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|NYR||1||0||1||(0 - 0)||2|
• PHOTO GALLERY
The intensity was certainly palpable in the crowd, where the local rivalry could be felt in full force, but Saturday night’s Rangers-Devils matchup at MSG -- a game the Devils won 4-2 -- didn’t feel much like most cross-Hudson clashes at The Garden.
This wasn’t the tight-checking, one-goal-could-win-it type of game the Garden Faithful has seen play out between these teams so many times in previous years. This was much more like what Rangers head coach Tom Renney dubbed the “track meet” played at New Jersey on Dec. 12, when the Devils outlasted the Blueshirts 8-5 despite a remarkable Rangers comeback that had tied the score at 5-5 in the third period.
This game wasn’t as high-scoring, featuring fewer than half the goals scored in New Jersey. On the other hand, it was a similar shot-fest, with the teams combining for a total of 68 shots against Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist and the Devils’ Scott Clemmensen. In the 8-5 game just over two weeks ago, those same goalies saw a similar combined total of 70 shots.
This sort of track meet, however, wasn’t what Renney was looking for from the Rangers.
“There are enough good reference points to recognize that we know how to play this game, play it well and compete with anybody,” he said. “We’ve also had something creep into our game and that’s a lack of commitment to the detail of playing. We end up cheating because we’re not a high scoring team, its plain and simple. Until we get our heads around winning 2-1, we’re going to have nights like this all the time.”
Travis Zajac had a goal and two assists, and Zach Parise and Patrik Elias each added a goal and an assist to pace the Devils, who broke out to an early 2-0 lead and never looked back, even though the Blueshirts twice managed to cut the deficit to one goal. Nigel Dawes and Dmitri Kalinin were the Rangers’ goal-scorers, with Dawes slicing a 2-0 lead to 2-1 and Kalinin making it a 3-2 game midway through the third period.
It wasn’t until Parise gave the Devils a 4-2 lead at the 12:58 mark of the third period that New Jersey finally sensed it could take its second straight game against the Rangers despite the absence of injured star goalie Martin Brodeur. Clemmensen, the game’s No. 3 star, filled in admirably with 31 stops in the victory -- his first at MSG.
New Jersey, which had not won at The Garden since February 2007 snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Rangers fell for the third straight time, including last Tuesday’s overtime loss to Washington, which gave them a standings point.
Rangers head coach Tom Renney was particularly upset that the Blueshirts fell into an early hole.
“It’s brain-dead hockey. You try and cheat your way in to a win right off the bat,” Renney said. “If we don’t start the hockey game down 2-0 we have a chance to win. We would have something to build on. It’s a tough way to start the game.”
Throughout the evening, radical swings in the shots on goal total were a good indicator of which team was carrying play. The Devils finished with a 35-33 advantage, but it was actually in the first moment that the Rangers took a shots advantage that they seemed to also take control of the game with the Kalinin goal.
Leading 3-1 in the third, the Devils found themselves besieged by some relentless forechecking down behind their net, and the Blueshirts finally cashed in when Kalinin scored on a long blast from the left point, taking a cross-ice pass from Corey Potter at the other point and rifling a shot high over Clemmensen for a goal that swung all of the momentum back to the home team with 11:01 left in the third period.
The goal was Kalinin’s first in a Rangers uniform. It was also the first NHL point for Potter, who was called up from Hartford earlier in the day as a replacement for Michal Rozsival, who missed the game for family reasons.
Hard forechecking by Brandon Dubinsky had pushed the puck back out to Potter, who alertly swung it across ice to his wide-open defense partner. The Kalinin goal got the crowd fully into the game, as booming chants of “Let’s Go Rangers” immediately echoed through the arena.
That excitement was short-lived, however, as the Devils regained a two-goal lead just under two minutes later, when Parise picked up Jamie Langenbrunner’s pass from behind the net at his station outside the crease to Lundqvist’s left and punched it up into the net for a 4-2 lead.
