Rangers fight to finish, but fall to Pens at home
|Rangers defenseman Wade Redden sweeps the puck away from an oncoming Pascal Dupuis just as Blueshirts goalie Henrik Lundqvist stops a Penguins shot on Monday. Lundqvist finished with 24 saves.
• MORE PHOTOS
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|Tortorella Postgame Remarks to Reporters
|EXCLUSIVE VIDEO ON MSG.com
|Check Out More Rangers Postgame Video
• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Rookie Artem Anisimov
recorded the first two-goal game of his National Hockey League career, but it wasn’t quite enough to lift the Rangers to victory, as the Blueshirts dropped a 4-2 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Anisimov scored once in the second period and once more in the third, but that is all Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would allow on Monday. Fleury was terrific, finishing with 28 saves for his 26th win of the season.
“As he grows and gets stronger, because he’s still just a kid, he’s going to be a very good player,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of the 21 year-old Anisimov. “He’s been playing well.”
The Rangers had grabbed a short-lived 2-1 lead at 9:15 of the third when Anisimov jammed the puck over the goal line after Fleury had stopped Dan Girardi
’s original shot.
“I saw the puck between a skate and the post and I just poked it and it went inside,” said Anisimov, who totaled six shots and won 11 of 15 faceoffs on Monday. “I am just trying to work hard every shift, always drive heard to the net.”
However, on the next shift Evgeni Malkin powered towards the net, and drew a slashing penalty against Marian Gaborik
. And at 9:46 Malkin scored on the power play, his 18th of the season, to quickly tie the game.
Exactly one minute later, Chris Conner netted his second of the game -- and of the season -- to put the Pens back on top 3-2. Conner hunted down the long rebound of Sidney Crosby’s shot and whisked a left-wing shot between Henrik Lundqvist
and the near post.
The 26-year-old Conner, who was recalled from the minor leagues earlier in the day, notched the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
“They’re a pretty good team, the Stanley Cup champions, and when we give them chances like that we have to expect that they’re going to score some,” said winger Enver Lisin, who assisted on Anisimov’s first goal. “It’s our fault. We can’t give that team those opportunities.”
Pascal Dupuis ended any Rangers hope for a comeback with an empty-net goal with 39.8 ticks left on the clock.
Early in the third period the Rangers had an extended power play, a prime opportunity to break the 1-1 deadlock. Jordan Staal was assessed a double-minor for high sticking just 20 seconds into the period, providing the Rangers with four minutes of power play time. Then with 10 seconds left at the end of that double–minor, Matt Cooke was penalized for roughing Ryan Callahan
after Callahan had raced back to lift his stick and steal the puck during Cooke’s shorthanded breakaway.
Gaborik had two wicked snap shots during the power plays, and Michal Rozsival
blasted a one-timer through traffic. But Fleury was exceptionally sharp, and the Penguins survived the nearly six-minute disadvantage with the score still tied 1-1.
“We had three in a row, it would have been big to get one or two early there, and, hopefully, it would have been a different game,” said Brandon Dubinsky
. “We just had to get some momentum off of it, but I felt they got the momentum off of it because we didn’t really get anything going.”
Their scoreless string already at two full games and then some, it took the Rangers almost another two complete periods of play before finally potting a goal on Monday night. But when it came, the goal was not only a huge relief for the Rangers it was also an extremely important goal in the game.
With the Rangers trailing 1-0, but playing a strong middle period, Anisimov ended the team’s drought with his eighth goal of the season at the 13:04 mark of the second. After receiving a centering pass from Christopher Higgins while skating between the circles, Anisimov deked to his right to shake defenseman Kris Letang, then drew the puck to his left and snapped a hard shot that sizzled past the glove of Fleury.
The goal was Anisimov’s first since Dec. 19 in Philadelphia -- a span of 19 games -- and the Rangers’ first since late in the third period of their 8-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last Tuesday -- a span of more than 156 minutes of hockey.
That Anisimov scored the goal was fitting because the Russian rookie was in the midst of a very strong period of play. Several minutes before, as the Rangers skated on their first power play of the game, Anisimov delivered the club’s two best scoring chances -- one on a deflection of Chris Drury
’s shot/pass from right wing, and the other a hard, rising shot that required a quick glove save as Fleury lost his balance.
“He really had a lot of good chances,” Lisin said of Anisimov. “I am really happy for Artie, that he scored those goals after not scoring for a long time.”
Following Anisimov’s score, the two teams opened up a bit and traded scoring chances more freely than they had previously in this tight defensive game. Lundqvist made an excellent shoulder stop on Letang’s rising wrist shot off a 3-on-2 rush with 2:26 to play in the second; and Fleury responded with a sensational glove save as Dubinsky hammered a high, hard shot off a neat drop pass by Sean Avery
Lundqvist then made a juggling save on Tyler Kennedy’s blast with 44.5 seconds left in the period, and Higgins tied up Malkin long enough that the Rangers were able to sweep the rebound out of danger.
Earlier in the second period, Lundqvist had make an adept poke-check as Malkin broke in behind the Rangers’ defense after accepting a pass out of the penalty box. Malkin collected the puck behind the net and made a quick pass to Crosby in front, but Lundqvist was perfectly positioned to make a strong pad save on Crosby’s one-timer.
Pittsburgh had grabbed a 1-0 lead early in the first period on Conner’s first goal of the season. Crosby made the centering pass, and Conner fired a low shot that beat Lundqvist to the short-side at 2:47.
“I thought we played much better,” Tortorella said of his team that has now lost three games in a row. “But we have to find a way to win a game when we’re up 2-1.”
The Rangers will try and snap their skid on Wednesday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes at The Garden.
|Three star selections