|CGY||0||1||2||(0 - 0)||3|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In what will go down as one the their more frustrating losses to date this season, the Rangers, despite large stretches of dominating play, were blanked by the Calgary Flames 3-0 on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Flames are playing their best hockey of the season, and they have now won five of their last six games, and seven of nine.
In a matchup of the two busiest goaltenders in the National Hockey League -- each has appeared in a league-high 26 contests -- Miikka Kiprusoff of the Flames turned aside 31 shots for his third shutout of the season, while Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers finished with 18 saves.
“They played solid, but we definitely did enough good things to win this game,” said Lundqvist.
The Rangers played considerably better than they had in Thursday’s 6-2 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. However, they could not solve Kiprusoff, and as a result the club has now dropped three of its last four matches.
“It’s frustrating right now where we can’t generate enough offense,” said alternate captain Markus Naslund. “That’s why the defensive part of the game has to be even more sound. We can’t feel bad for ourselves. We’ve just got to find a way to generate more offense, and be more sharp when we do get the chances.”
Seeking a quick start to erase a one-goal deficit in the third period, the Rangers instead surrendered a bad-bounce goal to fall behind 2-0 just 1:52 into the final stanza. David Moss was credited with eighth goal of the season after the puck had bounced off of Lundqvist, the post to his right, and a defenseman, before crossing the goal line. It was the fourth consecutive contest in which Moss has recorded a goal.
After upping its advantage to a pair of goals, Calgary tightened up its defensive game considerably, rarely allowing the Rangers quality scoring chances in the final period. Aaron Voros, though, did come close to breaking through with a pair of in-tight jam shots midway through the stanza. A stout Kiprusoff, however, denied both.
The Flames put the game away on a shorthanded goal by Rene Bourque with two minutes remaining.
After a quick-moving, evenly-played, scoreless first period, the Rangers dominated the middle stanza. However, despite outshooting Calgary 12-2 in the second, the Rangers exited the ice after 40 minutes of play trailing 1-0.
Mere seconds after Calgary had recorded its first shot of the period, Jarome Iginla tapped home a rebound at 15:50 of the second, and the Flames, despite being badly outplayed, grabbed a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Dion Phaneuf hammered a long slap shot on goal for Calgary’s first shot of the period. Lundqvist made the save, but could not control the rebound. The puck pinballed to a wide-open Iginla, who backhanded it into the net for his 14th goal of the season.
“The first part of the game tonight was one of our better games in a long time,” noted captain Chris Drury. “We just have to find a way to score first.”
With veteran defenseman Wade Redden unable to play on Sunday night because of an unspecified lower-body injury, 24-year-old rookie Corey Potter was recalled from the Rangers AHL affiliate in Hartford and made his NHL debut. Potter was paired with Dmitri Kalinin on the backline, looking poised and confident on the ice. On his very first shift in the NHL, Potter stepped up to intercept a clearing attempt by the Flames to prolong the Rangers’ stay in the offensive zone.
“I felt pretty good once I got that first shift out of the way and the nerves calmed down,” said Potter, who logged 15:49 worth of ice time. “I felt confident out there and pretty relaxed. So, all in all I’d say it went pretty well for me.”
Potter also had two very solid scoring chances during the second period. Twice he fired a shot from the right point which was deflected on goal, the second one of which also hit the post to Kiprusoff’s left.
“He showed poise; he did good things with the puck; when he had no plays, he made the right choices,” head coach Tom Renney said of Potter. “It was a good starting point for him, no question.”
Potter’s addition to the Blueshirts’ lineup was not the only change made by Renney. The Rangers’ bench boss juggled three of his four lines, most noticeably breaking up the threesome of Naslund, Scott Gomez, and Nikolai Zherdev. All three skated on separate lines on Sunday night, with Gomez centering Lauri Korpikoski and Ryan Callahan, Naslund on the left side of Drury and Petr Prucha, and Zherdev reunited with Brandon Dubinsky and Voros.
“Coach is searching for the right chemistry right now, and we’ve got a bunch of players you can mix and match,” said Gomez. “No matter who you are out there with, you are expected to do the job.”
All four lines played well together, especially in the dominating, yet frustrating, middle stanza. Callahan had two of the club’s best scoring chances, although he was robbed by Kiprusoff on both occasions. Fourteen seconds into the match, Callahan’s redirection was kicked out as Kiprusoff dropped into the splits; and midway through the second, his point-blank drive was thwarted by a quick Kiprusoff blocker save.
The Blueshirts generated several excellent scoring chances while shorthanded in the second period. Sjostrom had a shorthanded breakaway two minutes into the period, but his left wing slap shot was denied by Kiprusoff, who made a sharp pad stop. Ninety seconds later Drury made a neat drop pass on a 2-on-2 shorthanded rush, and Gomez snapped a quick shot that required another terrific save by the Flames’ talented goaltender.
“We played really good the first two periods, but it wasn’t good enough,” stated Gomez. “It’s a little rut we’re in right now, and we have to find a way out of it.”
Including Sunday night, the Rangers have scored only four goals in their last four matches, not including the shootout game-winner Wednesday against the Penguins. They have been shut out twice in that same span.
“We have to stop this now, obviously, there’s no question about that,” said Renney. “We don’t want to turn this into anything other than what it already is, which is a second loss in a row.”
The Rangers will try and regroup on the road when they skate against the struggling Thrashers in Atlanta on Wednesday, before traveling to Newark for a battle with the Devils on Friday.
|Jarome Iginla (14) ASST: Mike Cammalleri (12), Dion Phaneuf (18)|
1 - 0 CGY
|David Moss (8) ASST: Todd Bertuzzi (11), Daymond Langkow (13)|
2 - 0 CGY
|SHG - Rene Bourque (8) ASST: Craig Conroy (10), Cory Sarich (4)|
3 - 0 CGY
|Robyn Regehr Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|Aaron Voros Tripping against Adam Pardy|
|Scott Gomez Holding against Jarome Iginla|
|Rene Bourque Hooking against Dan Girardi|
|Dion Phaneuf Elbowing against Ryan Callahan|
|Adrian Aucoin Hooking against Markus Naslund|
|SA: 31||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 31||EV: 22 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 3 - 3|
|SA: 20||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 17||EV: 15 - 17|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: .850||SH: 2 - 3|