The tone for everything was set in the opening period, which was the strongest reminder that the old style of Rangers-Devils hockey -- when each goal was utterly critical – isn’t going to survive long with Brent Sutter now running the Devils bench.
Three special-teams goals were scored in those first 20 minutes, with a total of 24 shots finding the net. New Jersey outshot the Rangers 17-7, forcing Lundqvist to be at his best right off the bat. And even when the Devils grabbed a quick 2-0 lead early in the first period, there was no sense that the scoring was over -- as it might have been in the pre-Sutter era.
Sensing that this would be a fast-paced and exciting game, the Rangers fans came alive in the first 30 seconds, belting out “Let’s Go Rangers” as if in midgame form. Unfortunately, the Blueshirts came out rusty from their holiday break, and only 88 seconds into the game, they were called for a too-many men on the ice penalty that the Devils would manage to redeem for a 1-0 lead.
Lundqvist got his first big test at the 2:01 mark, when Parise took a pass on the right wing and streaked in for a point blank shot that the Rangers goalie stopped. Parise picked up his own rebound, and Lundqvist denied him again.
Less than a minute later, however, the Devils managed to convert the too-many-men power play when Brian Rolston unleashed a blast from just inside the blue line directly across from a screened Lundqvist. The puck sailed high past Lundqvist’s stick side into the top left corner of the net at 2:54
The Rangers got a chance to even matters just 46 seconds later, when New Jersey’s Mike Rupp went off for interference. However, the Devils extended the season-long trend of shorthanded goals against the Blueshirts when Elias scored on a breakaway. Zajac made it happen, stealing the puck just inside Devils blue line and passing ahead to Elias at center ice. Elias came in and sent a high shot past Lundqvist for a 2-0 lead at 4:14.
“It was my fault,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said of the Elias goal. “I shouldn’t have pinched. I was a little too excited. It was my fault.”
With their team down by two goals, the Garden Faithful were no doubt disappointed, but having witnessed Washington’s comeback earlier in the week, they recognized just how much time was remaining. Dawes wasted little of it getting the crowd back in the game in a big way at the 5:14 mark with the Rangers still on the power play. Dawes cut the lead to 2-1 with his fifth goal of the season with 26 seconds remaining in Rupp’s penalty.
After the Rangers won a faceoff in the right dot outside the Devils blue line, the puck squirted ahead into the offensive zone. Defenseman Marc Staal picked it up along the left boards and sent it back to Paul Mara just inside the blue line. Mara’s shot was partially blocked by New Jersey’s John Madden, but the redirected puck slithered into the high slot, where Dawes was able to pounce on it, skate around a defender and lift a backhand past Clemmensen to make it 2-1. Dawes’ goal came exactly one minute after Elias had opened up the 2-0 lead.
Special teams continued to be the story in the first period, even when neither team managed to score. At the 13:42 mark, Staal took a high-sticking penalty which enabled Blueshirts rookie Lauri Korpikoski to put on a penalty-killing clinic in the Devils’ zone. Korpikoski’s ability to control the puck and take valuable seconds off the clock drew thunderous applause from the crowd and frustrated the Devils enough for Brian Gionta to take a hooking penalty with less than 10 seconds left in Staal’s penalty.
Much like the game’s first 20 minutes, the second period was wide-open, and only the play of goaltenders kept it from being littered with goals. In a reversal of the first period, the Rangers dominated play for much of the second, outshooting the Devils by a 17-11 margin.
A series of dramatic second-period stops by Clemmensen saw the Devils goaltender deny Korpikoski with the glove at 5:18, Dubinsky off a slap shot at 6:32, and Dawes’ wrister at the 7:18 mark, a shot which drew cheers from the crowd because it came near the end of a 45-second run of Rangers pressure in the offensive zone.
Lundqvist also had to make a sprawling save of his own, stopping Langenbrunner’s wide-open slap shot from the right circle at 8:35.
“I thought he made some real key saves for us,” Renney said of Lundqvist. “The goals they got were good goals. I don’t think anything was a surprise to him, quite honestly. There’s an awful lot that has to happen before the puck crosses the goal line. We have no one else to blame for this loss but ourselves.”
