The Invincible M.A.E. (harleymae) wrote,
The Invincible M.A.E.

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Best hockey day of the season!

Okay, before I explode with love for my boys (and boy) I just have to mention that Randy said, "We try to keep it straight" which leads me to think, "How gay would they be if they weren't trying???"

Hmm, tons of scattered thoughts in absolutely no order at all.

  • The hit. You know, that just shouldn't have been a major and certainly not a game misconduct. End of story. Hal Gill himself says he saw Joe coming and if he'd braced himself properly that wouldn't have even been a penalty, but you don't even have to know what he said. You just have to watch the footage and see that at worst that is 2 minutes boarding. I feel really, really sorry for the Bruins fans, those who were at the game and those who were watching at home, the ones who wanted to watch Joe play. To have him taken out of the game like that is just... cheating them.

  • The response. Well, after Joe got tossed, I thought, we're fucked, cos' we'd dressed only 11 forwards to start the night, and we were down to 10 and missing a guy who was going to get a lot of ice time. But the funny thing is, as Raycroft said, it seemed like Joe getting tossed had more of a demoralizing effect on their team than ours. But three power play goals! Without Joe! That's like... more stunning to me than Joe getting tossed. :P

  • Josh Langfeld. Oh man. I just rewatched the Kings game and he was just like, beaten to a pulp by the puck in that game, and then it was the Blue Jackets game I think(?) where he got so many awesome chances and couldn't convert, and I'm just so happy for him that it all paid off for him yesterday. Apparently he had the second longest scoring drought in the NHL (after Laraque) and I remember him saying during Shark Byte that what he wanted for Christmas was a goal. Well, his Christmas present was a little late, but it arrived last night. :) And he got so mauled. *sighs happily*

  • Patrick Marleau. Holy quick release, Batman! Uhh, tersa, was it you who commented on Drew never ceasing to be amazed by his quick release even though he'd been seeing it for years? I don't know that the awe would ever wear off for me. My heart swells with captainly love. [Edit: It was actually tattermuffin, hehe.]

  • The trainer. One of our trainers, who retired in 04 and lives in Connecticut, was invited back to the bench last night. At the rookie dinner the night before, Thorty got everyone to pitch in, and they gave him a Rolex. I like how whenever there's some kind of initiative or cause or whatever, Thorty's always the one making it happen. Because really, wouldn't you be afraid to say no to that guy? ;)

  • Check that off the list too. We'd never won in Boston before. It was the only remaining city that the Sharks had never won in, after finally winning in Buffalo earlier this season.

  • Spam? No need for me to spam because tersa has done a good job of it already!

Petr Petr Petr!
Words cannot express how I feel... so let me just say that many tears were shed last night.
  • Pistol Pete. Boy has a goal, an assist, is first star, and first thing I can think to talk about is his crotch. But really, I didn't see him adjust his crotch a single time, and that's a little freaky! jerichoholic419 says she saw him do it once, so I probably missed it when I couldn't see through my tears. But I don't know, maybe as part of his welcome to New York, the Czech guys took him out to get fitted for a new cup. Perhaps that explains the offensive production and big smiles. :D Oh umm, and "Pistol Pete" is the nickname that Stan Fischler gave him. *giggle*

  • High praise. I was actually already crying at the first intermission when they were praising him, hahaha. They were showing his nifty passes, and Fischler was talking about how Petr was playing a complete game, even throwing a hit, and... he did all this stuff in Anaheim, there just wasn't any payoff. Oh man, and the stuff later on when got the assist and goal and first star... *shrieks* Sobbing wreck, I was.

  • Czech idol. Oh man, Petr being able to play with his childhood crush idol Marty Straka just does funny things to my heart. "It doesn't matter who you're out there with," Sykora said. "But I know Straks a long time. And to have him have a helper on my first goal, I'm going to tell my kids: 'Hey, Straks had a helper on my first goal.'" I just can't... say... can't... *chokes* *sputters*

  • The love. The crowd cheered when they called Petr's name after his assist on Straka's goal. And I thought that was so great at the end how the guys on the team raised their sticks to salute the fans. And OMG did Petr emerge mauled when he came out as first star. His helmet was like, all askew and... gah, Straka throwing his arm around Petr and like, rubbing his helmet at the end of the game.

Of course, I have spammage. :P

Cheery Outlook as Sykora Scores in Debut
Published: January 11, 2006

Petr Sykora could hardly have scripted a better debut at Madison Square Garden last night.

He had a goal and an assist and was named the game's first star as the Rangers rallied from a two-goal deficit for a 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.

