By Jamie Neugebauer
Everybody that knows hockey understands that talent without a compete level to match is pretty much useless.
On Tuesday night, the Rangers showed that they have both in spades as they cruised past the Buffalo Jr. Sabres by the score of 4-1 in Game 4 of the best of seven, second-round series.
After the contest, North York bench boss John Dean praised the battle level of his troops.
“I love effort level on our team,” he said.
“This team always gives effort, they are made of effort. The only thing sometimes is that the effort level is misplace but I love the compete level and other than the second period, we were fine.”
Michael Giacometti’s bullet from the point at 2:07 of the first period on the power play got the scoring started for the Rangers, and then Adam Valadao deflected his first of two on the night with 50 seconds remaining in the frame to double the lead.
Valadao tipped his second in 44 seconds into the middle period to make it 3-0 North York (both of his goals coming with the man advantage), and then Corey Kalk made it four at 12:12 with a sweet move to cut into the middle before firing it past Buffalo netminder Parker Gahagen.
North York, back-stopped brilliantly by Jason Pucciarelli, grinded and held off the Jr. Sabres the rest of the way, only allowing a single Tyler Gjurich marker at 14:32 on the power play.
If Valadao’s contributions (two goals and on assist) are a surprise to anybody, they are not even remotely close to one to anyone in the Rangers’ locker room.
“Valadao is not quiet to me and he’s not quiet to any of his teammates,” Dean said.
“I think anybody inside the locker room knows what he provides to the team and I think Kalk and (John) Carpino would say the same thing. He does so much, sometimes out of nothing, to get them the puck and let them do their magic. He definitely deserved what he got today and I’m happy for him.”
North York went 3-for-5 with the man advantage on the night, and looked extremely dangerous when up a player all contest long.
With the victory, the Rangers take a 3-1 series lead with a chance to finish it on Wednesday night at the First Niagara Centre (the home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres) in Game 5.