|MTL||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||6|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In a battle pitting two of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers fought from behind all game long before succumbing and dropping a 6-3 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Canadiens, who are now 7-1-1 in their last nine matches, scored four times in the third period, with Robert Lang netting three, to earn the victory. Montreal backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak, starting in the place of injured All-Star Carey Price, was strong in goal -- finishing with 36 saves.
“When you pick up the paper tomorrow and look at the score, it’s going to be hard to believe,” said Rangers’ captain Chris Drury. “Obviously we would like the win, but I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought we played a really solid game in a lot of areas.”
Montreal snapped a 2-2 tie 2:32 into the third on Andrei Markov’s power-play goal. Just three seconds after Aaron Voros of the Rangers was sent to the penalty box, Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec cleanly won an offensive zone faceoff back to Markov, and the All-Star defenseman wired a laser top shelf over Henrik Lundqvist’s glove for his sixth goal of the season.
The Rangers were then whistled for two more costly penalties. Ryan Callahan went off for high-sticking at 3:37, and Scott Gomez was penalized for holding the stick at 4:12, giving the Canadiens a crucial two-man advantage. And the visitors capitalized when Lang collected an errant shot off the back boards and snaked it past Lundqvist for his first of the night at 4:40, upping Montreal’s lead to 4-2.
“I think we had the game in control and we lost control of it because we weren’t getting calls we thought we should have,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “I think we went a little off track with the emotion of not getting what we thought we deserved with the calls.”
Both the Rangers and their fans were furious with the fact that at the time of Lang’s goal, Montreal had four power plays in the game and the Rangers had not been granted a single one. In fact the Blueshirts did not have a power play of their own until only 3:42 was remaining in the contest.
“We had the momentum going our way into the third and we had done a lot of good things, but it was unfortunate that they received (four) power plays before we even had one, or whatever it was,” stated alternate captain Markus Naslund. “You have to ask the referees why. Maybe we were (four) times as dirty. I don’t know.”
Nonetheless, the Blueshirts went back to work and, two minutes after Lang’s score, they were able to cut the deficit to 4-3. Nikolai Zherdev delivered a perfect cross-ice pass to a cutting Michal Rozsival on right wing, and Rozsival zipped the puck past Halak for his seventh goal of the season at 6:40.
Several minutes later, Halak robbed Nigel Dawes as the Rangers’ winger cut through the crease to deflect a pretty Petr Prucha pass. Halak’s play might have saved the night for the Canadiens, because minutes later at 15:29, Lang notched his second goal of the game to increase Montreal’s lead once again to two goals.
“We had to work really hard to get back in the game, which we did, so it was pretty tough to allow that goal and lose this one,” explained Lundqvist.
Lang completed his hat trick by scoring his 16th goal into an empty net with 36.4 seconds remaining in the contest to close out the scoring.
“I didn’t think that was a 6-3 game,” said Naslund. “I think the effort was there, but there were bad breaks, tougher than most nights.”
Coming off his first shutout of the season on Monday night against the Penguins, Lundqvist surrendered a goal on the second shot he faced Wednesday, and the Rangers were in a 1-0 hole just 3:05 into the game.
Lundqvist was caught out of position when he skated behind his net, looking to clear the puck up the right wing boards. However, his pass was intercepted by Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, and Lundqvist tried to scramble back into position in front of his goal. By the time he did so, though, Pacioretty had whipped a pass to an open Alex Kovalev in front, and the former Ranger fired the puck into the cage as Lundqvist was unable to set himself in time.
“That’s my bad, I have to play that better,” said Lundqvist.
Unnerved by the miscue, both Lundqvist and his teammates settled in and played a sharp first period after Kovalev’s goal. The Rangers did a good job limiting Montreal’s scoring chances, while, in turn, forcing Halak into making several big saves at the other end of the ice.
Halak made a pair of dazzling glove stops -- one on Naslund at 4:12 and the other on Drury at 11:03 -- to keep the Blueshirts off the scoreboard, at least until another great effort by Drury later in the period tied the game 1-1.