"It felt very good," he said, when asked to describe the cheers he received from the capacity crowd of 18,200. "I haven't had this feeling for a long time. I feel like I'm a big part of it already. And you know what? I need that feeling. You can feel the energy around the hockey team."

Ville Nieminen set up Jason Ward for the winning goal 5 minutes 37 seconds into the third period.

The Rangers (24-12-7) extended their streak of recording at least one point to six games (3-0-3).

But after the first period, they left the ice to a throwback of sorts: boos from the home crowd. They were trailing, 2-0, on goals by defensemen Dion Phaneuf, who leads all rookie defensemen with 11 goals and 25 points, and Rhett Warrener.

The boos turned to cheers by the end of the second period. And the loudest applause was for Sykora, who had helped tie the score at 2-2.

Sykora, who played his first seven seasons with the Devils, was obtained from Anaheim on Sunday to add scoring punch.

"Yes, I was nervous," Sykora said. "I'm not going to lie to you. But it was kind of a good nervous."

He set up the Rangers' first goal, scored by Martin Straka at 5:03 of the second, two seconds after a Rangers power play expired. That Sykora set up Straka was fitting. So was the assist Straka recorded on Sykora's goal - an intended centering pass that deflected off Phaneuf - at 12:09 of the second.

Straka and Sykora are from the same hometown, Plzen in the Czech Republic. In Anaheim's media guide this season, Sykora listed Straka, who is four years older, as his idol.

"Because I always watched him growing up," Sykora said Monday at the Rangers' practice rink in Greenburgh, N.Y. "He was like the first teenager who broke into the first Czech league. When he was 16, he played in the first league. And then he got drafted, and he was like the first N.H.L. player from my city.

"So I always wanted to be like him. We are very close buddies. We skate together in the summer. So it's awesome."

It was also a special occasion for the citizens of Plzen. As Straka said Monday, "They are celebrating back home now."

After last night's game, Straka said, "They're going to celebrate again."

Sykora did not skate on Straka's line last night. Straka centered the Rangers' top line, between Martin Rucinsky and Jaromir Jagr.

As he had at his first Rangers practice, Sykora skated on the left wing on a line with Steve Rucchin and Petr Prucha.

"It's Night 1, and there is some rationale behind it for the first game, anyway," Rangers Coach Tom Renney said before the game, citing Sykora's familiarity with Rucchin, whom he played with in Anaheim, and the size of the Flames.

"But there's a good chance things could change beyond tonight."


January 11, 2006 -- Rangers 4 Flames 2

If you were still looking for measuring sticks and litmus tests, then you should have been at the Garden last night.

You should have seen the way the Rangers shoved back against the formidable Flames for a 4-2 victory, after being pushed around for the first 20 minutes.

You should have seen the resolve and the energy and the commitment to outwork what is traditionally the NHL's hardest working team, even after falling behind 2-0 late in the first.

You should have seen Henrik Lundqvist making more critical saves at his end — how about that point-blank save on Jarome Iginla 4:30 into the second with his team down by two! — than 2004 Vezina runner-up and Stanley Cup finalist Mikka Kiprusoff at his end.

You should have seen the way duck pins Ryan Hollweg, Jed Ortmeyer and Dominic Moore flung their bodies around against much bigger opponents as if they were on a demolition derby track on a critical second period shift after the Rangers had cut the lead to 2-1.

You should have seen Petr Sykora get an assist on the first goal and then get the tying goal himself, and you should have heard the numerous ovations he received from the crowd — already the most popular former Devil to ever slip into the Ranger sweater — during and after the game, the latter after being named first star.

You should have been at the Garden last night when the Rangers registered their most impressive victory of the season.

"Like a playoff game," Tom Renney said. "Playoff performances from our whole team, starting with the goaltender."

Sykora — who banked one in off Dion Phaneuf from behind the goal line to knot the score at 2-2 at 12:09 shortly after the OHM crew's creation of controlled chaos helped tilt the match — wasn't so much himself a breath of fresh air as a beneficiary of the positive atmosphere the Rangers have created for themselves.

"I haven't had this kind of a feeling for a long time," said Sykora, who lit up the Jersey sky skating with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias for the Devils' 2000 Cup champions and 2001 finalists. "I feel like I'm a big part of it, already.

"I need that feeling. I can feel the energy around the hockey team."

The Rangers, 2-0-3 in their last five, are again a dozen games over the NHL definition of .500, at 24-12-7. They continue to clear significant space between themselves and the clubs on the outside looking in on the playoffs.

"It's important the way we were able to respond in the second period," Rucchin said. "Calgary is one of those teams that always establishes a standard of hard work.

"I think we can take a lot from this game."

