Kariya, Blues keep points away from Blueshirts
|St. Louis goaltender Ty Conklin makes a sprawling save against Rangers forward Erik Christensen on Thursday at MSG. Conklin was a big difference in the game, as he finished his night with 26 saves.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Paul Kariya’s milestone 400th NHL goal snapped a 3-3 tie midway through the third period and carried the St. Louis Blues to a 4-3 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
Despite the loss, the Rangers remain only three points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, because the eighth-place Boston Bruins also lost on Thursday. The Rangers, who have 11 games remaining, will travel to Boston for a crucial contest with the Bruins in their next game on Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve been going along here saying the next game, no matter who it’s against, is the biggest game of the year,” said team captain Chris Drury
. “But this next one is against the team we are chasing, and there aren’t that many games left to go, so it’s going to be a big one.”
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, the Rangers had pulled even on Wade Redden
’s second goal of the season at 7:11. Brandon Dubinsky
and Marian Gaborik
worked hard to get the puck to the net, and when it bounced off goaltender Ty Conklin’s pads, Redden stepped into a slap shot which beat Conklin to the short side.
But the tie was short-lived for the Rangers, because 73 seconds after Redden tied the game, Kariya powered to the net to redirect T.J. Oshie’s centering feed past Henrik Lundqvist
, restoring the Blues’ one-goal lead.
“I don’t know what to say except that it’s really frustrating and disappointing not to get the two points tonight,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 12 saves. “I know that I have to play better.”
Kariya’s goal just added to the Rangers’ third-period frustration. The Blueshirts had been awarded a 5-on-3 power play in the first minute of the final period when Erik Johnson (at the six-second mark) and Roman Polak (43 seconds later) were both penalized for delaying the game by shooting pucks over the glass.
The Rangers, though, were unable to generate much of an attack, posting only one shot on goal during 1:17 worth of the two-man advantage. On the night the Rangers were 1-for-5 on the power play.
“Even though we don’t score on the 5-on-3, we come back and tie it,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But then we have a lost back check and it ends up in the back of our net.”
Two unassisted goals by St. Louis defensemen early in the second period turned a 2-1 Rangers’ lead into a 3-2 Blues’ advantage, a score that held up through 40 minutes of action.
Mike Weaver scored his first goal of the season -- and only the fourth of his 327-game NHL career -- at 2:21 of the second to tie the game 2-2. The goal was unassisted after Weaver intercepted Chris Drury
’s attempted clear and proceeded to fire a right-wing slap shot past Lundqvist.
It was the second straight period in which the Blues scored on their first shot. In the first period, Brad Boyes gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead just 1:10 into the game when he snapped a left-wing shot past the gloved hand of Lundqvist on the first shot of the game.
The Blues regained the lead at 5:45 of the second when Johnson skated coast-to-coast on right wing, finishing with a wrist shot from the circle that somehow crept between Lundqvist’s pads. At that point, the Blues had scored three goals on only eight shots against Lundqvist.
“The third goal is a big goal in the game and it’s a bad goal,” said Lundqvist. “I felt like they didn’t have to work too hard for their goals tonight. It’s really, really disappointing.”
The Rangers would allow St. Louis only two more shots the remainder of the period and would have the better of the scoring chances. However, on their best opportunities, the Rangers repeatedly fired wide of the net.
In fact, in the final minutes of the second period, Ryan Callahan
, Vinny Prospal
, and Sean Avery
all missed the net on excellent scoring chances against a scrambling Blues squad. So frustrated was Prospal after his left-wing shot sailed wide with Conklin out of position that he threw his head back and stared at The Garden ceiling for several seconds before resuming play.
“For much of the night I thought we had the better of the territorial play,” said Tortorella. “But they score four, we score three. They win.”
The Blueshirts did find the back of the net twice in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit and secure a 2-1 lead, posting an 11-4 shots advantage in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Callahan scored his 19th goal of the season, on the power play, to tie the game 1-1 at 5:52 of the first. Camped out in front of the Blues net, Callahan was in perfect position to tip Olli Jokinen’s straightaway blast past Conklin.
“I thought we competed well, our work ethic was there,” said Callahan. “But it’s frustrating to lose like this at this time of the year.”
Gaborik, who assisted on Callahan’s goal and later the one by Redden, scored one himself at 17:08 to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Skating swiftly into the Blues’ zone, Gaborik unleashed a right-wing shot that handcuffed Conklin up high and settled into the net for his team-high 37th goal.
The lead held up through the remainder of the first period, but dissipated early in the second, just as the third-period tie quickly dissolved into defeat.
The loss turned Sunday afternoon’s upcoming game at Boston into even more of a must-win type of situation for the Blueshirts.
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