Petr Prucha provides quite a punch when he gets into the New York Rangers lineup. His only problem has been getting regular work.
Prucha got the Rangers even last night when he scored one of New York's four third-period goals that carried them to a 5-4 victory over the visiting New York Islanders. The speedy Czech forward has only two goals this season, but both were scored after lengthy benchings.
"I got lucky," said Prucha, who hadn't played in eight games. "It's tough being out of the lineup for so long, and it was frustrating. I got the chance to play again and scored, so hopefully I will be in the lineup for the next game."
The Rangers held a 25-15 shots advantage through two periods but entered the third trailing 2-1. A hard and clean hit by Ryan Callahan on Islanders forward Trent Hunter that forced open a door at the scorer's table, and left Hunter down in pain, sparked the Rangers.
Hunter slammed into the boards 40 seconds into the third and hit the edge after the door opened. He went down on his knees before rolling onto his back. A stretcher was brought out, but Hunter got to his feet and skated off toward the dressing room.
"When a player gets hurt, I think it takes the momentum out of you a little bit," said Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald, playing for Rick DiPietro who is sidelined again with a sore groin. "Bad things happen during the game . . . but you have to still battle and get right back to work."
The Rangers turned the ensuing faceoff into Prucha's goal nine seconds later.
"I have played with a lot of guys, and that guy is one of the best teammates I've ever had," said Scott Gomez, who had a goal and assist. "For whatever reason he hasn't been in the lineup, but he never says a word. He is one of the guys that always has a smile on his face and works the hardest in practice.
"Not only was it a huge goal, but to see him get it even means more."
In other games last night:
* At Sunrise, Fla., Maxim Lapierre scored the final three goals of the game, leading the Montreal Canadiens to a 5-2 victory over the Panthers.
* At Dallas, Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe each scored and Evgeni Nabokov had 28 saves to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Stars.
* At Calgary, Eric Nystrom scored a shorthanded goal in the third period to lift the Flames to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
* At Denver, Cody McLeod had the first two-goal game of his career and John-Michael Liles added a goal and an assist in the Colorado Avalanche's 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators.
* Blues left wing Paul Kariya will seek further medical advice before having what will likely be season-ending surgery on his left hip. Kariya, 34, said the operation will probably take place in the next few weeks.
* Claude Lemieux, 43, signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks after spending the past month with their top minor-league affiliate, boosting his comeback hopes.
* Avalanche center Paul Stastny will have surgery to repair his fractured right forearm and will be out 6 to 8 weeks. *