They take two points from it, that's for sure — two points they earned after Jason Ward went to the front to convert Ville Niememen's goalmouth feed for the 3-2 lead at 5:37, Ward's first since Nov. 26. Moore chipped one into the empty net with 38 seconds to go to provide the final margin, his first since Nov. 10.

They take the momentum of the victory into tomorrow night's match against the Oilers, which will follow the Mark Messier Extravaganza.

"It really helps our confidence," said Lundqvist. "We know we can beat any team in the league if we pay attention to details.

"I'm really looking forward to the next game."

Hot Sykora flips Flames


Petr Sykora desperately wanted to come to the Rangers because nearly all of his Czech buddies already are on the team. Little did he know that good fortune was awaiting him in New York as well as good friends.

With an obvious bounce back in his step upon being freed from a personal purgatory in Anaheim, Sykora used a couple of fortunate bounces of the puck to pick up his first goal and assist as a Ranger in his first game in a Broadway blueshirt. And his teammates rallied hard after a slow start to notch an impressive 4-2 victory over the formidable Calgary Flames last night in the Garden.

Winger Ville Nieminen, who went to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals with the Flames before signing with the Rangers this past summer, set up Jason Ward for a can't-miss goal 5:37 into the third period to break a 2-2 tie. And Henrik Lundqvist stopped everything that he could see or that wasn't redirected by a teammate to out-duel Miikka Kiprusoff.

But the night belonged to the new guy who didn't feel like one.

"It feels great to be on this team," Sykora said. "It's not like I'm coming to a new team - I know 12, 13 guys here. And it feels like I've been here for a while now. I'm very happy where I am.

"It's been very special to be in New York City and it was a great hockey game tonight. I'm going to have this feeling for a long time."

Sykora's first-game assignment as a Ranger did not include playing on a line with boyhood idol Martin Straka - instead he was on the right wing of former Anaheim teammate Steve Rucchin and precocious rookie Petr Prucha. But the two natives of Plzen, Czech Republic, produced some magic - with help from a couple of mystical moves by the puck - to get the Rangers out of an early 2-0 hole.

Moments after Lundqvist pretty much saved the game by thwarting Calgary star Jarome Iginla on a shorthanded breakaway off a Jaromir Jagr turnover, Sykora fired a shot from the right circle that was blocked by Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr. The puck hopped in front and right to Straka, who poked home a backhander for his 11th goal of the season and Sykora's first assist as a Ranger.

Just about seven minutes later, Straka recorded his 35thassist of the season when Sykora wound up with his first goal. His centering pass out of the right corner was deflected by Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf and then caromed home off the back of Kiprusoff.

"It doesn't matter who you're out there with," Sykora said. "But I know Straks a long time. And to have him have a helper on my first goal, I'm going to tell my kids: 'Hey, Straks had a helper on my first goal.'"

AP story

NEW YORK (AP) - Petr Sykora showed just how happy he was to get out of Anaheim and move into his own version of Fantasyland.

Sykora was thrilled with the weekend trade that sent him to New York and he made the most of his Rangers debut, posting a goal and assist in a 4-2 victory Tuesday night over the Calgary Flames.

``It feels great to be on this team,'' Sykora said with through a wide smile. ``It's not like coming to a new team. I know so many of the guys. I feel I'm a big part of it already.''

Sykora wasn't comfortable in the land of Disney but he was at ease in the Rangers dressing room that has six other players from his native Czech Republic. One is idol Martin Straka, who was set up for a goal by his countryman and then assisted on Sykora's first with the Rangers.

``I'm going to be telling my kids that Straka got a helper on my first goal,'' said Sykora, who like Straka comes from the town of Pizen.

Straka and Sykora helped the Rangers rally from an early 2-0 deficit, and Jason Ward put the finishing touches on the win when he netted his first in 17 games to snap a tie 5:37 into the third period. Dominic Moore added an empty-net goal with 37.5 seconds remaining.

That sent the Northwest Division-leading Flames to their second straight loss following a four-game winning streak.

``We've been getting up and maybe we sit back a bit,'' Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. ``Maybe we play too safe and we stop making plays.''

Ward gave the Rangers their first lead when he took a pass from Ville Nieminen, who whiffed on a shot, and scored into an open net as goalie Miikka Kiprusoff tried to get back in position.

Sykora, acquired Sunday from Anaheim, made an immediate impact in his return to the Atlantic Division. He had only seven goals and 20 points with the Mighty Ducks in 34 games but needed just 32 minutes to net two points with the Rangers.

New York rallied in the hard-hitting game for its second straight victory after three straight overtime losses.

Rookie Dion Phaneuf and fellow defenseman Rhett Warrener scored 38 seconds apart in the first period for Calgary in the only meeting between the teams.

