|VAN||2||3||1||(0 - 0)||6|
|NYR||0||2||1||(0 - 0)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The expected goaltenders’ duel between star netminders Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo never materialized on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, and, in the end, the Rangers had their three-game winning streak snapped in a 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Lundqvist had entered play with the third-lowest goals-against average in the league at 1.92, and he had allowed more than two goals only twice in 18 starts this season. Luongo had surrendered only four goals in his previous six matches and had a sparkling 0.98 goals against average over seven games in the month of November.
However, those great numbers did not matter on Wednesday, as Lundqvist failed to make it out of the second period, allowing five goals before being replaced by Stephen Valiquette, and Luongo allowed three goals, despite making 39 saves, overall.
“I feel that we left Hank out to dry,” noted alternate captain Markus Naslund, who faced his former team for the first time since signing with the Rangers as a free agent July 3. “He’s been our backbone all year, and will be the rest of the year, so it’s unfortunate to do that to your goalie.”
Trailing 5-2, the Rangers made the game interesting when they pulled to within a pair 7:45 into the third period. Naslund, who spent the previous 11 seasons playing for the Canucks, including the last seven as captain, sent a perfect pass from left wing to the front of the net where Ryan Callahan deflected the puck past Luongo for a power play goal.
Callahan’s sixth of the season brought the Rangers to within 5-3 and provided the team with renewed energy down the stretch.
Afforded a prime chance to cut their deficit to one by being awarded a power play with 4:35 remaining in the contest, the Rangers could not slip a shot past Luongo, and they remained behind 5-3 until Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin scored into an empty net with Valiquette on the bench and 2.3 seconds left on the game clock.
Naslund logged 22:44 worth of ice time against his former teammates, took three shots on goal, was credited with three hits, and earned an assist.
“It’s disappointing because I felt we would beat them,” said Naslund. “It would have felt good, too, especially playing them the first time. But they played a strong game and deserve credit.”
Vancouver scored on two of its first five shots before the first period was even half over to jump out to a 2-0 lead. In both cases, Lundqvist was faced with breakaways after strong breakouts by the Canucks.
Kyle Wellwood opened the scoring at 4:16 of the first with his team-leading eighth goal of the season. Wellwood accepted a long, home-run pass from defenseman Mattias Ohlund at the Ranger blueline, split a pair of Blueshirts defenders, and broke in all alone on Lundqvist. The 25-year-old forward deked Lundqvist to the ice and sent a forehand shot into the net, putting the Canucks on top 1-0.
Five minutes later, the Rangers surrendered their seventh shorthanded goal of the season to fall behind 2-0. Alex Burrows collected the puck in the neutral zone after a clear by teammate Jannik Hansen, and burst down right wing on a breakaway. Burrows rifled a shot from the bottom of the right wing circle that beat Lundqvist to the stick side for his fifth goal at the 9:38 mark of the opening stanza.
“We have talked about that,” captain Chris Drury said of the club’s penchant for surrendering shorthanded goals this season. “You don’t want to lead the league in that category.”
What made that goal even more frustrating for the Rangers was that mere seconds earlier Nikolai Zherdev and Paul Mara had combined on a beautiful play that had nearly tied the score. With the Rangers on the power play, a patient Zherdev held the puck along the left wing wall, waiting for an open teammate. Mara broke for the net, sneaking in from the right point, and Zherdev threaded a perfect cross-ice pass to the defenseman. However, Mara’s booming one-timer was denied by Luongo, who quickly slid across his crease to make the big save.
Vancouver carried its 2-0 lead into the second period, and then quickly doubled its advantage within the first three minutes of the middle stanza. Burrows scored his second of the night after Brandon Dubinsky came out from behind his net and ran into Hansen by the left wing circle. The puck caromed right to Burrows, who buried his shot to give the Canucks a 3-0 lead at 1:23.
Strong work behind the Rangers net by hulking Canucks forward Taylor Pyatt led to another Vancouver goal less than a minute later. Pyatt controlled the puck along the back boards, absorbed a hit from Mara, and backhanded a pass to a wide-open Ryan Johnson in the slot. Without a Rangers player in sight, Johnson scored his first goal of the season at 2:21 of the second, and the Canucks had scored on four of their first 13 shots.
“Our starts have been poor, and that really caught up to us tonight,” noted Drury. “Certainly our starts need to be tidied up.”
