Rangers fall 3-2 in OT after thrilling comeback in third
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan knocks an Islanders player to the ice in front of the visiting team's bench on Saturday night. The game was a very physical battle that spoke to the intense rivalry.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers saw their four-game winning streak come to an end as they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Islanders on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Kyle Okposo scored the game-winner with 47 seconds left to play in the extra session.
Okposo, who finished with a goal and two assists, fired a long slap shot that deflected off Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal
and past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
after the home team had the better of the play in the overtime period. It was Okposo’s sixth goal of the season, and first in 19 games.
“It’s always disappointing to lose in OT,” said Lundqvist, who made 19 saves. “It hit Staalsie’s leg. It was going pretty much middle of the net, then hit his leg, and went post-in instead. I couldn’t reach it.”
In four meetings this season, the Rangers have lost three times to the Islanders by a combined total of just four goals.
“I thought we played really hard,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We’ll take the point. But I like how we fought hard.”
scored twice in the third period, helping the Rangers erase a two-goal deficit and gain a valuable standings point by forcing overtime.
Dubinsky scored the equalizer with 46.6 seconds left on the game clock and Lundqvist on the bench, pulled for an extra attacker. Alone in front, Dubinsky deflected Ryan Callahan
’s left-wing shot into the cage for his seventh goal of the season, sending a deafening roar through the sold-out Garden.
“Time was winding down there, and I knew we were going to try and get things to the net with some traffic,” said Dubinsky. “I think Cally made a great play. I feel that he shot for my stick, and I was standing there ready for it.”
Trailing 2-0 early in the third period, the Rangers finally put a puck past Islanders’ goalie Dwayne Roloson when Dubinsky converted the rebound of a Chris Drury
left-wing slap shot. Unchecked in front, Dubinsky grabbed the loose puck off Roloson’s pads, shifted to his backhand, and slid the puck into the cage for his fifth goal, which came at the 6:07 mark of the third, five seconds after a Rangers’ power play had expired.
Moments later Marian Gaborik
came within inches of tying the game, and the Rangers, urged on by the loud MSG crowd, pressed forward as the one-on-one battles became more fierce as the minutes ticked off the clock.
With 3:34 left to play, Michael Del Zotto
saw his slap shot deflect off an Islanders defenseman, then off the post, as the Rangers’ came tantalizingly close to pulling even.
Dubinsky, though, would get the Rangers even and help the team earn an important point in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference standings.
“It felt like we were going for two points when we tied it,” said Lundqvist.
The Rangers had to wait more than half the game for their first power play, and it ended up being a key moment in the contest. Unfortunately for the Rangers, it was a key moment for all the wrong reasons.
With the Islanders nursing a 1-0 lead, defenseman Brendan Witt was whistled for tripping Callahan at 13:17 of the second period as the Rangers’ winger sped towards the Isles’ net. Having picked up their play over the previous few minutes, and now handed their first power play, things looked promising for the Rangers.
Optimism was raised for the home team when Ales Kotalik had a pair of excellent scoring chances in the opening moments of the power play. However, Roloson made two strong saves, and shortly thereafter the Isles struck for a hugely-important shorthanded goal, completely derailing the Rangers’ high hopes.
Blake Comeau converted a chip pass from Okposo at 14:21, beating Lundqvist between the pads from in-close, after both Kotalik and Del Zotto converged on Okposo along the right-wing boards. Left all alone in front, Comeau calmly collected the puck and scored the shorthanded goal.
“We were just trying to do too much with our power play, breaking out at that certain time and turning it over,” said Tortorella. “Kots and Michael obviously don’t play that correctly.”
So, although the Rangers fired 15 shots at Roloson in the second period, they exited the ice after 40 minutes of play trailing 2-0.
The Rangers did have their chances, but several of their best did not even require saves by Roloson. Kotalik, for example, sailed a left-wing shot just wide of the net at 7:58 with Sean Avery
setting a perfect screen in front. At 9:10 Roloson did not control the rebound of a right-wing shot, and Vinny Prospal
charged the crease, but hammered the puck just wide of the cage.
At least the Rangers were creating scoring chances as the game wore on. In the first period, they were neutralized for the most part by a diligent Islanders’ squad, as both teams were limited to only five shots on goal.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Isles scored on their second shot of the night to take an early 1-0 lead. After Dan Girardi
shanked a slap shot, the Islanders pushed the puck the other way, deep into the Rangers’ end of the ice. Josh Bailey reached the puck first, made a nifty pass to the onrushing Okposo, who in turn made a slick backhand feed to Frans Nielsen. Lundqvist lunged to his right, but could not stop Nielsen’s sixth goal of the season at the 7:45 mark of the opening period.
“It was a nothing play on their first goal that turns into a goal,” said Tortorella. “We still have our three guys back and we’re in between in all areas.
Nielsen’s goal took some of the steam out of the Rangers’ energetic start. Callahan had already delivered a series of crunching hits, much to the liking of The Garden Faithful, and Avery had hammered Bruno Gervais to the ice during their fight only 2:28 into the match.
“We came out, and I thought we had great energy right from the start,” said Dubinsky. “I thought we had a little bit of meanness to our game. But we took a couple of penalties. It’s tough to get the momentum and a flow to the game when you go in the box. But we showed a lot of character in coming back and getting a point.”
The Rangers now have several days to regroup and prepare for their next game, Wednesday night at The Garden against the Philadelphia Flyers. And then the Rangers close out calendar year 2009 on New Year’s Eve with a tilt against the Hurricanes in Carolina.
|Three star selections