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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
On Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers fell victim to a team that is thriving in the late-season role of spoiler, falling to the Ottawa Senators 2-1.
The loss snapped the Rangers’ three-game winning streak. The Blueshirts remain in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 84 points, with nine games remaining in the regular season.
Ottawa has now won five games in a row, and nine of its last 10, despite sitting in 12th place in the East, out of the playoff picture.
“I thought the game was sloppy by both teams,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “It was one of those games where you get to the third period 1-1 and you have to find a way to grind one out. Bottom line is you’re not going to win a lot of games by scoring only one goal.”
Ryan Shannon snapped a 1-1 tie, and handed Ottawa its first lead of the night, by scoring his fifth goal of the season only 1:09 into the third period. After receiving a pass from teammate Nick Foligno, Shannon skated through the left circle, cut to the middle, and snapped a wicked shot past the glove of Henrik Lundqvist to put the Senators up 2-1.
The Rangers received two power plays after Shannon’s score, but were unable to convert on either opportunity. During the first man-advantage, Sean Avery powered a left-wing blast that Sens goalie Alex Auld steered away with his stick. And during the second power lay, Nik Antropov came close to tying the game on a pretty deflection from in front, but Auld made a strong pad save.
“I think we had some opportunities there on the power play that we had to score on, or at least gain some momentum from, but we didn’t,” said defenseman Derek Morris. “You need to get that goal on the power play there.”
The Blueshirts finished the game a frustrating 0-for-5 on the power play. Auld made 28 saves in the victory for Ottawa, including a pair of clutch in-tight stops against Avery and Markus Naslund in the closing minutes.
“Even though we weren’t at our best we were in the third period 1-1, and we needed to win that period,” said Tortorella. “And we didn’t. Simple as that.”
Great hustling efforts from both Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky helped the Rangers grab a 1-0 lead just 2:18 into the game. At the end of his shift, Avery shot the puck in behind the Senators net, where Auld casually went to play the puck. However, Callahan shocked Ottawa’s netminder by appearing seemingly out of nowhere to grab the puck before Auld could, and quickly whipped a pass into the slot. Dubinsky gained a crucial step on the backchecking Mike Comrie to accept the pass and score into the empty cage as the badly-out-of-position Auld arrived too late to make the save.
The goal meant many things to the Rangers. It provided them an early lead on the scoreboard. It showcased the just reward for outhustling the opponent. And it was an important goal personally for Dubinsky, who had not scored in the previous 23 games.
By earning an assist on Dubinsky’s ninth goal of the season, Callahan extended his point-scoring streak to six consecutive contests.
That lead held up until the 6:09 mark of the second period when an unfortunate bounce of the puck led to the game-tying score. Comrie had his left-wing shot blocked by Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi, but the puck bounded towards the slot, where Comrie collected it and sent a quick backhander past Lundqvist.
“A lot of losses this year have been like this where we play pretty well, but we don’t find a way to score and then you end up questioning your mistakes,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 20 saves.
Earlier in the period, the Rangers had further misfortune when Michal Rozsival suffered an undetermined injury to his left leg. Rozsival took a seemingly routine check along the side boards 3:44 into the second period and came away putting all of his weight on his right leg while holding the left one up in the air. At the next play stoppage, Rozsival exited the ice and headed straight to the Rangers’ dressing room, where he spent for the remainder of the game.
Down to five defensemen, and playing on back-to-back nights, the Rangers were forced to grind their way through the rest of the second period, which concluded in a 1-1 deadlock. Ottawa controlled large stretches of play in the middle stanza, applying much pressure by being strong on the puck in the offensive zone, but could not get a second goal past Lundqvist.
Through two periods of play, Lundqvist had stopped 17 of 18 shots, including a huge right-pad save on Filip Kuba’s deflected slap shot with 48 seconds left on the clock in the second.
The Rangers did not generate a lot of prime scoring chances, but they did have two excellent chances to regain the lead in the middle period. Antropov -- a physical force all night long - split the Ottawa defense to accept a long home run pass from Marc Staal, but had his breakaway forehand shot denied by Auld’s left pad at 7:16. And then at 16:48, Callahan played give-and-go with Scott Gomez, resulting in a booming one-timer for Callahan from the right circle that was deflected away by Auld’s blocker.
“For some reason the efficiency wasn’t there today,” said winger Fredrik Sjostrom. “We created chances, but we weren’t on it the way we have been the last few games.”
Down to single digits in games remaining, the Rangers return to action on Tuesday evening at MSG when they skate against the Minnesota Wild. Of their nine remaining games, the Rangers have four on home ice and five on the road.
|Brandon Dubinsky (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Ryan Callahan (14), Sean Avery (10)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Mike Comrie (10) Backhand shot - ASST: Chris Phillips (15), Chris Campoli (17)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Ryan Shannon (5) Snap shot - ASST: Nick Foligno (11), Mike Fisher (17)|
2 - 1 OTT
|Marc Staal Tripping against Jason Spezza|
|Chris Campoli Slashing against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Jason Spezza Tripping against Marc Staal|
|Nikolay Zherdev Tripping against Brian Lee|
|Chris Neil Roughing against Nik Antropov|
|Colton Orr Interference against Jarkko Ruutu|
|Chris Campoli Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Christoph Schubert Hooking against Fredrik Sjostrom|