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• Bathgate, Howell Honored in Pregame Ceremony
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
On a night the organization saluted two greats from its past in Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate, the Rangers could not earn the victory they so desperately needed, instead falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime 3-2 on Sunday evening at Madison Square Garden.
Toronto’s Niklas Hagman scored the game-winner three minutes into overtime. With Blair Betts in the penalty box for hooking, Hagman redirected Pavel Kubina’s shot from the left point between Henrik Lundqvist’s pads for the power play goal that decided the match. The assist for Kubina was his third of the evening.
The Rangers lost both of their games this weekend -- also dropping a 4-2 decision in Buffalo to the Sabres on Saturday -- and are a disappointing 2-7-3 in their last 12 contests. They have lost twice in three outings to the Maple Leafs this season, and will wrap up their season series vs. their Original Six rival on Wednesday evening in Toronto.
“There’s frustration because we could have come up with the win, and we’re disappointed that we didn’t,” stated team captain Chris Drury. “Now we have to head up to Toronto and come back with two points.”
On the verge of losing this crucial contest in regulation, the Rangers tied the game with only 39.1 seconds left in regulation. Ryan Callahan kept the puck alive in front of the Maple Leafs’ net, and directed it back towards the slot where Michal Rozsival -- now wearing No. 33 after his former No. 3 sweater was retired in honor of Howell -- snapped a shot against the grain, fooling Leafs’ goalie Vesa Toskala.
The puck eluded Toskala to the glove side, and the Rangers had tied the game 2-2 on Rozsival’s eighth goal of the year, sending The Garden Faithful into a full-throated roar.
Rozsival’s score guaranteed the Blueshirts a point in the standings as soon as the clock wound down to zero and overtime was assured. But that is all the Rangers would get once the Leafs secured the victory in the extra session. Much credit for that belongs to Toskala, who had 39 saves on the night.
“It’s about scoring goals, and we’re not doing that,” said Lundqvist. “We don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves. Nothing is coming easy for us, for sure.
A scoreless match through two periods of play, both the Rangers and the Maple Leafs sought the big play or lucky break which would snap the tie in the third. And it was Toronto that was able to break through first.
After the Blueshirts failed to clear the puck out of their zone, the Maple Leafs took advantage, striking for the game-opening goal at 3:54 of the third period. Kubina sent a shot from the right point towards the Rangers’ net where it deflected off of Marc Staal. The puck fell directly to Toronto’s John Mitchell, who deposited it into the cage for his fifth goal of the season with Lundqvist slightly out of position due to the deflection.
Their resolve severely tested, the Rangers roared right back to tie the game two minutes later. Scott Gomez took a pass from Brandon Dubinsky and burst over the Leafs’ blueline and past both defensemen. Gomez then slipped a backhand shot under Toskala’s pads for his 12th goal at 5:53, pulling the Rangers even 1-1.
A breakdown in defensive-zone coverage on the very next shift cost the Rangers, however, allowing the Maple Leafs to regain a one-goal lead just 25 seconds after Gomez’s score. No one from the Rangers picked up Toronto defenseman Ian White after he received a pass from Kubina. White inexplicably skated in untouched towards Lundqvist from left wing before firing the puck between the Blueshirt netminder’s pads for his eighth goal of the season at 6:18 of the third.
“I probably should have stayed back on that play instead of coming so far out,” explained Lundqvist. “I was too over-aggressive.”
On the very next shift, the Rangers came within inches of tying the game once again, but Dubinsky’s in-tight shot -- after a neat give-and-go with Gomez -- just missed its target and instead banked off the side of the net.
After several other near-misses, Rozsival earned the Rangers at least one point with his clutch goal with under a minute remaining.
“That was an important goal, and an important point,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “The fact that we got ourselves out of the bind we created is also important. This team is not quitting.”
The Rangers thoroughly dominated play in the second period, but both misfortune and the sound play of Toskala combined to keep the Blueshirts off of the scoreboard despite a 19-5 shot advantage.