As the trailer on a Rangers’ rush into the offensive zone, Drury accepted a pretty feed from Dawes and promptly ripped a right-wing shot on goal, which was stopped by Halak’s pad. The Rangers’ captain fought through a check to get to the rebound of his own shot and chipped the puck behind Halak. It deflected off a Canadiens’ player and into the net at 17:22.
The goal was Drury’s 12th of the season and second in as many games, but it only briefly tied the match. That is because the Canadiens countered with a goal of their own at 18:53 to regain a one-goal advantage before the first period was over.
Veteran Montreal defenseman Roman Hamrlik hammered a long shot at Lundqvist from outside the blueline, and the Rangers’ goalie stopped it with his pads. The big rebound caromed into the left-wing circle where Guillaume Latendresse collected the puck and sent a knuckleball shot over Lundqvist’s right shoulder for his sixth goal of the season.
Again, the Rangers seemed undeterred by a Canadiens goal; and the Blueshirts came out strong in the second period. The Rangers ran out to an early 6-2 shots advantage in the middle stanza, consistently getting the puck in deep in the offensive zone. Halak was solid between the pipes, but he could not stop the Rangers from tying the game at the 9:25 mark of the second.
Callahan completed a gorgeous tic-tac-toe passing sequence started by Dmitri Kalinin and Gomez by firing a left wing one-timer between Halak’s pads to even the score at two apiece. Callahan’s 12th of the season was also his fourth in the past seven games.
The Rangers continued to carry the play, and Drury came very close to giving the home team its first lead of the night at 10:28. Drury stole a pass at center ice and broke in alone on Halak, but the Canadiens’ netminder made an excellent glove save on Drury’s wicked wrist shot and the score remained tied.
The Habs were finally able to slow the Rangers down and gain some offensive momentum themselves when Rozsival was penalized for hooking at the 11-minute mark of the middle stanza, handing the Canadiens the game’s first power play. Montreal had a pair of very good scoring chances during the power play, but Lundqvist made solid saves on Hamrlik’s booming slap shot and Kovalev’s in-close wrist shot to keep the score tied.
The final seven minutes of the second period featured up-tempo back-and-forth hockey, with both teams skating well and creating good scoring chances. But with Lundqvist and Halak holding down their respective forts, the Rangers and Canadiens headed to the third still tied 2-2.
“I felt really good after two periods, about me and the team. I thought we were playing really well at that point,” said Lundqvist.
Unfortunately for the Blueshirts the game got away from them in the third period, and now they face a five-game road stretch that commences on Friday night with a tilt in Buffalo against the Sabres. The Rangers will not play on home ice again until Jan. 20, when they will host the Anaheim Ducks.
|Alex Kovalev (10) ASST: Max Pacioretty (1)|
1 - 0 MTL
|Chris Drury (12) ASST: Nigel Dawes (8), Petr Prucha (2)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Guillaume Latendresse (6) ASST: Roman Hamrlik (10), Kyle Chipchura (2)|
2 - 1 MTL
|Ryan Callahan (12) ASST: Scott Gomez (20), Dmitri Kalinin (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Andrei Markov (6) ASST: Tomas Plekanec (10)|
3 - 2 MTL
|PPG - Robert Lang (13) ASST: Andrei Kostitsyn (9), Andrei Markov (23)|
4 - 2 MTL
|Michal Rozsival (7) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (24), Markus Naslund (14)|
4 - 3 MTL
|Robert Lang (14) ASST: Josh Gorges (7), Roman Hamrlik (11)|
5 - 3 MTL
|SHG - EN - Robert Lang (15) ASST: Roman Hamrlik (12), Francis Bouillon (3)|
6 - 3 MTL
|Michal Rozsival Hooking against Andrei Kostitsyn|
|Aaron Voros Hooking against Robert Lang|
|Ryan Callahan Hi-sticking against Roman Hamrlik|
|Scott Gomez Holding the stick against Tom Kostopoulos|
|Nikolay Zherdev Roughing against Francis Bouillon|
|Francis Bouillon Roughing against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Roman Hamrlik Hooking against Petr Prucha|
|Mike Komisarek Interference against Scott Gomez|
|SA: 39||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 36||EV: 33 - 36|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .923||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 24||TOI: 58:22|
|Saves: 19||EV: 16 - 19|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 5|
|SV%: .792||SH: 0 - 0|