By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Playing with an injury-depleted lineup Saturday night at the Bell Centre, the Rangers could not match the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens and came away on the short end of a 3-0 final. The Rangers are now winless in their last three, posting an 0-2-1 mark in that span. They return home for a four-game homestand starting Tuesday night with a tilt against the Winnipeg Jets.
After playing a strong, yet scoreless opening period, the Rangers surrendered a goal early in the second period, one near the midway point, and another before the second intermission arrived to fall into a 3-0 hole. Montreal's Lars Eller had a hand in all three of the scores, assisting on the first two before tallying a power play goal of his own with 25.3 seconds remaining in the middle period.
The Rangers had allowed only three shots in the first period---including one that required a big-time save by Martin Biron off a David Desharnais point-blank try---but in the middle stanza Montreal took over the game, outshooting New York 13-7. Erik Cole opened the scoring with a bad-angle left-wing goal just 1:20 into the period and rookie Alex Galchenyuk had his shot deflect off Dan Girardi's stick and under the crossbar for his third goal of the season at 13:36. Eller assisted on both of those goals, and then finished a tic-tac-toe power-play passing sequence at 19:34 with a right-wing one-timer for his second of the season.
Perhaps the worst moment of the middle 20 minutes for the Rangers had nothing to do with the three goals allowed. Instead it had to do with another apparent injury to a key Rangers player when Ryan McDonagh was forced from the game after absorbing a high, hard hit into the back glass by Max Pacioretty, who received a minor boarding penalty for the hit at 7:20.
McDonagh rose to his feet quickly, and seemed to be checking his mouth for a cut. But when he left the bench and did not return for the remainder of the game, there was concern the injury could something more serious---though his injury remained undisclosed.
Already playing without defenseman Michael Del Zotto---scratched due to an undisclosed injury---and with Marc Staal in the lineup despite a case of the flu, the Rangers blueline was extremely thin once McDonagh did not return to game action. Girardi--and Staal---had to eat up most of the minutes, while Anton Stralman and Matt Gilroy had to play more, as well.
Forwards Rick Nash, Darroll Powe, and Arron Asham also were missing from the Rangers lineup due to injury. As a result one of the players inserted into Saturday's lineup was the team's second round pick from the 2010 draft, 20 year-old Christian Thomas, who made his NHL debut. Thomas made an impression on his first shift, throwing a solid body check by the boards and finishing with a hard left-wing shot on goal. Though his ice-time alongside Brian Boyle and Brandon Mashinter was limited, Thomas did record two shots on goal and provided plenty of energy in his first NHL experience---which was witnessed by his proud father Steve Thomas, the Tampa Bay asisstant and former NHLer who was granted permission by the Lightning to leave the team for a day so that he could watch his son's debut.
Thomas saw plenty of familair faces from his time with the Connecticut Whale wearing Rangers white jerseys on Saturday. Along with Mashinter and Gilroy, Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller also played with Thomas at one point this season with the Whale.
Biron made his third start of the season in goal and saw his record drop to 1-1-1. He finished with xx saves on the night. At the other end of the ice Carey Price was not tested often, and he stopped all xx shots he faced to record his 18th career shutout, and second this season.
The Rangers have now lost seven straight in Montreal dating back to March of 2009. It was also their second shutout defeat of the 2013 season.