CANUCKS CLAMP DOWN, FRUSTRATE RANGERS AT HOME
|Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist fends off Canucks forward Ryan Kesler on Tuesday night. Lundqvist faced a total of 29 shots on the evening.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers showed plenty of fight on Tuesday night at GM Place in Vancouver, but in the end they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Canucks in the opener of their three-game road trip through Western Canada.
Mikael Samuelsson scored twice for the Canucks, and teammate Ryan Kesler added three assists. Backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft, coming off a shutout on Sunday while playing in the place of the injured Roberto Luongo, stopped 22 shots to earn the victory for Vancouver.
The Rangers, who have lost their last four road games, have not won in Vancouver since October 11, 1997, dropping five straight road contests to the Canucks in that span.
“We worked really hard the whole game and stayed with it,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
. “But a couple plays there in the third were the difference.”
Tuesday’s loss unfortunately overshadowed the upbeat news of Vinny Prospal
being selected as the team’s second alternate captain along with Ryan Callahan
, and Michael Del Zotto
being named as the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October.
A wild sequence early in the third period saw huge swings in emotion for both teams, as well as big changes on the scoreboard.
It began at the 4:21 mark during a line change when an old-fashioned on-ice scrum took place with Dane Byers
, Dan Girardi
, and Aaron Voros the most involved Rangers taking part. After things had quieted down, Sean Avery
and Vancouver defenseman Shane O’Brien shouted at one another from their respective benches, and O’Brien ended up jabbing his stick at Avery, earning a ten-minute misconduct for his actions.
All told, six players received a total of 52 minutes in penalties following the scrum, and the Rangers were handed a power play. Though they failed to score during the two-minute advantage, the Rangers finally broke through three seconds after Kesler’s penalty had expired.
|Rangers forward Christopher Higgins reacts to his eagerly anticipated first goal as a Blueshirt, which tied the score at 1-1 just 6:24 into the third period.
Christopher Higgins scored his first goal of the season, chipping a Brandon Dubinsky
pass past Raycroft from the low slot, at 6:24 to tie the game 1-1. After the puck crossed the goal line, Higgins slowly skated to the right-wing corner, staring the whole way up at the heavens, thankful for breaking his 15-game schneid.
“I’d rather score when we win,” Higgins said after the game. “It seems like it’s not that significant. It’s the only goal we score, and we lose. Then we give up three, and most of them were preventable.”
The Rangers immediately went back on the power play when Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct following Higgins’ goal. However the Rangers failed to convert on the power play, and that came back to haunt them when the Canucks struck at 8:48 to grab a 2-1 lead.
Kesler fired the puck behind the Rangers net, hustled to collect his own pass around Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival
, skated to left wing, and then zipped a pass into the slot. Rick Rypien skated into the pass and one-timed the puck past Lundqvist, on the glove side, for his second goal of the season, and the Canucks were once again in the lead.
Vancouver retained its momentum as the Rangers were whistled for penalties at 9:07 and 13:26. And they put a death grip on the match when Samuelsson scored his second goal of the night -- and eighth of the season -- at 14:13, jamming the puck underneath Lundqvist for a power play score.
“We worked really hard the whole game to tie the game,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 26 saves. “Then we finally did, but then we took a couple more penalties and kind of gave them momentum back.”
Henrik Sedin sent the puck into an empty net with 1:24 left to play to close out the scoring.
“We just can’t make the mistakes we made once we tied the game up 1-1,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I believe we’ll get our offense going, but I’m more concerned with our situational play.”
The Canucks had scored the first goal of the night with just 1:17 remaining in the first period. Samuelsson, the former Rangers forward, hammered a rebound past Lundqvist after the Rangers goalie made a strong save on Kesler’s right-wing shot.
Vancouver’s lead almost doubled at 6:40 of the second. Kesler drove hard to the net, and the puck hit his skates and slid over the goal line. The referees immediately waved off the apparent goal ruling that it was kicked in. The ensuing video review upheld the on-ice call.
After a thoroughly frustrating first period in which they managed only four shots on goal due to a stifling Canucks defense, the Rangers recorded 14 in the middle stanza. However, the end result was the same. The Rangers failed to score in either of the first two periods, and trailed the Canucks 1-0 after 40 minutes of play.
Vancouver did a terrific job of denying the Rangers open passing lanes and shooting lanes, blocking an inordinate amount of attempted passes and shots, in particular in the opening period. And defenseman Willie Mitchell blanketed the Rangers’ top scoring threat, Marian Gaborik
, so completely that Gaborik managed only one shot on goal the entire night.
By being much more aggressive on the forecheck, the Rangers turned the tide in their favor in the second period. In one dominating shift midway through the second, Gaborik, Dubinsky, and Prospal kept the puck pinned in the offensive zone for nearly a full minute. A bit later on, Callahan -- who was an absolute beast on the forecheck all night -- teamed with Avery and Chris Drury
to cycle the puck for an extended stretch in the Canucks’ end.
However despite the better puck control, the Rangers could not find a way to score against Raycroft. Just a minute into the second Dubinsky was left all alone with the puck to the left of Raycroft, but the Canucks’ goalie calmly remained patient and forced the Rangers’ center to fire a shot into his pads. Then at 4:29 Raycroft showed excellent reflexes by kicking out a tricky shorthanded shot by Wade Redden
from left wing.
Two minutes later Raycroft made his biggest save of the period, flexing his right pad out in the nick of time to rob Higgins, who had broken in behind the Canucks defense. While Higgins had to be frustrated, coming so close -- at the time -- to his first goal of the season, he could join teammate Ales Kotalik in that category. Kotalik registered a team-high four shots over the first two periods -- not including a shot that skimmed off the crossbar in the first -- and all four required better-than-average stops by Raycroft, who was up to the task.
Raycroft’s opposite number, Lundqvist, was also very sharp between the pipes. His sprawling right-pad save on Kesler’s tip of Sedin’s shorthanded shot with 25 seconds left in the second was magnificent.
That scoring chance for Vancouver came during a wasted four-minute power play for the Rangers, awarded when O’Brien received a double minor for high-sticking Callahan at 16:02.
That set the stage for the wild third period, in which the Rangers were outshot 12-5 and outscored 3-1, while the referees doled out 82 minutes worth of penalties.
“I like the way we grinded tonight,” said Tortorella. “They’re a tough team, a patient team. And we’re making big mistakes at key times. But we did grind out there.”
The Rangers seek to get back on the winning track when they skate against the Oilers in Edmonton on Thursday night.
|Three star selections