Benoit had his game about a month ago, a banner raised in honor of his defensive scoring achievements, and an overtime winning goal. One could presume that this was Richards' game. After leading a team that has been touted as one of the best ever teams in World Junior Championship history as captain, Richards returned home (or halfway there from Grand Forks). His return brought a seemingly endless ovation, capping off presentations that started with Brampton's: Martin Lojeck, continued with the Rangers' underage trio who played in the under-17 tourney, on to coach DeBoer and Valabik of team Slovakia . . . and finally . . . Rangers captain, Canada's captain: Michael Richards. The only guy who literally needed no introductions, at least not for many of the more than 6,000 in attendance who roared in their approval. Richards, didn't leave his game at the doorstep however, he was on fire, scoring a pair of goals and adding a pair of assists in a first star effort. Dan Turple and some Battalion shooters also stole much of the spotlight, he stopped 42 of 43 shots in a game where the Rangers were terribly outshot, in fact, the only puck that found it's way past Turple was during a two-man advantage. The Battalion must have broke their New Year's resolution on this night, they've played in overtime in all three of their post-new year's games. In Peterborough on New Year's day, they entered tied for the conference lead, until they lost in overtime, they've tied and won just one night before their contest with the Rangers against the Generals. Overtime wasn't in the cards, this game only stayed tied for just over three minutes before the Rangers opened the scoring.
The Rangers, and Richards took little time
in getting to work, while playing on a newly formed line with McGrath and
Duco he had more than a few heads spinning when he took the puck around
Daren Machesney and lifted it into the top corner only three minutes in.
Minutes later, Mike Duco would come very close to scoring another, Richards
bursted in and feed the puck through the crease to Duco who's one-timer
redirection was just off the mark. Soon after David Clarkson would
score a pretty goal of his own, Jack Combs would make a nice move to send
him in alone, and David Clarkson would take care of the rest with some
extremely swift stick-handling deked around Machesney. The Rangers
getting thoroughly outplayed in the second-half of the period perhaps after
gaining too much confidence in the early going, got themselves into penalty
trouble. Matt Pepe picked up a slashing minor, the problem was the
following penalty to Adam Keefe who was also involved in a slugfest with
Oreskovic during the game's second minute. Keefe took the easy way
out, going and slashed the stick out of the hands of the Battalion forward.
On the ensuing two-man advantage Tyler Harrison, one of the Battalion's
overaged players capitalized on the rebound. With the duration of
the second minor to kill, Dan Turple really took over, and it wasn't just
in the first period, he didn't allow a goal through the remainder of regulation
After a slow-start to the second period, where Turple helped preserve the lead the Rangers broke through with a pair of powerplay goals. Michael Richards scored his 2nd of the game with a little less fanfare than his first. Keefe's powerplay marker, might have started with the effort of his linemates as well as himself nearly scoring and finally drawing a penalty themselves. Keefe's goal was typical of many of his, grunt work infront of the opponents net and a nice shot resulting in his 9th goal of the season. Call it out of character but Jakub Kindl got into a scrap with former Ranger: Nick Duff, Kindl's first fight since joining the Rangers. Things got a litlte chaotic in the final minutes of the game. Justin Azevedo while retreating to the Rangers' bench after having lost his helmet was tripped, moments later, Dan Turple tumbled into his net after Wolski's skate caught him in his mask sending him into the Rangers' net. The ensuing scrum resulted in Boris Valabik and Tyler Harrison wrestling to the ice while Mark Fraser grabbed ahold of Wojtek Wolski. During the struggle Wolski ended up with Fraser's helmet and started swinging it at Mark's head, chasing him away. With play about to resume and the Battalion about to go on a powerplay, the Battalion bench was assessed a minor, resulting in an even man power situation. . . . or so one would think. The Battalion never got their fifth player back onto the ice and Mike Duco once again staked his claim as the team's leading scorer on the powerplay of sorts resulting in a 5-1 final.
As mentioned on the aftergame radio show, the Rangers enjoyed their largest offensive output since their 12-2 defeat of the Saginaw Spirit, the same Spirit that they will run into just one night after their big 5-1 victory over the Battalion. The offensive output also jumpstarted the Rangers' goal scoring race, David Clarkson and Michael Richards both tied Mike Duco for the game's goal scoring lead with 16, before Duco reclaimed his spot on top of the team's goal scoring race with his 17th of the season late in the third. Dan Turple's one goal on 43 shots, further decreased his goals against average and increased his save percentage a positive change which has become a disturbing trend of late for the Rangers' rivals. Turple has started and finished each of the Rangers past 5 games. The Rangers' powerplay technically 2 for 3 on the night (3 for 4 if you were to include the Duco pseudo powerplay goal during the third), vaulted the Rangers' powerplay to best on home ice in the league, operating at nearly 30%! Evan McGrath had a trio of assists for the Rangers and Keefe was the game's third star.