The Rangers finally broke through against Luongo with a power-play goal at 3:12 of the second. Drury collected a pass at center ice, burst past Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler at the blueline, and beat Luongo with a pretty backhand shot for his team-high eighth goal, cutting the deficit to 4-1.
However, the Rangers’ momentum was short-lived, as a Blueshirts parade to the penalty box led to a pair of 5-on-3 power plays for Vancouver, the first of which resulted in a Canucks goal that pushed their advantage back up to four goals.
Colton Orr was whistled for an interference penalty at 3:40, and Mara soon followed with a cross-checking penalty at 4:09. With 1:32 worth of a two-man advantage, the Canucks came extremely close to scoring at 4:38 when a shot trickled under the pads of Lundqvist and came perilously close to crossing the goal line. But Michal Rozsival swooped in and swept the puck out of danger, with a video review upholding the non-goal call.
Rozsival was soon penalized at 5:13, placing three Rangers in the sin bin, and Vancouver cashed in at 5:33 to move ahead 5-1. Pavol Demitra blasted a slap shot from just inside the blueline past Lundqvist for his fourth goal of the season.
At that point, Rangers head coach Tom Renney decided to remove Lundqvist from the game and replace him with Valiquette. Lundqvist surrendered five goals on 17 shots.
“We needed a change at that point,” said Lundqvist. “I don’t blame myself for the loss, but I feel that I can play better. We made the change to get some momentum going, obviously.”
Valiquette was tested immediately, as the Canucks continued with a 5-on-3 power play, but the Rangers No. 2 backstop stood his ground and kept the Blueshirts in the game with several big saves. Valiquette turned aside all 12 shots he would face the remainder of the second period, and the Rangers would add a goal before the buzzer sounded for the second intermission.
Aaron Voros potted his seventh of the year at the 8:33 mark of the second to bring the Rangers within 5-2. From a poor angle to the side of the net, Voros banked a shot off a scrambling Luongo and into the net for the gritty, hard-working goal.
Wade Redden and Callahan both had excellent scoring chances denied by Luongo before the period was out. And Redden also had a power-play blast 1:20 into the third period ring off the post behind Luongo.
“This happens to every team,” Renney said. “The big thing will be how we respond to it. I think that’s a wonderful opportunity if we are mature enough as a team to take it for what it is.”
That next opportunity will come on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa, when the Rangers skate against the Senators. It will be the second meeting between the teams this week, with the Rangers having grabbed a 2-1 shootout victory over the Sens this past Monday at MSG.
|Kyle Wellwood (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Mattias Ohlund (5), Taylor Pyatt (4)|
1 - 0 VAN
|SHG - Alexandre Burrows (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Jannik Hansen (6)|
2 - 0 VAN
|Alexandre Burrows (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Jannik Hansen (7)|
3 - 0 VAN
|Ryan Johnson (1) Snap shot - ASST: Taylor Pyatt (5), Mattias Ohlund (6)|
4 - 0 VAN
|PPG - Chris Drury (8) Backhand shot - ASST: Wade Redden (7), Henrik Lundqvist (1)|
4 - 1 VAN
|PPG - Pavol Demitra (4) Slapshot - ASST: Henrik Sedin (13), Sami Salo (7)|
5 - 1 VAN
|Aaron Voros (7) Backhand shot - ASST: Nigel Dawes (3), Dmitri Kalinin (6)|
5 - 2 VAN
|PPG - Ryan Callahan (6) Tip-in - ASST: Markus Naslund (9), Chris Drury (5)|
5 - 3 VAN
|EN - Daniel Sedin (7) Tip-in - ASST: Mattias Ohlund (7), Ryan Kesler (8)|
6 - 3 VAN
|Shane O'Brien Hi-sticking against Ryan Callahan|
|Aaron Voros Boarding against Kyle Wellwood|
|Shane O'Brien Holding against Blair Betts|
|Colton Orr Interference against Lawrence Nycholat|
|Paul Mara Cross checking against Henrik Sedin|
|Michal Rozsival Cross checking against Kyle Wellwood|
|Shane O'Brien Interference against Aaron Voros|
|Shane O'Brien Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Lawrence Nycholat Holding against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Shane O'Brien Hi-sticking against Ryan Callahan|