The effort, energy, and execution was much better Saturday night in St. Louis, but the Rangers still dropped a 5-3 decision to the undefeated Blues at Scottrade Center. The Rangers have now lost three in a row and have fallen to 1-4-0 on the season, while the Blues are a perfect 4-0-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Martin Biron made his first start of the season in goal for the Rangers, but lasted just two periods before being replaced by Henrik Lundqvist. After a strong first period, Biron surrendered three goals on five shots in the second---including a pair from long range by David Backes and Derek Roy. In total Biron allowed four goals on 17 shots through 40 minutes of play.
Ryan Callahan, who led the Rangers with six power play goals last year and with a career-high 13 two years ago, scored two power play goals on Saturday, his first two goals of the season. His second score---2:54 into the third period---cut the Rangers' deficit to 4-3, and came off a rebound in front where his rebound of a Brad Richards shot bunced up and over Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak and just landed over the goal line.
However with Derek Dorsett in the penalty box for the third time on the night, the Blues capitalized against Lundqvist with rookie Vladimir Tarasenko scoring the power play goal that upped the Blues' lead to 5-3 at 10:42 of the third period. Despite allowing that goal, Lundqvist was sensational in relief of Biron, stopping 16 of 17 shots, including a string of Grad A chances late in the final period.
Richards continued his strong early-season play for the Rangers, with a goal and an assist. He scored his fourth of the season with 3:04 to play in the second period that at the time brought the Rangers to within 3-2, though Backes would respond for St. Louis less than two minutes later.
Backes scored twice for the Blues and added an assist, while Alexander Steen had a goal and three assists and T.J. Oshie had a pair of helpers.
Despite allowing the first six shots of the game, not to mention the game-opening goal 5:38 into play, the Rangers regrouped and finished strong in the second half of the first period, exiting the ice with the score tied 1-1 and only trailing St. Louis by a 12-11 count in shots on goal. Biron was sharp and helped settle his team down, before the Rangers took advantage of a pair of Blues penalties late in the period to pull even.
With Oshie already in the box for boarding Anton Stralman with St. Louis itself skating on the power play at 17:55, Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman was whistled for a charging penalty at the 19-minute mark of the first. Skating with a two-man advantage the Rangers scored with 5.8 sceonds left in the period---just one second before Oshie was to return to the ice. Callahan tapped in a rebound by the crease, with the assists going to Brassard and Stepan, for the Rangers' sceond 5-on-3 power play goal already this season.
The second period was a strange one as the Rangers controlled much of the play, and even outshot St. Louis 13-5. But they headed into the second intermission trailing 4-2 as Biron struggled on the few shots he faced.
Head coach Alain Vigneault decided to insert Justin Falk into the lineup Saturday, dressing seven defensemen and 11 forwards with Arron Asham the healthy scratch. Rick Nash remained back in New York recovering from the head shot he received Tuesday in San Jose.
With an odd number of defensemen Vigneault switched his pairs through much of the game, though for the most part as it progressed Falk rotated in and out with John Moore and Michael Del Zotto. And with only 11 forwards dressed, Vigneault used Brad Richards and Taylor Pyatt as left wings to double shift on the fourth line with center Dominic Moore and right wing Derek Dorsett..
Falk, the former Minnesota Wild defenseman, made his Rangers debut Saturday, getting involved physically early on and taking an interference penalty late in the first period and another interference penalty 12:08 into the second period. He was in the box for St. Louis' third goal---Roy's power play blast in the second.