night. He then turned away all 12 shots taken in the third to get the game into extra time…none more important than the afore-mentioned stop of Higgins when the game was on the line.
After the Thrashers and Rangers failed to end things during the 5-minute OT, Moose then stopped Gaborik and Kotalik…if you wanna call stopping a slow rolling puck after it rolled off Kotalik’s stick a “stop”….while Ilya Kovalchuk and the Slavamatic beat Henrik Lundqvist on their shootout attempts.
Kovy broke out a nice move during the first round as he moved left-to-right…waited out Lundvist…then snapped it over his shoulder once he committed. Kozlov just moved in and blasted it into the net.
Sean Avery was being his normal annoying pest-self…as if we expect anything less. Twice he attempted to draw a Thrasher into doing something. The first time he was wrestled to the ground by Boris Valabik…the second time the ref did him a favor by getting in between he and Christoph Schubert.
Before skating away, it appeared as though the 6’-3” 230-pound Thrasher defender looked down on the 5’-10” 195-pound twerp and said something like, “Sie wollen jenen Fehler nicht machen”.
But in the end… this was once again the Night of the Moose. Johan has now won 8 of his last 10 starts and his overall record is now 9-3-0 with a very nifty 2.19 GAA and .932 SV%.
And yeah…I’m gonna say it again. The Thrashers should continue to ride the Moose while he is playing the way he is. I’d start him again in Florida, then put Pavelec in there Thursday on the tail end of the back-to-backer when Dallas comes a-callin’ to Thrasherville.