Hot Ward keeps Rangers cold at The Garden
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In their final home game before a three-game trip out West, the Rangers did not get the result they were seeking. Instead of a victory to bolster them as they jet off to Phoenix, the Blueshirts dropped their fourth straight contest, falling 5-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
scored the lone goal for the Rangers, who have netted just three total during their four-game slide.
“I didn’t think we played that bad of a game,” Callahan said. “If you break it down, I thought we battled hard and we had a lot of time in their zone. Right now we need that extra bounce and go from there.”
Carolina’s win was backstopped by a sensational outing from goaltender Cam Ward, who made 21 saves in the second period alone, and finished with 37. Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal both contributed two goals apiece for the visitors.
“I think Ward played great tonight for them and gave them a boost,” said center Brian Boyle
. “They capitalized on that with some scoring. We need to do that, get those goals.”
The Rangers could not have gotten off to a much worse start then they did on Wednesday. Before four minutes had elapsed on the game clock, they trailed Carolina 2-0. And although they did not allow another goal the remainder of the first period, things did not get much better for the home team over the first 20 minutes of play.
“Of course that’s not the start we’re looking for,” said alternate captain Vinny Prospal
. “But there was still a lot of time left in the hockey game. But we got just one goal, and that’s not enough.”
Carolina struck for goals 25 seconds apart to open up a two-goal lead by the 3:36 mark of the first. Positioned down low in front of Henrik Lundqvist
, Carolina’s Patrick Dwyer deflected Joni Pitkanen’s slap shot into the net for his fourth goal at 3:11. Staal, the Hurricanes’ new captain, doubled the advantage on the game’s next shift when his bad angle shot from left wing somehow eluded Lundqvist at 3:36.
“I have to be better, plain and simple,” said Lundqvist.
The Hurricanes proceeded to control play until the first intermission arrived. Carolina limited the Rangers to only four shots in the first period, blocked 10 other potential shots, and were credited with 16 hits.
The second period saw the Rangers regain their footing and play a much better 20 minutes. However they headed to the second intermission trailing by two goals.
The Rangers pulled within 2-1 just 1:24 into the second on Callahan’s 13th goal of the season. From the high slot, Callahan perfectly deflected Marc Staal
’s slap shot up and over the glove of Ward to bring the home team within a goal of their guests.
Less than a minute later, though, the Hurricanes answered back. Samsonov redirected an Andrew Alberts pass from far to the right of Lundqvist and into the cage at 2:05, putting the ‘Canes on top 3-1. It was the second odd-angle goal allowed by Lundqvist on the game.
“That was a really big momentum swing there,” said Callahan. “Obviously we score our goal and everyone’s up on the bench, we’re right back in the game. Then the next shift they go and bang one home. That’s tough to rebound off of.”
To their credit, the Rangers were not shaken by the goal. They pressed for the rest of the period, buoyed as well by a pair of power plays, and had a string of excellent scoring chances. However, despite 22 shots on goal in the second period, the Rangers could only manage the one score by Callahan.
“I thought we regrouped after the first period and I thought played very well in the second and third,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But again, we couldn’t score any goals.”
Ward was the big difference maker for the Hurricanes as the Rangers took over territorially. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner displayed championship-caliber goaltending with a pair of flashy glove saves on Artem Anisimov
at 10:53 and Brandon Dubinsky
at 14:43. He also moved across his crease in a flash to rob Marian Gaborik
’s point-blank try at 17:19.
Gaborik, the Rangers’ leading goal scorer with 29 on the season, has netted just one in his last 11 games. He came close to scoring again in the final minute of the second, but Ward denied his deflection and his two subsequent whacks at the loose rebound.
“He wants to lead this team, and he wants to get us out of this jam as far as our offense,” Tortorella said of Gaborik. “He’s put pressure on himself. He’ll get it turned around, though.”
The Rangers were denied again and again early in the third period as Ward continued his outstanding performance. And he was rewarded when, just moments after making a great save on Ales Kotalik’s in-close attempt, the Hurricanes scored again to secure a three-goal advantage.
The puck pinballed off skates and over to Samsonov on left wing, and the veteran Russian fired a long slap shot through Lundqvist’s pads for his second goal of the game, and 10th of the season, at 7:51 of the third.
Staal hammered a right-wing slap shot into the top of the net with Carolina skating on a 5-on-3 power play with 5:18 left on the clock for his team-high 17th goal of the season, closing out the scoring.
“We just have to stay together,” said Tortorella. “The best thing for us now is to just get out of town.”
And that is exactly what the Rangers will do, travelling to Phoenix to open up their three-game road swing against the Coyotes on Saturday night.
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