Despite his coach’s praise, Lundqvist was disappointed in himself on Saturday.
“I have to focus even more (and) try to stop more pucks, obviously,” he said. “I am letting in too many pucks. It is a tough game right now. (We are giving up) a lot of scoring chances. You try to be there for your team but it is going to be tough to win games when I let in three, four goals. We know we are a low scoring team so we just have to try to keep it low and be more focused on where we put pucks.”
It wasn’t until 10 seconds after a Devils power play had expired that either team managed to solve the other’s second-period netminding. With Markus Naslund just out of the box after serving a slashing penalty, the teams denied each other on rushes at both ends of the ice before Parise sprung Elias in the neutral zone. Elias skated down right wing and dropped a pass back to Zajac in the right circle. Zajac immediately unloaded a high, hard 33-foot slapshot that caught the crossbar and banked down into the net for a 3-1 lead.
The Rangers got a golden opportunity to cut New Jersey’s lead back to one heading into the second intermission when Devils winger David Clarkson was whistled for playing with a broken stick at 16:34, enabling the Blueshirts to go to work on the power play.
That power play suddenly morphed into a 5-on-3 advantage with 39 seconds left in the first penalty, as John Madden pulled down Naslund in the Devils zone and was called for interference at 17:55. New Jersey escaped the two-man advantage thanks to some outstanding goaltending by Clemmensen, who miraculously denied two straight point-blank opportunities for Nikolai Zherdev.
“I think we can be a lot smarter as a team,” said Naslund. “The last two games are not acceptable. We have to put together a solid sixty (minutes).”
Asked if any lineup changes would be needed before the team’s game on Monday against the Islanders, Renney said fresh faces were not necessarily the answer.
“Those things can happen at any time. I’m not happy with the way our team played, I’m not happy with the performances of some very key people on our hockey club. They need to be better ,” said Renney. “They need to step up and start taking charge of this hockey club and playing the way they can. If we do that, we won’t have to worry about personnel changes. We’ll strengthen ourselves internally.”
Defenseman Paul Mara agreed that the Blueshirts had made the game much too easy for New Jersey.
“We gave up a shorthanded goal, a power play goal, (and) we gave up an even strength goal. We have to get better in every single category,” said Mara. “No one here wants to make mistakes. We all love it here. We all love playing here. We all love the fans here but we have to improve. Tomorrow is a work day. We have to take the negatives we played with tonight and turn them into positives. There are no excuses. We had two days off, we are rested. That is two games at home that we let slip away. We have to come back on the 29th and get a big win against the Islanders.”
|PPG - Brian Rolston (4) Slapshot - ASST: Brian Gionta (20), Dainius Zubrus (12)|
1 - 0 NJD
|SHG - Patrik Elias (17) Snap shot - ASST: Travis Zajac (15)|
2 - 0 NJD
|PPG - Nigel Dawes (5) Backhand shot - ASST: Paul Mara (10), Marc Staal (6)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Travis Zajac (10) Slapshot - ASST: Patrik Elias (22), Zach Parise (23)|
3 - 1 NJD
|Dmitri Kalinin (1) Slapshot - ASST: Corey Potter (1), Brandon Dubinsky (14)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Zach Parise (19) Snap shot - ASST: Jamie Langenbrunner (17), Travis Zajac (16)|
4 - 2 NJD
|Nigel Dawes Too many men/ice - bench|
|Michael Rupp Interference against Wade Redden|
|Marc Staal Hi-sticking against Patrik Elias|
|Brian Gionta Hooking against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Marc Staal Slashing against Patrik Elias|
|Markus Naslund Slashing against Jamie Langenbrunner|
|David Clarkson Broken stick|
|John Madden Interference against Markus Naslund|
|SA: 33||TOI: 59:34|
|Saves: 31||EV: 21 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 9 - 10|
|SV%: .939||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 35||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 31||EV: 22 - 24|
|PIM: 0||PP: 9 - 10|
|SV%: .886||SH: 0 - 1|