Messier's hat trick ends 1-game 'slump'

November 21, 1991|By New York Daily News

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA. — VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- After being held without a point for the second time in his 20-game New York Rangers career, Mark Messier had criticized himself for a lack of production Saturday night.

Tuesday night, Messier more than made up for the one-game point slump, collecting his first three-goal performance as a Ranger and adding an assist in the 4-3 victory that extended his new team's dominance over the Vancouver Canucks.

"The team is counting on me to put points on the board, and I haven't been doing it," Messier had said after Saturday night's loss to the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. "It's kind of frustrating."

Messier took out his frustration on the Canucks, helping the Rangers extend a number of positive streaks, while ending Vancouver's seven-game overall unbeaten streak. The Rangers are 9-0-1 in their past 10 games against the Canucks, dating back to 1988, and are 6-0-1 in their past seven at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum.

The three-goal performance was the 14th of Messier's NHL career and the fifth against the Canucks. It also was the second of his career against Vancouver goaltender Kirk McLean, whom he beat three times almost exactly two years ago -- Nov. 21, 1989.

The four-point game was Messier's 25th lifetime. And you must know by now that the prior one came against Vancouver, on Jan. 30 of last season.

His third goal of the game was the 400th of his career and the winner. At 5 minutes, 6 seconds of the third period -- just 80 seconds after Vancouver's Sergio Momesso had tied it -- Messier took a weak shot from the top of the right circle just as Adam Graves was being cross-checked in front. McLean seemed distracted for an instant and the puck squibbed past his right skate for a 4-3 Ranger lead.

The winning goal came on Messier's fourth shot of the evening, and every shot sends jolts of pain through the stretched ligaments in Messier's left wrist.

"If I wasn't going to be able to play with it, I was going to have to sit out a couple of games," said Messier, who still may end up having to rest the chronic injury.

But the Rangers' play has not been overly strong of late, either. Some Messier leadership was called for, and the team captain came through last night.

"You can't say enough about Mess," said defenseman Jeff Beukeboom, who rejoined his former Edmonton teammate on the Rangers. "We were in a bit of a losing streak [two games], the breaks were going against us, but he took the whole team on his shoulders and carried it."

After Messier's third goal, the Rangers put the game in the capable hands of goalie Mike Richter, who made 59 saves in the club's last visit here to preserve a 3-3 tie. The Canucks had 28 shots in the third period alone in that game, so Tuesday night's 35 shots overall must have been like a day at the beach.

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