|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|CAR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||3|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In a game fraught with playoff implications and played with playoff intensity, the Rangers dropped a 3-0 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night at the RBC Center.
Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, making his 15th consecutive start, stopped all 27 shots he faced to record his fifth shutout of the season and 11th of his NHL career. Ward, who robbed Nik Antropov after a perfect deflection of a neat Derek Morris pass 7:40 into the third period and later stoned Chris Drury with two minutes to play, has now blanked the Rangers twice in his career.
The loss snapped the Rangers’ three-game winning streak. They remain tied with two other teams for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with 76 points. Carolina, which began the day sitting in ninth place, one point out of a playoff spot, now has 77 points and is tied with Montreal for fifth in the East. The ‘Canes have won four straight games and eight of their last 10.
A game-long parade to the penalty box finally caught up to the Rangers early in the third period when the Hurricanes doubled their advantage to 2-0, putting the Rangers in a very difficult position trying to come back on the road. The Rangers had been terrific in killing off five straight Carolina power plays over the first two periods, but Antropov’s hooking penalty 2:23 into the third proved to be one too many for the visitors.
After Rangers goalie Stephen Valiquette made an outstanding point-blank save on Sergei Samsanov, Carolina’s Ray Whitney collected the puck and made a neat pass to Rod Brind’Amour. Carolina’s captain whipped his 10th goal of the season over Valiquette’s glove, and the Hurricanes had a huge insurance score.
Valiquette was making his first start in goal since Feb. 6 -- a span of 14 games. It was also his second start this season against the Hurricanes, whom he defeated 3-2 at Madison Square Garden in the first game after the All-Star Break on Jan. 27. He made 33 saves in Monday evening’s match.
After Valiquette was pulled for an extra attacker, Tuomo Ruutu scored into the empty net with 24.2 seconds left in the third period to close out the scoring.
Joe Corvo scored at 9:01 of the second, handing the Hurricanes the all-important first goal of this tightly contested match. The trailer during a 3-on-2 Carolina rush, Corvo swooped in to backhand the puck into the back of the cage with Valiquette in a vulnerable position on the ice after making a save on Whitney’s initial shot. Corvo’s 13th goal of the season put the ‘Canes on top 1-0, a lead they took into the dressing room after two periods of play.
What made Corvo’s score all the more frustrating for the Rangers is that it came during a 4-on-4 sequence, one that very well could have been a power play for the visitors instead. However, during a delayed penalty call to Carolina’s Dennis Seidenberg, the Rangers’ Sean Avery was penalized for grabbing hold of Patrick Eaves at 7:40, negating the possible man advantage for New York.
Avery had another ill-timed penalty -- this one 16 seconds after the Rangers went on a power play at 12:53 of the second -- that short-circuited a man-advantage opportunity. Despite these two mistakes, Avery and his linemates Ryan Callahan and Lauri Korpikoski were extremely strong on the forecheck all night long, continually wreaking havoc in Carolina’s end of the ice.
In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, mere seconds before being penalized for holding Eaves -- and 90 seconds before Corvo would score on the ensuing 4-on-4 -- Avery had the Rangers’ best scoring chance of the first two periods. All alone five feet out from the net, Avery snapped a shot off a neat Callahan pass from behind the cage, but Ward made a sensational right-pad save to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard.
Avery’s excellent scoring chance was one of the very few allowed by the Hurricanes, who did a good job of letting Ward see shots clearly. One of the few times that the Rangers set a good screen in front of Ward, Markus Naslund ripped a right-wing shot that Carolina’s goaltender juggled, but controlled, before Nikolai Zherdev arrived on the doorstep 14 minutes into the first period.
Zherdev had seemingly given the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:23 into the game, but the apparent goal was disallowed because Zherdev accepted a hand pass from Brandon Dubinsky during a scramble in front of the Hurricanes’ net. Down on the ice, with Ward falling on him, Dubinsky knocked the puck with his glove across the crease, where Zherdev banged it in. The red light went on, but the goal was quickly disallowed by the referees.
At the other end of the ice, the Rangers were just as effective at limiting the quality scoring chances for the home team. Defensemen Marc Staal and Wade Redden, in particular, did an outstanding job back in their own end, consistently winning battles for the puck and routinely blocking shots and passes.
When called upon, Valiquette was sharp in goal for the Rangers. He made a huge save on Eric Staal’s breakaway backhander at 13:30 of the second, and then robbed Erik Cole on a point-blank attempt with 37.2 seconds remaining in the middle stanza.
Despite Valiquette’s best efforts, as well as a quality road performance by the entire team, The Rangers could not generate enough offense and fell victim to the Hurricanes. Now the Rangers will have to reload and prepare to face another red-hot opponent -- the Nashville Predators, who have won six of their last seven contests -- in another road game on Thursday night.
|Joe Corvo (13) ASST: Matt Cullen (18), Ray Whitney (36)|
1 - 0 CAR
|PPG - Rod Brind'Amour (10) ASST: Ray Whitney (37), Sergei Samsonov (27)|
2 - 0 CAR
|EN - Tuomo Ruutu (20) ASST: Erik Cole (16), Anton Babchuk (13)|
3 - 0 CAR
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Rod Brind'Amour|
|Scott Gomez Hi-sticking against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Marc Staal Slashing against Chad LaRose|
|Patrick Eaves Tripping against Marc Staal|
|Patrick Eaves Holding against Markus Naslund|
|Markus Naslund Tripping against Chad LaRose|
|Sean Avery Holding against Patrick Eaves|
|Dennis Seidenberg Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|Matt Cullen Holding against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Sean Avery Interference against Joe Corvo|
|Nik Antropov Hooking against Ray Whitney|
|Matt Cullen Slashing against Wade Redden|
|SA: 35||TOI: 57:37|
|Saves: 33||EV: 25 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 8 - 9|
|SV%: .943||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 28||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 28||EV: 22 - 22|
|PIM: 0||PP: 6 - 6|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 0 - 0|