``Against a hardworking team that has skill, we have to play a full game,'' Phaneuf said. ``We didn't do that and it cost us.''

After Henrik Lundqvist make a big save on Iginla following a pretty setup by Tony Amonte, the Rangers cut the deficit in half. Sykora made a pass from the goal line into the slot to Straka, who ripped a shot past Kiprusoff at 5:03 - two seconds after a Rangers power play expired.

Sykora used Phaneuf to tie it.

Again, the former New Jersey Devils star, positioned himself along the Calgary goal line. He attempted another centering pass that struck Phaneuf and ricocheted into the net to make it 2-2 with 7:51 remaining in the second period.

Straka was thrilled to see Sykora rewarded.

``When you score a goal and you play well, you have to be happy,'' he said.

The Rangers seemed to be in a lull during the first period, perhaps already looking ahead to Thursday's festivities when longtime captain Mark Messier will have his number raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters.

Even if it wasn't already in their thoughts, they were reminded by the stenciled number behind each goal.

``I saw behind the net, the number 11 and I started to think about it,'' Lundqvist said.

Calgary jumped on New York just 20 seconds after Petr Prucha was sent off for interfering with Kiprusoff.

Phaneuf, who along with Prucha and Lundqvist are in the second tier of NHL rookies behind stars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, netted his 11th by banking in a shot off of New York defenseman Marek Malik.

Warrener, another defenseman, made it 2-0 with his first goal in 34 games.

It was a sudden, unexpected burst.

Lundqvist was coming off his second shutout of the season in the Rangers' 4-0 win Saturday over Florida, which came on the heels of a 1-0 overtime loss to Tampa Bay in his previous start.

But he was sharp the rest of the way and finished with 19 saves. He made several good stops during the Flames' late second-period power play after the Rangers tied it. Calgary had another power play in the third and pressed for the tying goal, but couldn't beat Lundqvist, who by that time was having his name chanted again by the appreciative crowd.

[Edit: Oops, and this one too.]
New man Sykora helps Rangers douse Flames 4-2

In their final game before the big Mark Messier Night ceremony Thursday, the Rangers put in the kind of performance that would have made Messier himself very proud – a dramatic comeback of four unanswered goals to beat the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames 4-2.

The victory, coming on the heels of a 4-0 shutout of Florida on Saturday, kept the Rangers perfect at 2-0 in the second half of the 2005-06 season. It also cut Philadelphia's Atlantic Division lead to just five points and moved the Blueshirts within one point of Buffalo for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

With the Messier Night game against Edmonton up next for the Rangers, the team has set the stage with two of its best back-to-back games, thanks to the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, who made 19 saves for his second straight win, and the addition of newcomer Petr Sykora.

Acquired from Anaheim on Sunday, Sykora didn't need much time to demonstrate his offensive potential, as he was named the game's No. 1 star in his Rangers debut.

The 29-year-old Czech winger said he was thrilled to be playing for the Rangers and to be a teammate of countryman Martin Straka, whom he combined with on the Rangers' first goal.

"I've known him for a long time," Sykora said of Straka. " The guy was my hero growing up. He was from the same city (Plzen). ... It feels great to be on his team. It's not like I'm coming to a new team. I know about 12 or 13 guys here already, and it feels I've been here for awhile. I am very happy where I am, it feels very special to be in New York City, and it was a great hockey game tonight. I haven't had this feeling in a long time."

Sykora certainly thrilled the Madison Square Garden crowd by sparking the comeback with a second-period goal and assist that brought the home team back from a 2-0 deficit.

With momentum suddenly in their favor and the Rangers in full control, the Blueshirts took over the second half of the game and won in dominant fashion despite being outshot 29-21. Sykora's presence, and the reshuffling of lines it initiated, was an offensive shot in the arm for his teammates.

Jason Ward, who had not scored since the Rangers' 15-round shootout win over Washington on Nov. 26, notched his fifth goal of the season at 5:37 of the third period to win it. Dominic Moore, who hadn't scored since Nov. 10, put the game out of reach when he hit an empty net at 19:22.

Ward's go-ahead goal – the third of four third unanswered tallies over the final two periods, came while Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff was out of position playing Ville Nieminen. Streaking down the left wing, Nieminen had looked to shoot from a bad angle, but ended up making a perfect pass into the crease for Ward, who slapped it in for the 3-2 lead.

Moore sealed the win with an empty-net goal from the Rangers' side of the red line at 19:22. The teams were skating 4-on-4 at the time, and Calgary had pulled Kiprusoff for an extra attacker. It was too little too late for the Flames, who seemed to have lost their energy in an unlikely game where both Calgary scoring ace Jarome Iginla and current NHL scoring leader Jaromi Jagr were held without a point.

