Sean Avery even impressed himself.
The controversial winger, who has been subdued for much of the season between questionable officiating and Rangers management, was back to his old antics against the team that quit on him, the Dallas Stars.
Not one player was immune to the Avery-syndrome last night, including top Stars Brad Richards, Marty Turco, and Brendan Morrow. Between the chirping and physical play, Avery rattled the opposition, which gave way to a rare five-goal effort at MSG.
In the Rangers' 5 - 2 victory, aside from the final empty net tally by Ryan Callahan, Avery factored in each score, recording one goal and three assists.
Avery tied the game on the power play after a pretty rush by defenseman Matt Gilroy. After Michal Rozsival passed the puck out of the zone, Gilroy recovered and began the rush in his own end. Drawing the penalty killers to the middle of the ice, Gilroy slipped a pass barely onside along the blueline to Avery.
Avery took a shortside slap shot from near the faceoff circle that went through a challenging Turco.
Then towards the end of the period, Avery would assist top-line players Marian Gaborik and Erik Christensen. Christensen forced a turnover in the neutral zone and fed Avery streaking up the odd-wing.
Gaborik snuck into the slot and Avery fed the puck toward the crease where Gaborik was able to knock in a dirty goal.
The period ended 2 - 1 Rangers.
But Avery's play wasn't without a bit of controversy.
As the second period began, the Stars tied the game on a goal by Jere Lehtinen. But the tie would only last six or so minutes as Avery would again be a factor on the offense.
Wade Redden fed a streaking Avery who found Ales Kotalik cross-ice. Kotalik came just inside the blueline and, like the Avery goal, fired a hard low slapshot that Turco wasn't able to handle.
Following the goal, Avery gave the rattled Stars' goalie a little in his ear, much to the dismay of the officiating staff. Avery was assessed a ten-minute misconduct which earned him a standing ovation.
Once the Rangers took the lead, they never looked back, coming out hard to start the third period and much to the credit of Avery.
Despite a frivolous cross-checking penalty in his first shift following the misconduct, Avery and the Rangers continued to grind away at the reeling Dallas squad and at the 8:57 mark, he would tally one of his prettiest NHL points.
Rozsival and Drury began the play in the Rangers zone and broke out near the benches. Drury chipped the puck to Avery on the blueline who broke wide through the neutral zone, attracting the attention of three defending Stars.
Avery gained the zone and pulled up tight one-on-one with Matt Niskanen near the faceoff circle. In a swift spin-o-rama move, Avery shook Niskanen and headed toward the slot. As Drury barreled toward the crease, Avery fed a tape-to-tape pass for the tip-in goal.
And in typical Avery-fashion, as he began to celebrate he was knocked down by a dejected Jamie Benn.
More importantly, the Rangers continue to get contributions from players not named Gaborik and it has had a direct impact with a team record of 7 - 1 - 2 in their last ten games.
The Rangers will look for three straight as they travel to Atlanta for an evening matchup against the Thrashers.
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