|FLA||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Florida goaltender Craig Anderson was sensational in making 40 saves on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden as the Panthers ruined John Tortorella’s home coaching debut with a 2-1 victory over the Rangers.
Despite being badly outplayed by their hosts, the Panthers were able to score two goals one minute apart in the third period to grab a 2-1 lead.
First, David Booth slipped a right wing backhand shot against the grain and between Henrik Lundqvist’s pads at 11:50 to tie the contest. Then Richard Zednik beat the Rangers to a loose puck behind Lundqvist’s cage and fed it to a wide-open Nathan Horton in the slot, and Horton rifled his 18th goal into the back of the net to hand Florida their first lead of the night at 12:50.
“Other than for a few minutes, I thought we controlled the game,” said Tortorella. “I thought we played a helluva game. I thought we did some really good things. Our pressure was outstanding. But we just can’t score a goal right now.”
The Rangers are now 2-8-4 in their last 14 contests, and are tied with the Panthers for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 70 points. They are 0-1-1 since Tortorella took over the coaching reigns on Monday.
“It’s tough when you feel like you did the right things, but still lose like we did the last two games,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 20 saves. “We’re creating enough chances to score, but the puck doesn’t want to go in.”
Similar to Wednesday’s eventual 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers entered the third period clinging to a 1-0 lead despite vastly outplaying their opponent. Handed a prime opportunity to double that advantage with 49 seconds worth of a 5-on-3 power play early in the third tonight, the Rangers came within inches of capitalizing. However, Anderson robbed Markus Naslund on an open one-timer from in close 1:05 into the period.
After the 5-on-3 had elapsed into a 5-on-4 power play, Anderson performed another heist by flying across his crease from left to right to stone Paul Mara, who had one-timed a perfect cross-ice feed from Scott Gomez.
Anderson continued his magic act with several more incredible third-period stops on Gomez at 5:22 and Petr Prucha at 9:38 before Booth’s game-tying goal for the Panthers.
“You can’t hate your guys because they are struggling,” stated Tortorella. “It’s easy to love them when it’s going well and then hate them when it’s going bad. I am not upset with them. I thought they worked their (butts) off tonight and did a lot of good things. We are just struggling to score a goal.”
Only 17 seconds into the match, it appeared that the Rangers had grabbed a 1-0 lead. Chris Drury won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Mara -- who returned to the lineup after a five-game absence due to a right shoulder injury -- and the defenseman sailed a wrist shot towards the net. Brandon Dubinsky deftly deflected the puck past Anderson, and the Rangers seemingly were up 1-0 before many of the fans had even reached their seats.
However, the referees waved off the score, claiming that Dubinsky had struck the puck with a high stick. Tortorella demanded an explanation, and was told that the decision had been made at the league office in Toronto.
The goal wiped off the scoreboard, the Rangers still were able to dominate much of the opening period. And at 7:34, Naslund scored the first goal of the game that actually counted, though his score was held up until confirmed by a video review.
The scoring play began back in the Rangers’ zone where Ryan Callahan delivered a solid check which separated a Panthers defenseman from the puck. Callahan then delivered an outlet pass to Dmitri Kalinin, and the Russian defenseman sped away up left wing.
After crossing the Florida blueline, Kalinin sent a perfect centering pass to an onrushing Gomez, and as he was being hooked from behind, Gomez put a backhand shot on net that was stopped by Anderson. Naslund charged hard towards the crease, beating Florida’s Ville Peltonen to the rebound, and put the puck over the goal line for his team-leading 19th goal at 7:34 of the first.
The video review confirmed that Naslund -- who ended up in the back of the cage after scoring -- did not kick the puck into the net, and instead had the puck hit his stick, putting the Rangers ahead, this time for real, 1-0.
The Blueshirts went on to a 17-8 shot advantage in the first period, but could not solve Anderson again despite numerous excellent scoring opportunities. With Lundqvist stopping all eight shots he faced -- including a sensational reaction on Keith Ballard’s redirection while whizzing through the slot at the 5:20 mark -- the Rangers carried their 1-0 advantage into the first intermission.
“I thought we were forcing the play in their end,” noted defenseman Wade Redden. “Even some of the chances we had were with two or three guys going to the net hard. We just couldn’t get more in the net, which is the disappointing thing.”
As good as Anderson was in the first period -- with big saves on Nigel Dawes, Lauri Korpikoski, and Drury -- his best stop came two minutes into the middle stanza. Callahan flew in on a breakaway, deked Anderson to the ice, and proceeded to aim his forehand shot inside the right post. But somehow, almost impossibly, Anderson spread his legs as wide as he could, and Callahan’s shot hit him in the left pad right at the goal line and bounded away.
Once again Anderson was the difference throughout the second period, valiantly keeping the Panthers within a goal as his club was being outshot 13-8. The Rangers also hurt their own efforts by mishandling the puck during some quality scoring opportunities.
At 17:40 of the first, Aaron Voros and Blair Betts took off on a 2-on-1 break. But the Rangers could not convert when Voros lost control of the puck before he could either shoot or pass. And late in the second period, Dubinsky stole the puck from Anderson -- who was trapped behind his own cage -- but could not tee up a shot before the puck was knocked away by the Panthers defense.
Florida, too, gave away a prime scoring chance at 18:18 of the second when a 3-on-1 rush ended without a shot as the puck was badly mishandled and ended up along the side boards instead of with a shot on Lundqvist.
So with solid goaltending at both ends of the ice, and missed chances from both teams, the Rangers and Panthers remained separated by only the slimmest of margins, provided by Naslund’s goal early on, heading into the final period of play. It was a situation clearly similar to the night before when the Rangers took a 1-0 lead into the third against the Maple Leafs.
Unfortunately for the Blueshirts, the end result was all too similar to Wednesday’s contest in Toronto, as well.
“If we stick with it, stick with the game plan every night, things will start popping in,” said Mara. “I think once we get one and we get two everything’s going to snowball and we’ll get a bunch. We’re going through a tough time now, but the guys in this room believe in each other.”
|Markus Naslund (19) ASST: Scott Gomez (31), Dmitri Kalinin (11)|
1 - 0 NYR
|David Booth (21) ASST: Stephen Weiss (32), Keith Ballard (19)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Nathan Horton (18) ASST: Richard Zednik (14), Bryan McCabe (16)|
2 - 1 FLA
|Markus Naslund Hooking against Anthony Stewart|
|Michal Rozsival Tripping against David Booth|
|Nathan Horton Holding against Scott Gomez|
|Ryan Callahan Interference - Goalkeeper against Craig Anderson|
|Richard Zednik Hooking against Scott Gomez|
|Karlis Skrastins Slashing against Nikolay Zherdev|
|Markus Naslund Interference against Radek Dvorak|
|SA: 41||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 40||EV: 32 - 33|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 7|
|SV%: .976||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 22||TOI: 58:41|
|Saves: 20||EV: 14 - 16|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .909||SH: 1 - 1|