After a sluggish first period, the Rangers came out hitting in the second, and with help from newcomer Sykora, quickly took over the game.

He set up a goal by Straka just two seconds after a Calgary penalty expired, cutting Calgary's lead to 2-1 at 5:03 of the second period. He later tied the game with a shot from behind the net that bounced in off goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff at 12:09.

Those two goals, and a hard-working effort by the Rangers, drew an ovation from the Madison Square Garden crowd as time expired in the second period.

Traded for Maxim Kondratiev just over 48 hours earlier, Sykora did exactly what the Rangers coaching staff had expected him to do -- add scoring punch to the No. 2 line to take the pressure off Jagr and Straka on the Rangers' No. 1 line.

Sykora's goal was assisted by Petr Prucha, as the high-scoring rookie seemed to fit right in with his new linemate. The tricky shot, Sykora's first in a Rangers uniform, deflected off the skate of defenseman Dion Phaneuf and caught Kiprusoff by surprise.

Seven minutes earlier, Sykora had pulled the puck out of a scramble near Kiprusoff and put it right on the stick of Straka in the slot. Straka kept the puck in the ice in sending it past Kiprusoff at 5:03. Fedor Tyutin also assisted on the Straka goal.

"It's his first game, he's still got a little bit of sea-legs in him and he kept chugging around out there doing his thing," Rangers head coach Tom Renney said of Sykora's performance. "He was good. Talking to him in the morning, he suggested that he was a 10- or 12-minute guy in Anaheim and that his stats would not be accurate at 17 minutes. He felt that it would take awhile him to get his legs under him. We look forward to that."

Rangers teammate Steve Rucchin, who played with Sykora in Anaheim before joining the Rangers and was his linemate Tuesday, was well aware of Sykora's abilities.

"I think that the most important thing in his game is that he just understands the game," said Rucchin. " The biggest thing for players is to really find those holes, find those spots where you can get the puck, and help your teammates and he just seems to do that. It's almost automatic. When you have the puck, all you really need to do is look for those little spots and there's a chance he is going to be there and it's the same with Petr Prucha. He just makes the game really easy for the guys when he's on the ice. He understands it, especially offensively. He knows where to go."

The Straka goal came just two seconds after a penalty to Calgary's Marcus Nilson expired. Nilson had been sent off for holding a Rangers player's stick at 3:01 after the Blueshirts had been applying pressure in the Flames zone. Even before the goal, there was no doubt that the Rangers had picked up the pace in the second period, feeding off a big save that Lundqvist had made on a shorthanded scoring chance by Iginla.

Another Lundqvist stop on Shean Donovan one minute after Straka's goal, helped swing momentum in the Rangers' favor, leading up to the Sykora goal.

In the first period, it was all Calgary, as defensemen Phaneuf and Rhett Warrener scored in a span of 38 seconds late in the period. Both sent long drives from the right point past Lundqvist, and Phaneuf's goal, his 11th of the season, came just 20 seconds into a Flames power play.

"We were down 2-0, and that's different hockey, but you know you still have 40 minutes left," said Jagr. "Anything is possible, and that is the way we play. We didn't feel pressured, we knew we had a lot of time."

The Rangers had enjoyed the game's first power-play opportunity when Calgary's Phaneuf pulled down Ward in front of the Flames goal, but that man-advantage lasted only seven seconds. Shortly after the faceoff in the Calgary zone, Prucha was called for goaltender interference. Skating 4-on-4 for the duration, of those penalties neither team had any significant scoring chances.

Phaneuf later went off a second time at 10:25, when he pulled down Jagr in the right corner and was called for holding. Michael Nylander had the best chance of the ensuing power play, firing the puck into Kiprusoff's pads from just inside the faceoff circle to the goaltender's left with 30 seconds remaining.

Calgary, which had won six of eight games entering Tuesday's matchup, got its first sustained power-play opportunity when Rucinsky was called for hooking at 14:05 of the first, and the Flames wasted little time grabbing the 1-0 lead on Phaneuf's one-timer from the right point at 14:25. The 20-year-old rookie, being mentioned as a candidate for this year's Calder Trophy, took a cross ice pass from Roman Hamrlik at the right point and drilled a shot that trickled through Lundqvist.

The Flames drew instant momentum from that goal, scoring again from the right point at 15:03 when defenseman Rhett Warrener took a pass from Matthew Lombardi in the corner and sent the puck through a screen past Lundqvist to make it 2-0. Although they seemed in control at the time, it would be their last goal of the game.

