Slow start hurts Blueshirts again
Rangers rally for late goals vs. Flyers, but can't get tying score in 3-2 loss
|Rangers rookie Derek Stepan had a goal and an assist for the Blueshirts in the third-period rally on Sunday night against Philadelphia at The Garden.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
For the second straight night a rough start against a quality opponent cost the Rangers two points in the standings, as the Blueshirts were defeated 3-2 by the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden.
A pair of first-period goals by Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter and Ville Leino were the Rangers’ undoing on Sunday -- just 24 hours after the Canadiens rode a three-goal opening period to a 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Montreal.
“I think the last two games we started a little too late,” said Wojtek Wolski, who scored a goal and added an assist on Sunday. “We have shown in both games that we can come back and compete, and dominate periods, but we have to play full games. We can’t keep having starts like this.”
Just as they had done in Montreal, the Rangers did put forth a furious rally in the third period against the Flyers, scoring twice on goals by Wolski and Derek Stepan. But once again, the comeback fell one goal short.
“We were a little ragged, but we found ourselves,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “In the second half of the game we had a lot of scoring chances, but we just couldn’t finish.”
First-period penalties hurt the Rangers on both nights. On Saturday the Canadiens scored their first two goals with a Rangers’ player sitting in the penalty box. And on Sunday Philadelphia’s two goals in the opening period were both scored mere seconds after penalties against the home team had expired.
|Rangers goaltender Martin Biron prepares to make a save through traffic created by Philadelphia's James Van Riemsdyk. Biron was perfect over the final two periods, when he made 17 of his 24 saves.
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Carter opened the scoring at 6:14, just 12 seconds after the Blueshirts killed off an early penalty to Brandon Dubinsky. Stationed in the slot, Carter neatly deflected Matt Carle’s slap shot past Rangers goalie Martin Biron for his 19th goal of the season.
Then at 14:54 of the first period, Ville Leino’s wrist shot from the slot eluded Biron, just as Matt Gilroy reached him after sprinting out of the penalty box. The 2-0 lead held up for the Flyers into the first intermission -- the second straight night that the Rangers trailed by a pair of goals after 20 minutes of play.
Although they were better in the second period -- with 19 shots on goal in the middle 20 minutes of play -- the Rangers faced an even larger deficit heading into the second intermission as Philadelphia captain Mike Richards scored the only goal of the period.
While skating on the power play, Stepan was stripped of the puck in the offensive zone, leading to a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush the other way for the Flyers. Richards converted a pass from Claude Giroux for his 15th goal -- and third shorthanded -- at 4:25 of the second period to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.
“Against any team being down 3-0 is hard,” said Wolski. “I think we can’t come out and put ourselves against the wall like that. It’s too tough to play when they have that big a lead.”
|Rangers rookie forward Mats Zuccarello fires a shot toward the Philadelphia goal on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Zuccarello had a primary assist on both of the Blueshirts' third-period goals.
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The Rangers finally broke through against Boucher at 9:13 of the third period. Mats Zuccarello sent Wolski into the offensive zone on left wing with a head-man pass, and Wolski’s wrist shot beat Boucher to the short side to cut the home team’s deficit to two goals. The goal was Wolski’s eighth of the season, and second in four games since being acquired by the Rangers from the Coyotes last Monday.
“We were working hard, and I think it was just a lot of puck pursuit, finishing checks, and supporting each other that led to our chances,” Wolski said of playing with Zuccarello and Stepan. “I think we did a really good job of getting in there and controlling the puck.”
Stepan brought the Rangers to within a goal of the Flyers with 8:23 left to play firing his 13th goal into the net after some excellent work behind the cage by both Wolski and Zuccarello.
“It seems to be a common theme right now, where we wait a little too long sometimes, but then start rolling and playing better late,” said Stepan. “If we find a way to put a first half together like the second halves we’ve been having, we’ll be a pretty good hockey team.”
The Rangers outshot Philadelphia 10-3 in the final period, but Boucher did not surrender another goal despite the late surge by the home team. Boucher finished with 34 saves for the Flyers, who now have an Eastern Conference-high 63 points.
After a pair of days off on Monday and Tuesday, the Rangers open up a stretch of five games in seven days on Wednesday when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at MSG.