Saturday's 3-2 loss at Joe Louis Arena to the Detroit Red Wings just might be the most frustrating defeat suffered by the Rangers so far this season. Not only did they let an early 2-0 lead slip away, but when given repeated chances on the power play in the third period to, at least, pull even, the Rangers failed to capitalize, sealing their fate.
"You can say what you want, but we had our top offensive players on the ice and they had the opportunity to make a statement in the game, but at the end of the day this is game about results and we didn't get the results we needed to get," stated a somber head coach Alain Vigneault after the defeat.
Trailing by a goal midway through the final period of play, the Rangers spent a stretch of more than five consecutive minutes skating on the power play--with a pair of 5-on-3 power plays in the mix--and could not find the equalizer. Both Martin St. Louis and Derick Brassard rang shots off iron 15 seconds apart late in the extended power play time, the closest the Rangers came to scoring.
The game-deciding sequence began when Detroit was called for having too many men on the ice at 9:13. Defenseman Kyle Quincey then cut Brassard with a high stick--drawing a double minor--at 10:26. The Rangers could not score with 47 seconds worth of a two-man advantage. Detroit's Jonathan Ericsson then was whistled for high sticking St. Louis at 12:37, giving New York another 1:49 worth of a 5-on-3 power play.
Other than the shots that hit the cross bar and post respectively, the Rangers generated few scoring chances with all of that power play time. They finished 0-for-7 on the power play Saturday night.
"The game's on the line, we get the five-on-threes and don't get it done, bottom line ," explained St. Louis, who led New York with four shots on goal. "We took shots, but didn't score. We just didn't get it done."
Cam Talbot, who had recorded shutouts in each of his previous two starts and who carried a scoreless string of 125 minutes 34 seconds into Saturday's contest, was given a 2-0 lead on first period goals by Kevin Klein and Rick Nash. He extended his shutout streak to 159 minutes 48 seconds by keeping the Red Wings off the scoreboard for more than half the game, but then surrendered two goals in just 61 seconds late in the middle period. As such the Rangers and Red Wings arrived at the second intermission tied 2-2.
New York did not look rusty in the least in the first period despite having not played in five days. They were strong at both ends of the ice as Talbot made ten saves and the Rangers scored twice for one of the team's best road periods of the entire season. If not for some sensational work by Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, the Rangers may have put their hosts down for the count by scoring more than the pair they did.
Klein opened the scoring 9:31 into the game with his career-high fifth goal of the season. In front of the Detroit net after skating in from his defense position, Klein accepted a Kevin Hayes feed, switched from his forehand to backhand, put a shot on goal that was stopped by Howard, and then deposited the rebound into the back of the net to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Just minutes before scoring his goal, Klein played an instrumental role in helping kill off a four-minute Detroit power play following a double-minor high sticking penalty called against Carl Hagelin at 2:53. The Red Wings managed only one shot on goal during their extended power play.
The Rangers doubled their lead at 14:48 of the first period when Nash beat Howard cleanly on a breakaway. Shortly after a pair of clutch Talbot saves, Brassard collected the puck in his own end and feathered a pretty backhand pass to Nash all the way at the Detroit blue line. Nash did the rest, beating Howard with a forehand finish, his team-high 17th goal of the season which extended his point-scoring streak to seven consecutive games.
Howard, though, excelled over the next several minutes--including an incredible point-blank pad save on Chris Kreider--to keep his team in the game.
Detroit picked up its game in the second period, eventually outshooting the visitors 15-10, though Talbot was able to keep the Red Wings from scoring until late in the period. Riley Sheahan ended Talbot's personal shutout streak at the 14:14 mark of the middle stanza, beating Talbot on a spinning backhand shot after the Rangers had left him open to the right of Talbot. Sixty-one seconds later Detroit crashed the Ranger net, with Luke Glendening tying the score by pushing a rebound over the goal line at 15:15.
"Two lazy back checks by our forwards," Vigneault said of Detroit's first two goals. "We came out real strong in that first period, we made them pay on a couple of their mistakes, and then in the second period, something that is not very characteristic of this group is two very lazy back checks by our forwards coming back into our zone. (The Red Wings) come back and put it into the back of our net."
The Red Wings then grabbed their first lead of the night 7:40 into the third period when Darren Helm fired a left-wing slap shot past Talbot after the puck had bounced over the stick of Brassard at the Rangers' blue line.
Two minutes later began Detroit's parade to the penalty box and the Rangers inability to score.
"It was still a tie game going into the third period on the road, and we felt good about it, but we got an unlucky break on their third one and we just don't get it done to tie it up," stated alternate captain Marc Staal.
After a day off Sunday, the Rangers return to action Monday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.