The addition of Sykora prompted head coach Tom Renney to juggle his lines to achieve better scoring balance. The move worked perfectly, as the Rangers won for only the second time in a game when Jagr failed to record a point. In their only other win without scoring help from Jagr, the Rangers had gone to overtime.

Sykora was placed on the Rangers' second line with Rucchin at center and Prucha moving over to left wing. Rucinsky, who had been playing on Rucchin's left side, was moved up to the No. 1 line with Straka at center and Jagr on right wing. A new third line saw Nylander centering Nieminen on the left and n Ward on the right. Nylander replaced Blair Betts on that line, as Betts is out 6-8 weeks with a knee injury.

The Rangers improved to 2-0-2 in their current five-game homestand, which concludes on Thursday night against Edmonton. The highly-anticipated Mark Messier Night Festivities will precede that game, and the win over Calgary takes the team into the ceremony on a high note.

"Of course it is a big win for us and for our confidence," said Lundqvist. "We knew it was going to be a tough, tight game. They played smart, but the last couple of games we’ve played really good, especially at home, so I think we feel a lot of confidence in this building. We’re looking forward to the Edmonton game and the Mark Messier Night. It is going to be incredible to be here and be a part of that game."

Sykora overcomes nerves to shine in Rangers debut

(Original publication: January 11, 2006)

NEW YORK — Petr Sykora anticipated being calm. But even with his new teammates going out of their way to make it seem like just any other night, the 29-year-old veteran couldn't shake the butterflies during his Rangers debut.

"They tried to keep me calm — there were not a lot of, 'Good lucks,' just a normal routine," Sykora said. "Yes, I was nervous, I'm not going to lie. When I went out for warm-ups and I saw the fans, I was nervous. But it was kind of a good nervous."

Sykora responded with a goal and an assist as the Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 4-2 last night at Madison Square Garden. His boyhood idol, Martin Straka, also had a goal and an assist for the Rangers (24-12-7), who rallied from a two-goal deficit in the first period to win their second straight.

"To have (Straka) have a helper on my first goal, I'm going to be telling that to my kids," Sykora said.

Plus, it led to a win over Calgary, which lost in regulation for just the second time since Dec. 21. The Flames (25-13-5) are third in the Western Conference.

"I think the fact that we believed in each other and in our team to get ourselves back in the game was as important as the outcome," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "Obviously, our latest addition was a big help to us and, generally speaking, kept us going."

Sykora set up Straka's goal at 5:03 of the second period, remaining on the ice after he came out to join Straka, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Rucinsky on a power play.

He then tied the score at 12:09 of the second period, taking the puck behind Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and deflecting it off defenseman Dion Phaneuf on the right post, high to the short side.

Renney eased Sykora's integration by teaming him with fellow Czech Petr Prucha and center Steve Rucchin, a linemate with Anaheim.

"All it really does is it adds more depth, by no means by him coming in does it disrupt anything," Rucchin said. "When you play with a guy like that, it makes the game easy. All you've got to do is look for a hole in the ice because that's where he's going to be."

But Sykora is not likely to stay on Rucchin's line for long. Ultimately, Renney said he wanted to drop Rucchin to the third line for the injured Blair Betts and put Michael Nylander between Sykora and Prucha.

Nylander skated last night between right wing Jason Ward and Ville Nieminen as Straka moved from left wing to center Jagr and Rucinsky. Ward drove to the net to score the winner at 5:37 of the third period, his first goal since Nov. 26.

"We played hard, we played tough, and I'm glad we got the win because it gives us a little more confidence to come back against this team," said Straka, who took a game-high six shots and led all forwards in the game with 20:16 of ice time.

Sykora, who had seven goals and 13 assists in 34 games for the Mighty Ducks, logged 16:05 of ice time and scored on his only shot. He was loudly cheered by the sell-out crowd of 18,200 from the moment he first touched the puck just 54 seconds into the game.

"I haven't had this feeling in a long time," Sykora said. "I feel like I'm a big part of it already. You can feel the energy around the team. (Physically), I am nowhere near where I want to be."

Don't know where this quote is from, found it here.

"I was blindsided because I got the puck behind the net on my backhand and I didn't really know where the guys are," Sykora said. "I don't want to turn the puck over, I just try to bang it to the net, just get it in the goalie's feet. On the way it got hit by their defenseman and went in. Sometimes when I don't know what to really do and I don't want to turn it over I just kind of shovel it to the net."

And also this:

Sykora complained of not getting enough ice time in Anaheim, but his season average (north of 17 minutes) already makes him fifth among Ranger forwards. He played 16 to 23 minutes per game in 19 of 21 before being sidelined by a groin injury, 17 to 20 minutes in six of his last 13 after returning -- seems he earned the reduction in ice time by scoring only four goals and seven assists in those first 21 games.

