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• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
After two exciting victories in the Sunshine State earlier in the week, the Rangers returned to Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon looking to reprise their success and win their fourth consecutive game.
But the Rangers could not replicate their recent winning touch on Sunday, as they were shut out by the Florida Panthers 4-0 in the back-end of a home-and home set. For the Rangers, who had defeated the Panthers 4-3 in the shootout Friday night in Sunrise, Fla., this match marked the second time they had been shut out this season.
“It obviously was not our best effort, but we had a real good week with six out of eight (standings points),” stated captain Chris Drury. “Sometimes it’s going to happen, though obviously you don’t want it to happen at home.”
Panthers goaltender Craig Anderson, once again starting in the place of No. 1 Tomas Vokoun, recorded his second shutout of the season by stopping all 37 shots he faced.
“It was all negative for us today,” said veteran center Blair Betts. “Their goaltender played great, and we didn’t do enough to make it tough for him. And we need to tidy up on the goals that they scored.”
Henrik Lundqvist was pulled from between the pipes late in the second period after surrendering three goals on 23 shots. Stephen Valiquette finished the game and allowed one goal on seven shots.
“Florida is a hard-working team, and they showed us that the other night, too,” said Lundqvist. “I thought we played pretty well early, but a couple of bad bounces and they took over.”
After an evenly-contested first half of the game, things unraveled quickly for the Rangers, beginning midway through the second period. In a span of less than seven minutes, the Rangers surrendered three goals, including a pair 12 seconds apart, to stunningly fall behind 3-0.
Florida’s Ville Peltonen, who had been robbed on a breakaway by Lundqvist earlier in the period, exacted a measure of revenge by scoring on his second breakaway of the game to open the scoring at 9:55 of the second. Speeding up ice, Peltonen had a clear path to the net when defenseman Marc Staal lost his footing and fell down. Peltonen fired a forehand shot that beat Lundqvist this time to the stick side to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Stephen Weiss doubled Florida’s advantage by netting his third goal of the season off a terrific effort at 16:01 of the second. Weiss and teammate Michael Frolik won a battle for the puck from two Rangers in the left wing corner, and as Weiss came out of the corner with the puck, he whipped a backhand shot into the net as he was falling to the ice to give the Panthers a 2-0 edge.
What made Weiss’ effort all the more impressive was the fact that less than three minutes earlier he had thrown himself in front of a Paul Mara slap shot, and was in noticeable pain as he slowly made his way back to the bench. Weiss not only shook off the pain, but he was right back into action, and put forth a gritty effort to score his goal.
Twelve seconds after Weiss scored, the Panthers struck again as Gregory Campbell snuck behind Brandon Dubinsky to redirect Radek Dvorak’s centering pass into the net for his fourth of the season. As Florida celebrated their shocking success, Rangers head coach Tom Renney decided to remove Lundqvist from the game and replace him with Valiquette. It was only the second time this season that Lundqvist had been pulled during a game.
“Henrik was playing well, he wasn’t the issue,” Renney explained of his decision to make a goaltender change. “I wasn’t so sure about the skaters.”
The Panthers ended up outshooting the Blueshirts 16-7 in the middle stanza as they placed a stranglehold on the match, though it was their solid defensive play that set the stage for their three-goal outburst.
After allowing the Rangers 13 shots in the opening period, most of which came early on, the Panthers clamped down defensively, not allowing the Blueshirts much room to operate offensively. More often than not, the Rangers found themselves bottled up in the neutral zone or at the Panthers blueline.
“It’s a five-man job, and I thought we became disconnected as the game went on because we were trying to get it all back with one great play,” said Renney. “Consequently, that’s when you look slow and outhustled because you haven’t made good team decisions.”
So frustrated was Drury at one point midway through the middle stanza that he fired his stick into the corner from the top of the left wing circle after the blade of his stick broke off when he attempted a one-timer during a rare 2-on-1 opportunity in the offensive zone.
“That was stupid on my part, and I went over to apologize to the referees later,” Drury said. “It was a great scoring chance, and I got so frustrated when my stick snapped. It was just bad timing.”
Florida added to their lead just one minute into the third period when Michael Frolik potted his second goal of the season. Weiss made the play with his speed, bursting towards the Ranger net on left wing, before wristing a shot that was saved by Valiquette. Frolik retrieved the big rebound and lifted it into the cage to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead.
“We just let this game get away from us,” said Renney. “There are no excuses. We are paid to win.”
The Rangers power play, which was largely ineffective in two previous chances, produced several excellent scoring chances early in the third after Kamil Kreps had been penalized for hooking at 4:40. However, facing his stiffest challenge of the afternoon, Anderson made his biggest saves during this Rangers power play.
First, Anderson made a difficult save on Wade Redden’s screened left point slap shot, and then pounced on the puck as it trickled towards the goal line. Moments later Anderson made a lunging glove save to rob Drury from the low slot on, perhaps, the Rangers best scoring chance of the game.
At 15:34 of the final period, the Rangers were handed 1:45 worth of a 5-on-3 power play, a prime opportunity to snap Anderson’s shutout bid. But the Blueshirts managed only one shot during the two-man advantage, and remained off the scoreboard.
“We were embarrassed and there is no excuse,” said alternate captain Scott Gomez. “It happened, now it’s over, we give them credit, and now we have to be better moving forward.”
The Rangers return to action when they host the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night at MSG. And following that contest, the Blueshirts head to Montreal, where they will skate against the Canadiens on Thursday.
|Ville Peltonen (3) ASST: Radek Dvorak (5), Karlis Skrastins (2)|
1 - 0 FLA
|Stephen Weiss (3) ASST: Michael Frolik (2), Bryan McCabe (7)|
2 - 0 FLA
|Gregory Campbell (4) ASST: Radek Dvorak (6), Jay Bouwmeester (11)|
3 - 0 FLA
|Michael Frolik (2) ASST: Stephen Weiss (11), Karlis Skrastins (3)|
4 - 0 FLA
|Aaron Voros Slashing against Nick Boynton|
|Nikolay Zherdev Roughing against David Booth|
|David Booth Interference against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Nick Boynton Cross checking against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Wade Redden Hooking against Radek Dvorak|
|Jay Bouwmeester Hooking against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Kamil Kreps Hooking against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Markus Naslund Interference against Jay Bouwmeester|
|Anthony Stewart Fighting against Aaron Voros|
|Aaron Voros Fighting against Anthony Stewart|
|Aaron Voros Misconduct|
|Jassen Cullimore Tripping against Dan Fritsche|
|Jay Bouwmeester Hooking against Markus Naslund|