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• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Unable to overcome a complete 60-minute effort by their opponent, the Rangers lost their second straight contest, falling to the Ottawa Senators 4-1 on Saturday afternoon at Scotiabank Place.
It was only the fourth time this season that the Rangers had surrendered four or more goals in a game. However, it was the second time in as many games that the Rangers had done so, having previously given up six to the Vancouver Canucks in a 6-3 loss at The Garden on Wednesday.
“We were ‘tweeners tonight,” said Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “We weren’t between any kind of job that needed to be done. I don’t think we placed pucks where they needed to go; we didn’t establish much of a forecheck; and we seemed to turn pucks over all night.”
Despite allowing four goals, goaltender Stephen Valiquette turned in a strong performance between the pipes for the Rangers. Starting in the place of No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Valiquette finished with 32 saves. When Ottawa dominated the start of the game by recording the first 14 shots on goal of the match, Valiquette kept the Rangers in it by stopping 13 of those 14 shots.
Trailing 3-0, the Rangers finally broke through early in the third period when Markus Naslund scored his seventh goal at 1:32. Nikolai Zherdev made a pretty dash up ice, weaving his way past all five Ottawa skaters, and found Naslund on left wing in the offensive zone with a pass. Naslund skated in and fired a shot between Alex Auld’s pads, and the Rangers finally had some energy in their game.
Defenseman Wade Redden earned the secondary assist on Naslund’s goal while playing in his first game in Ottawa since leaving the Senators to sign with the Rangers as a free agent this past July. During a play stoppage earlier in the game, the Senators organization saluted Redden, who played 11 years with Ottawa, with a scoreboard tribute, and that was followed by a long ovation from the classy fans at Scotiabank Place.
But Redden’s return to Ottawa would not have a happy ending, as any thoughts the Rangers had of a big comeback in the third were dashed when Ottawa’s Nick Foligno scored a crushing goal at 10:48 of the final period.
Marc Staal, who played a very strong game for the Rangers, had his clearing attempt knocked down and controlled along the left wing wall by Jarkko Ruutu. The pesky Ruutu then fired a shot towards the net that deflected off Paul Mara’s skate and then off of Foligno’s skate before the puck skittered over the goal line to give the Senators a 4-1 lead.
“They played a solid game, and came out hard,” noted Mara. “And we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game tonight.”
The Senators completely shut down the Rangers over the first 40 minutes of play by displaying a relentless forecheck in the offensive zone and near air-tight defense in front of Auld. As a result, the Senators carried a 3-0 lead into the second intermission along with a commanding 28-12 advantage in shots on goal.
Three penalties taken by the Rangers in the first six minutes of the game helped Ottawa get off to the fast start it was seeking on home ice. And during their second power play in the opening minutes, the Senators scored to grab a 1-0 lead.
With Mara in the penalty box for roughing super-pest Ruutu, Ottawa capitalized as Jason Spezza scored his seventh goal of the season. Dany Heatley made the play by shedding both Chris Drury and Michal Rozsival at the blueline to carry the puck to the left-wing circle, before feathering a pass to the open Spezza, who rifled his shot past a diving Valiquette at 5:43 of the first.
The Rangers paid a price for Mara seeking retribution for Ruutu’s antics during the Blueshirts 2-1 shootout win over the Senators Monday night, which included Ruutu shooting the puck at Lundqvist after his shootout attempt had been completed.
“Ruutu took liberties on our goalie during the shootout last game and he doesn’t have much respect for the game out there, so I took it upon myself to do something, but he didn’t have the courage to back it up,” stated Mara. “We can’t have guys take liberties on our teammates like that, and he did, but he didn’t answer the bell (today).”
That the score remained 1-0 until late in the second period is a testament to how well Valiquette was playing in goal. Making his fourth start of the season, and his first in Ottawa in more than eight years, Valiquette was often sensational as the Senators routinely controlled the puck for long stretches in the Rangers’ end of the ice to create one strong scoring chance after another.
Valiquette, who made a terrific one-on-one save against Spezza shortly after the first goal, as well as great stops on Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson within the first minute of the second period, was also a bit lucky in keeping the Sens from adding to their lead.
At 6:05 of the first, Brendan Bell whistled a power play shot past Valiquette, but the puck hit the post. And at 3:06 of the second, the referees waived off Foligno’s apparent goal stating that he had deflected the puck with a high stick. Video review upheld the on-ice decision, to the Rangers favor.
However, the Senators were able to score a pair of goals late in the second period to triple their advantage. Rookie Jesse Winchester danced around Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and scored on a breakaway at 17:53; and Alfredsson followed with 44.4 seconds remaining in the second by firing a left circle slap shot inside the near post for his fifth goal of the season.
Valiquette was furious that Alfredsson’s goal was not disallowed by the officials. The Rangers netminder contended that he was interfered with by Ruutu, who clearly was making contact with Valiquette as the puck whizzed by and into the net.
The Rangers lost the argument, and headed to the dressing room shortly thereafter trying to figure out how to get back into the match. Naslund’s goal early in that final stanza gave them some life, but Foligno’s score put the game away for Ottawa.
“The bottom line for us is that we needed to compete harder than we did,” said Renney. “We didn’t do what we need to do in order to win until well after the horse was out of the barn.”
Having not lost more than two games in a row at any point so far this season, the Rangers will look to snap this current two-game skid on Monday night when they host the Phoenix Coyotes at Madison Square Garden.
|PPG - Jason Spezza (7) ASST: Dany Heatley (9), Alexandre Picard (6)|
1 - 0 OTT
|Jesse Winchester (2) ASST: Antoine Vermette (3)|
2 - 0 OTT
|Daniel Alfredsson (5) ASST: NONE|
3 - 0 OTT
|Markus Naslund (7) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (10), Wade Redden (8)|
3 - 1 OTT
|Nick Foligno (4) ASST: Jarkko Ruutu (4)|
4 - 1 OTT
|Michal Rozsival Hooking against Shean Donovan|
|Paul Mara Roughing against Jarkko Ruutu|
|Brandon Dubinsky Holding against Chris Kelly|
|Jarkko Ruutu Unsportsmanlike conduct against Paul Mara|
|Nikolay Zherdev Too many men/ice - bench|
|Alex Auld Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Markus Naslund Hi-sticking against Chris Phillips|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Jarkko Ruutu|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Jarkko Ruutu|
|Colton Orr Misconduct (10 min)|
|Dany Heatley Hi-sticking against Wade Redden|