Howard closes door as Red Wings top Rangers 3-1
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Detroit’s Dan Cleary snapped a 1-1 tie with 2:03 remaining in the third period to lift the Red Wings to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Cleary accepted a cross-ice pass from teammate Henrik Zetterberg and wristed a left-wing shot from along the goal line that hit Henrik Lundqvist
’s right pad and left skate before trickling over the goal line.
“It was a bad goal,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But no one feels worse about it than Hank. He’s the backbone of our team, and I’m sure no one feels worse about this than he does.”
Added Lundqvist, “It got stuck underneath me, and then I moved and it went in. It’s a tough one to let in that late. Obviously it’s a goal I need to stop.”
The Rangers had been granted three consecutive power plays with the score tied in the third period. But the Red Wings did an outstanding job in successfully killing off all three Blueshirts man-advantages, swinging the momentum in their favor in the process.
“One hundred percent that was the difference in the game,” said Sean Avery
. “It’s not often you can have the Red Wings on the ropes, or have an opportunity to beat them because they gave you power plays.”
On the first and third power plays -- at 4:13 and 10:01 of the third -- the Rangers were barely able to set up in the offensive zone due to the aggressive kill employed by the Red Wings. It was during their second power play of the final period that the Rangers had their best chances to score.
During that particular man-advantage, Avery, who had a terrific all-around game, missed an empty net off a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Christopher Higgins that had pulled goaltender Jimmy Howard well out of position. Higgins then was robbed seconds later by a sprawling Howard, and Chris Drury
was also denied by the Detroit netminder.
“I didn’t see (the puck) until it got to my feet,” Avery said of his near-miss. “I just didn’t bear down, which, I guess, is somewhat of a theme around here.”
Howard, the 25-year-old rookie, turned in an excellent performance in goal for the Red Wings, finishing with 28 saves.
Kris Draper closed out the scoring with a power play empty-net goal with 6.7 seconds left for the Red Wings.
As was the case in Saturday’s 2-1 victory in Buffalo, the Rangers scored the first goal of the game late in the first period on Sunday. Twelve seconds after killing off a Detroit power play, the Rangers scored off a rush into the Red Wings zone.
Higgins, who scored that first goal on Saturday, earned the assist on the opening score on Sunday evening. Higgins scooted up left wing and whipped a centering pass to the top of the crease where Brian Boyle
barged towards the net and redirected the pass past Howard for his third goal of the season at 15:56.
Boyle’s goal was the third straight this weekend for the Rangers in which a forward was rewarded for going hard to the net. Higgins and Ryan Callahan
scored in similar fashion against the Sabres on Saturday.
Although outshot 14-6 in the opening period, the Rangers headed to the intermission with a 1-0 lead thanks to Boyle’s score and some excellent work in goal by Lundqvist. However, a sensational save by Howard with under a minute left in the period stopped the Blueshirts from carrying a more comfortable lead into the intermission.
Howard moved across his crease from left to right in lightning quick fashion to rob Higgins on the doorstep following a crisp pass from Ales Kotalik with 25.8 seconds remaining.
And Howard wasn’t finished making huge saves against the home team.
Just 1:37 into the second period Callahan was hauled down on a breakaway by Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, and the referee closest to the play immediately signaled for a penalty shot.
With the crowd on its collective feet and cheering wildly, Callahan collected the puck, skated wide to his left, and then skated towards Howard. Callahan made a fake to his backhand and seemed to have an opening to the far post where he sent his forehand shot. Howard, though, split his legs as far apart as he could and made an incredible left-toe stop along the goal line to once again rob a Ranger of an apparent goal.
“There’s nothing you can do,” said Callahan. “I like that move. It’s one of the moves I like to do, and I executed it exactly the way I wanted to. But he stopped it. All I can say is good save.”
The Red Wings proceeded to reward Howard for his clutch play when Pavel Datsyuk tied the game 1-1 at 11:59 of the second. Only four seconds after a penalty to Marc Staal
had expired, Datsyuk snuck the puck under Lundqvist during a scramble in front for his seventh goal of the season, pulling the visitors even.
Undaunted, the Rangers kept pressing and nearly regained the lead at 13:08. Higgins accepted a perfect home run pass from Michael Del Zotto
at the Detroit blueline, blew past both Red Wings’ defensemen, and skated in alone on Howard. Higgins did not make a fake, and instead tried to snap a forehand shot past Howard, but, again, the Detroit netminder was up to the task, making a sharp right-pad save.
Four minutes later Vinny Prospal
ripped a shot from between the circles that tipped off Howard’s glove and trickled just wide of the net.
With the Rangers coming close, but yet unable to score, the second period ended in a 1-1 deadlock, setting the stage for an exciting, though disappointing, finish.
“When you’re in a 1-1 game and you get three power plays that late in the game, you’ve got to capitalize,” said Callahan. “We didn’t do that and right after that they get one. If we had scored on one of those PPs, I think it would have been the difference.”
The Rangers will try and regroup quickly as they are faced with another highly-skilled Original Six opponent in their next contest. On Wednesday night the Rangers will travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks. Then it’s back to The Garden for a game against the Buffalo Sabres next Saturday.
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