A night which started out so well for the Rangers ended in bitter defeat as the Blueshirts let a 2-0 lead slip away in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The loss was made even the more bitter by the fact that Chris Kreider had forced overtime by scoring a goal with less than a minute to play in regulation.
New Jersey defenseman Eric Gelinas hammered a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist 1:15 into overtime with Ryan Callahan in the midst of serving a double minor for high sticking as the Devils beat the Rangers for the third straight time this season. New York, which is now 1-1 in overtime, dropped to 15-14-1 overall on the season, and 5-6-1 on home ice.
Kreider had tied the game at 3-3 with just 21.3 seconds to play, chipping a power play rebound over the outsctretched glove of Martin Brodeur. With Travis Zajac in the penalty box for a delay of game penalty and Lundqvist on the bech for an extra attacker, the Rangers skated on a 6-on-4 advantage, twice missing wide with their shots before Callahan's shot was stopped in front and Kreider batted the puck in for his seventh goal.
After scoring the first two goals of the game, the Rangers still held a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but that lead vanished at 5:58 when Zajac pulled the Devils even at two apiece. Jaromir Jagr made a power move around the Rangers net and though his wraparound was stopped by Lundqvist, he drew most of the Rangers attention his way. That left Zajac wide open to turn the rebound into his fifth goal of the season.
Then with 4:04 to play in the third period Michael Ryder beat Lundqvist between the pads to give New Jersey its first lead of the night. The goal was Ryder's eighth of the season and marked the second time this season the Devils scored a late third period goal at The Garden to hurt the Blueshirts.
Along with the defeat comes concern for defenseman Marc Staal, who was injured on an unpenalized high hit by New Jersey's Reid Boucher early in the third period. Boucher came up high and appeared to hit Staal in the face by the Rangers blueline sending Staal to the ice immediately. He was attended to by team trainer Jim Ramsay and then went straight to the dressing room. Upon exiting the ice Staal fired his helmet to the ground in anger. Staal did not return and the team did not have an update on his condition.
The Rangers got off to a quick start, scoring just 3:32 into the first period to grab an early 1-0 lead. Brad Richards beat Brodeur off the rush with a snap shot from the left circle for his team-leading ninth goal, scoring on the Blueshirts first shot of the game. The goal extended Richards' point scoring streak to six consecutive games, and was assisted by Zuccarello and Justin Falk---the latter earning his first point as a New York Ranger.
The rest of the first period featured few prime scoring chances for either team, though there was an escalation of physical play as the period wore on. That rugged play from both teams continued on and picked up in the second period. New Jersey's Anton Volchenkov was particularly physical for the visitors while Falk and Taylor Pyatt used their considerable size to gain a physical edge time and again as the game progressed.
In one particular sequence Falk and New Jersey's Patrick Elias engaged in a war in front of Lundqvist's crease. Falk manhandled Elias, incensed after the veteran Devil had knocked the Ranger defenseman's helmet off behind the net. Falk repeatedly punished Elias as the Devils maintained puck posession in the Rangers zone until finally the beating ended when the Blueshirts skated the puck out of their own end.
The Rangers grabbed a 2-0 lead 57 seconds into the middle stanza when Zuccarello scored his sixth goal of the season, and third in as many games. Dan Girardi started the scoring play by pushing a pass up to Callahan in the Rangers end of the ice, and the Blueshirts captain took off on right wing. Callahan crossed into the Devils zone and hammered a shot on net. Brodeur made the save, but left a juicy rebound on left wing which Zuccarello hammered into the open cage.
Seemingly in control against an opponent struggling mightily to score goals, the Rangers gave one back at 6:02 on a very controversial play. Rugged Devils winger Cam Janssen charged Lundqvist's crease after the Rangers goalie had made a save on Tim Sestito's left-wing shot and as Janssen fell to the ice the puck careened off his skate and into the back of the net. The on-ice call was that a goal had been scored, and that was upheld by video review. When Lundqvist saw the replay on The Garden's scoreboard he threw his arms up in the air and screamed at the officials, to no avail.
While the goal itself was debatable, what was not was the excellence of the pass that Brodeur sent from his crease all the way to Sestito at center ice which started the scoring play. Quite deserving, Brodeur earned their secondary assist on Janssen's goal.
Saturday's contest was the first of a nine-game homestand for the Rangers, who are right back at it Sunday night hosting the visiting Washington Capitals.