After a tentative first period, the Rangers -- even though they were killing off a penalty -- started the second with a much more aggressive approach. Just 45 seconds into the second period, Fredrik Sjostrom collected the puck and took off on a shorthanded breakaway, only to have Toskala make a huge right-pad save on his forehand shot. Shortly thereafter on the same penalty kill, the Rangers had a 3-on-2 break, but Dan Girardi -- the trailer on the play -- had his shot blocked in front.
Although they did not score on either opportunity, the Blueshirts showed that the second period was going to be markedly different from the opening stanza, in which they were outshot 15-9.
Four minutes into the middle period, the Rangers had yet another odd-man rush that culminated in a prime scoring chance. This time Nikolai Zherdev dropped the puck back to Drury and the Rangers’ captain hammered a powerful shot on goal that was kicked out by the right pad of Toskala.
The near misses continued for the Blueshirts when Aaron Voros and Zherdev were denied during a power play scramble in Toskala’s crease at 8:24, and again three minutes later when Dubinsky’s wraparound slid through the crease and just out of the reach of Gomez, who had a gaping net in front of him.
Gomez was part of another close call when his shot with 40 ticks remaining on the clock was directed just wide of the goal by Nigel Dawes in front of Toskala.
Ironically, in a period so dominated by the home team, it was the visiting Maple Leafs who likely came the closest to scoring. With 6.9 seconds left in the middle stanza, a Toronto shot through heavy traffic eluded Lundqvist and hit the right post. As the puck bounced back into the crease, Lundqvist had no idea where it was, and fortunately fell on top of the puck as Nik Antropov futilely tried to pry it free.
Hardly tested in the second period, Lundqvist was strong between the pipes over the opening 20 minutes for the Rangers. Lundqvist made a big right pad save on White’s booming power play slap shot through traffic at the seven-minute mark, as well as a sensational right pad stop after Hagman danced around defenseman Wade Redden and snapped a 15-foot shot on goal with 40 seconds left in the period.
However, it was Hagman’s deflection in overtime that slithered between his pads that prompted Lundqvist to smash his stick to bits in disgust once the game was decided.
“When you are not winning, it is very tough mentally,” said Lundqvist. “We should have gotten two points tonight, for sure.”
|John Mitchell (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Pavel Kubina (22), Lee Stempniak (21)|
1 - 0 TOR
|Scott Gomez (12) Backhand shot - ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (21), Michal Rozsival (20)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Ian White (8) Snap shot - ASST: Pavel Kubina (23), Lee Stempniak (22)|
2 - 1 TOR
|Michal Rozsival (8) Wrist shot - ASST: Ryan Callahan (10), Brandon Dubinsky (22)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Niklas Hagman (18) Tip-in - ASST: Pavel Kubina (24), Lee Stempniak (23)|
3 - 2 TOR
|Aaron Voros Fighting (maj) against Jamal Mayers|
|Jamal Mayers Fighting (maj) against Aaron Voros|
|Wade Redden Interference against Lee Stempniak|
|Nigel Dawes Too many men/ice - bench|
|Aaron Voros Hi-sticking against Ian White|
|Jamal Mayers Tripping against Erik Reitz|
|Alexei Ponikarovsky Holding against Colton Orr|
|Mikhail Grabovski Roughing against Ryan Callahan|
|Ryan Callahan Roughing against Mikhail Grabovski|
|Aaron Voros Too many men/ice - bench|
|Dominic Moore Holding the stick against Michal Rozsival|
|Blair Betts Hooking against Niklas Hagman|
|SA: 41||TOI: 63:00|
|Saves: 39||EV: 28 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 8|
|SV%: .951||SH: 3 - 3|
|SA: 26||TOI: 62:15|
|Saves: 23||EV: 17 - 19|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 6|
|SV%: .885||SH: 1 - 1|