I didn't think he was getting consistently shafted on playing time. This is what stuck out when he was saying "12 minutes". Perhaps a couple of games, but he's also had a couple of bad ones.

On the comeback trail
By Larry Wigge | columnist
Jan. 11, 2006

It was just the other day and Jean-Sebastien Giguere was thinking about the CBC's annual "Hockey Day in Canada" extravaganza and all of the hours he had spent growing up at drafty rinks across the province of Quebec trying to become a better goaltender.

You know the drill. Early morning wakeup call. Pack up the equipment. Drag it to the car. Catch a few zzzzzzzzs en route to the rink.

The feelings brought a pause in Giguere's voice a few days after he lost a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime decision in Columbus Dec. 28. But it wasn't just about one game or one stretch in which "Jiggy" had struggled to find the magical mystery tour he enjoyed when he let us into his life in the 2003 playoffs as he led the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the three-time Cup champion New Jersey Devils.

A lot has happened to the stone-wall that authored a surreal sweep of the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs that began with a triple-overtime thriller, another upset of Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals that started with a quintuple-overtime marathon win and six-game triumph, plus another sweep in the conference finals, this time starting with a double-overtime victory over Minnesota, before Giguere took the Mighty Ducks on a roller-coaster seven-game series against the Devils.

I was asking Giguere a lot of then-and-now questions, from his feelings when he was at the top of the hockey world, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the NHL playoff Most Valuable Player, to now, where he is doing OK, but is trying to find his way back to those incredible days and weeks when the world was jiggy over Jiggy.

Over the course of the 15-minute interview, we talked about the thin thread between being at the top of the world and coming back to the real life. Jiggy spoke of the highs, the accusations of his success being tied to the equipment he wore -- that was generally considered borderline legal -- to the struggles with his game in 2003-04, plus even a trip to see a sports psychologist.

But in the quiet of a practice rink locker room outside of St. Louis, Giguere kept coming back to his roots and how in early December he had a chance to go back home to Montreal and visit with his mother, who is being treated for Alzheimer's.

"Whether it was two miles or 200 my mom was always there warming up the car and dragging the five of us to the rink," Giguere recalled, when he spoke caringly about Gisele Giguere. "She was my best fan, even if she couldn't actually bear to watch the games because she was worried that her youngest would get hurt."

It was at this point that the goalie who stood up to all of the pressure of taking a seventh-seeded team on his shoulders to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals felt his voice cracking a little.

"She would go to church and pray that I would do well," Giguere said, with a smile on his face. "Her spirits were upbeat when I sat with her a couple of weeks ago. I know in my heart that when I saw her that she understood what I was saying to her."

For a few precious moments, Giguere's goals-against that hasn't been up to snuff wasn't his major concern. When he recovered from the slight pause, he came back strong like he did a night later when he stopped all three shootout attempts by the St. Louis Blues to preserve a 5-4 victory.

In listening carefully to all that Jiggy has gone through since he was on top of the hockey world, I got the feeling that Jiggy will be driving opposing shooters jiggy again very soon.

"When you take a path in life and train to be the best, you don't just forget everything you've learned," Giguere said. "All of the goalies in the NHL have had a curve thrown at them with the new equipment, new rules on how defensemen in front of you can and can't play forwards. I think everyone's going to wind up giving up another 10 to 20 goals this season because of all the traffic we have in front of us every night. It's as simple as that."

Goalies are trained to forget the bad goals and get right back into the game. They'd drive themselves crazy if they let every goal scored against them affect them. So, it wasn't unusual that Jiggy quickly shifted the conversation to the positive.

"In 2003, I was in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time," he said proudly. "No one expected us to beat the Red Wings, much less sweep them. No one gave us a chance against Dallas. But our whole team got into one of those surreal zones that sometimes happen in sports. I haven't forgotten what I did to get into that zone personally."

Before he became a folk hero, Giguere was a technically brilliant goalie with proven credentials, which included eight shutouts among 34 victories and a 2.30 goals-against average in the 2002-03 season. But from that playoff high in which he posted a microscopic 1.62 GAA, a 21-15 record and five more shutouts, Giguere finished 17-31-6 with a 2.62 average in 2003-04.

Questions abounded. Had fame spoiled Jiggy? Maybe it was too many personal appearances after the season? Or perhaps a contract dispute that wasn't settled until training camp?

"One thing I know for sure is that my performance in the playoffs was not a fluke," Giguere said. "Critics are not going to convince me otherwise. And all of those who chose to point fingers at me because they thought my equipment was illegal are dead wrong. I'm probably the most checked goalie in the league because of it, but that's OK, I have nothing to hide. I'm not a cheater."

