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• Game Notes
• Garden of Dreams Telethon During Game Tonight
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Tonight’s back-end of the home-and-home set between the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden promises to be an extremely intense battle, one born of a longstanding rivalry coupled with the Blueshirts’ desire to avenge Saturday’s loss in the Steel City.
The Rangers surrendered a season-high eight goals to their Atlantic Division rivals in an 8-3 defeat at the hands of the Penguins in the front end of this home-and-home. Although they scored the first goal of the game -- off a gorgeous Marc Staal finish -- and twice battled back to within one goal of Pittsburgh, the Rangers could not overcome three Penguins scores in the first period, four in the third, and one with no time left on the clock in the second.
Saturday was an extremely frustrating night for the Rangers. From watching Sidney Crosby notch his fourth career hat trick amidst a five-point gem of a performance, to surrendering a goal to Mark Eaton with 00.0 remaining on the clock in the second period, to allowing the final four goals of the game after Michal Rozsival pulled the visitors within 4-3 just 33 seconds into the third period, it was one of the more disappointing games the Rangers have been in so far this season.
That it took place against one of their most fierce rivals just added to the frustration.
This evening the Rangers get to face the Penguins at The Garden, where the Pens have not won since all the way back on March 1, 2007. And there is no doubt that the Rangers players and fans will both be hungry for a little payback.
Last year the Rangers took all three of their meetings with the Penguins at MSG. Twice the Blueshirts secured their victories via the shootout, winning by identical 3-2 scores on Oct. 25 and Dec. 3, 2008. And on Jan. 5, 2009, Henrik Lundqvist backstopped a 4-0 Garden shutout over the Penguins, stopping all 27 shots he faced.
Lundqvist did not play in Saturday’s 8-3 loss. Instead he watched Steve Valiquette take a turn in goal. Lundqvist will be back between the pipes this evening looking to improve upon his career 12-1-1 home record against the Penguins.
The Rangers will need to tighten up their game defensively, and that means collectively from the goaltender on out through the defensemen and forwards. They have allowed 13 goals in the past two games, both of which resulted in defeat. The Rangers have surrendered four goals or more in five of their last eight contests.
One positive that did come out of Saturday’s game for the Rangers was the major offensive contributions provided by the team’s defensemen. All three Rangers goals were scored by blueliners. Staal netted his third goal in the first period; Matt Gilroy potted his fourth goal in the middle stanza; and Rozsival scored his first of the season early in the third.
Including the contributions of defense regulars Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, and Wade Redden, Rangers defensemen have a combined total of 18 goals in 26 games this season. Last year Rangers defensemen accounted for only 25 goals the entire season.
Rookie Bobby Sanguinetti, who is skating in the place of the injured Redden on the backline, turned in his second solid performance on Saturday after making his NHL debut in Tampa on Friday. Sanguinetti was more involved offensively, and had an excellent scoring chance from between the circles that was denied by Marc-Andre Fleury in the opening period.
Perhaps lost in Saturday’s defeat was the fact that Marian Gaborik notched a pair of assists for the Rangers. After being held off the scoresheet on Friday, Gaborik avoided going pointless two games in a row with his two-point outing versus the Pens. He has not been pointless in back-to-back games yet this season.
One player who will not take part in this evening’s rematch at The Garden is Penguins forward Matt Cooke. On Sunday the NHL announced that Cooke had been suspended two games for his blindside hit to the head of Rangers rookie Artem Anisimov during the third period.
It is believed that Anisimov, who was dazed by the blow which knocked his helmet off, should be able to play in tonight’s game for the Blueshirts.
Following this evening’s battle, the last of a six-games-in-10-days run, the Rangers will catch their breath before heading up to Buffalo to play the surprising Sabres on Saturday night. The very next evening, the Rangers are back at MSG to host the Detroit Red Wings.
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