But it was clear that a lot was weighing on Jiggy's mind, from being newly married after the 2003 playoffs, to listening to critics, thinking about expectations, feeling the finger-pointing, going through contract hassles and a bad-by-Jiggy's-standards 2003-04 season.

Giguere has spent countless hours working with goaltending guru Francois Allaire, who had been credited with getting J.S. in the right position and frame of mind to be an elite goalie. But those sessions still missed the mark. Something else was wrong.

"Francois and I went back to basics and continued to work on my positioning," Giguere said. "But ..."

After the 2003-04 season, Mike Babcock, the former Mighty Ducks coach, said maybe Jiggy needed to talk someone about the demands of stardom and dealing with the psyche of a professional goalie. That's when Giguere went to see Dr. Wayne Halliwell, a University of Montreal sports psychologist.

"He was great. We didn't do anything groundbreaking, but it was good to talk to somebody outside of hockey, because I had trouble finding all of the answers to why my game, my life had changed so dramatically," Giguere said. "Doc got me to see myself, and what made me successful by just chatting about my feelings. He didn't play any mind games with me. He's had experience in talking to successful people in sports and he gave me a vision of living the success in the game from an outside point of view. It was helpful."

Isn't it ironic that when Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy, he said it was a team trophy and now, even though the Mighty Ducks' defense isn't nearly as disciplined as it was down the stretch in 2003, the fingers of doubt are pointed at the big netminder?

"I was the one on the other end of that Detroit sweep," Phoenix Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph said recently. "Every game was a one-goal game and two of them went to triple overtime and I was the scapegoat. That shows you how demanding we are of our goaltenders and how fickle we can be if things get a little out of whack.

"Giguere is still a big goalie who is very difficult to beat. The rules may have played havoc with his game a little, but he still the same guy who carried the Mighty Ducks on his shoulders to the finals."

Goaltending is always the most volatile issue in the NHL -- and whether you think mind games or being played, they are ... big-time.
But then the psyche of a big league goaltender has always seemed to be a fragile one.

Giguere nodded, saying he used to be a little more flaky -- until he decided idiosyncrasies were nothing but wasted energy that could be used to stop pucks.

"I used to have different little superstitions. Over the years, I sort of dropped them all," Giguere said. "It just controls your life. You have to think about them, and if you don't do them you're not going to play well. It's all silly. The only way you're going to play well is if you work hard and do what you have to do on the ice."

Now on game days, he makes sure he gets enough sleep. He eats properly and drinks a lot of water. He says he tries to be as nice to people as possible and enjoys the day as much as he can. Sometimes, Giguere said, he walks his dog -- or his labrador walks him.

"He's definitely one of the more normal ones," Nashville Predators winger Paul Kariya, who was a teammate of Giguere's in 2003, told me recently. "Jiggy's very down to earth and easy to talk to. You'd never think he was a goaltender."

"I hear he used to scramble around a lot and he'd often get caught out of position," Los Angeles Kings sharpshooter Luc Robitaille said recently. "When I was in Detroit and he stoned us, it was like he was a monster just standing there and staring us down shot after shot."

"Francois Allaire taught me to just butterfly when I have to and keep it simple," the 28-year-old Giguere said. "I just try to make myself look big ... which (at 6-1, 205 pounds) isn't hard to do ... and let them hit the biggest part of my body -- my stomach

"Seriously, my foundation is like a house. If you have a good foundation on a house and there's an earthquake, the house has a better chance to keep standing. In Hartford and Calgary, my foundation wasn't very good and I felt like I had to scramble too much to make a lot of saves. But that's history now.

"This isn't rocket science. You go out there and stop the puck. You go out there and keep your team in the game every night. You go out there and spark your team -- and stop the other guys."

Obviously, if it was that easy there would be much more than just a handful of goaltenders in the NHL who have taken their team to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Finding the right goaltender who can take you to the Promised Land isn't easy. And J.S. Giguere's story shows us just how hard goalies who have made that leap to the top of the world have to work to stay there.

I have the After Hours interview with Brendan Morrison and his mom and grandma *giggles insanely* as a video clip. Does anyone want to see it? I can compress and upload somewhere if so.

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  • Wine weekend!

    Just got back from a weekend in Wine Country. Ate lots of good food, tasted some wine and played Codenames and One Night Ultimate Werewolf at night.…

  • AO3 initialized!

    A month and a half later, I have finally started posting old fic to AO3! :P Best of Seven I will add more whenever I'm not lazy, heh heh.

  • Dude, where's my site?

    So apparently my fic site has been deleted. Don't really feel like hunting down free web hosting so I might start putting it on AO3. Is that pretty…