|NYR||1||1||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|CAR||1||1||2||(0 - 0)||4|
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
After battling back twice from one-goal deficits, the Rangers finally ran out of comebacks as they dropped a tough 4-2 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at the RBC Center.
The Rangers could have pulled even with the ‘Canes for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a regulation victory on Thursday. Instead the loss dropped the Blueshirts into eighth place with four games left in the regular season, because the Montreal Canadiens moved a point ahead of them in the standings with a victory over the Islanders.
“I thought for most of the night we worked hard and did a lot of good things,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But when it comes down to the third period 2-2 those little things have to be done. We didn’t do them, and it cost us the game.”
Chad LaRose scored twice for the Hurricanes, who have now won seven consecutive games, and 10 straight on home ice. Teammate Eric Staal had a goal and an assist, and Ray Whitney contributed a pair of helpers.
Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, the NHL’s Player of the Month in March, was outstanding all night long, finishing with 36 saves, including 17 in the second period.
“It was just a really tough loss for us because we did a lot of good things,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “It just wasn’t enough.”
A hard-fought, evenly-played contest slipped away from the Rangers in the span of 28 seconds midway through the third period, as the Hurricanes turned a pair of miscues by the visitors into two goals.
A turnover at center ice by the Rangers was quickly transitioned into a fast rush back into the Rangers’ end of the ice by the ‘Canes, resulting in LaRose’s second goal of the night at 12:25. A quick passing sequence finished with LaRose sneaking in behind both Nik Antropov and Wade Redden to chip a centering pass from Jussi Jokinen over the glove of Lundqvist and give Carolina a 3-2 lead.
With the home crowd still roaring its approval, Carolina’s Dennis Seidenberg intercepted an attempted clear by the Rangers in the visitors’ end of the ice. Seidenberg slid the puck to Rod Brind’Amour and the captain of the ‘Canes fired a 40-footer through the screen of Scott Walker and past a surprised Lundqvist at 12:53 to up Carolina’s lead to 4-2.
“They had been coming hard the whole game, and that’s what they did on those final two goals,” said defenseman Paul Mara, who assisted on both Rangers’ goals. “They were pretty much back to back, 30 seconds apart. That was a backbreaker for us.”
Goals from two unlikely sources brought the Rangers back from a pair of one-goal deficits as the two teams skated to a 2-2 deadlock through two exciting periods of play.
After Eric Staal opened the scoring for Carolina with a power-play tally just 4:28 into the game, rookie Rangers’ defenseman Corey Potter answered back by scoring his first NHL goal at 17:30 of the first to pull the Rangers even.
Playing in his fifth NHL contest -- and second straight in the place of injured defenseman Michal Rozsival -- Potter corralled the long rebound of Mara’s shot, deftly faked a shot, skated to his right to set up a screen in front, and then blasted a shot past Ward, who never saw the puck with Sean Avery blocking his view at the top of the crease.
“It was just a rebound that popped right into the slot, and there wasn’t too much traffic so I had to wait a little bit and just tried to put it on net,” said Potter. “I’m not trying to do too much out there, but still trying to stick to my game and trying to make a difference out there.”
Potter’s goal was a big personal moment for the 25-year-old rookie, but an even bigger relief for his team. The Rangers were on the verge of exiting the first period trailing 1-0 despite outshooting the ‘Canes 13-3 and being handed four consecutive power plays between the 5:14 and 12:17 marks of the opening stanza until Potter tied the contest.
“Absolutely the power play has to get going,” Mara said of the Rangers’ PP that finished just one-for-seven in the game. “You get four power plays in the first period, you hope to come out with at least a goal or two. And we didn’t do that tonight.”
Earlier in the first, the Rangers had a major scare when Lundqvist was shaken up after being run into by Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu. The feisty Ruutu was penalized for goaltender interference, giving the Rangers their first power play of the night at 5:14, but of greater importance to the visitors was the health of their goalie, who seemed to hit his head and possibly jam his left shoulder into the goal post.
Lundqvist writhed in pain on the ice while being attended to by trainer Jim Ramsay, and backup goaltender Stephen Valiquette put his mask on and began to stretch in front of the Rangers’ bench. However, after several minutes Lundqvist was back up on his skates, and he remained in the game.
“At first I couldn’t move my arm and my shoulder was really numb for the next 20 minutes, but it wasn’t too bad after (20) minutes,” said Lundqvist, who made 19 saves on Thursday. “I was a little worried when it first happened because I couldn’t move it and there was a lot of pain, but after a while it went away.”
The Hurricanes regained their one-goal advantage 6:32 into the second period when LaRose was left all alone to convert the rebound of Whitney’s redirection. Lundqvist made a very sharp stop on Whitney, who was driving hard to the net, and had no chance to get back into position before Larose was able to score his 17th goal.
After yet another failed power-play opportunity, the Rangers finally converted on the man advantage to tie the game 2-2 at 14:21 of the middle stanza. This time the unlikely goal scorer was defenseman Dan Girardi, who notched just his fourth goal of the season -- and first in 54 games.
Girardi hopped on the ice near the end of the power play, joined the action in the offensive zone, and eventually snapped a 40-foot shot through a Fredrik Sjostrom screen and over the gloved hand of Ward to pull the Rangers even.
That Sjostrom and, to an extent, Girardi were out on the power play was not a surprise on this night. Tortorella tried a myriad of different combinations in an attempt to get the power play going, and that included using some players who normally do not play on the man advantage.
With Rozsival -- one of the Rangers’ regular point men on the power play -- again unable to play, Tortorella often used a forward at one of the points alongside one of two defensemen - Redden or Derek Morris.
Somewhat ironically, the power play did deliver the tying goal in the second period. Unfortunately the Rangers could not find a way to grab a lead at any point during this contest, and they ended up losing an extremely important contest.
“Crunch time, third period, five games left in the year, playoff spot, you need to get things done,” said Tortorella. “And we didn’t.”
|PPG - Eric Staal (35) Slapshot - ASST: Joni Pitkanen (26), Joe Corvo (24)|
1 - 0 CAR
|Corey Potter (1) Slapshot - ASST: Paul Mara (15), Ryan Callahan (15)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Chad LaRose (17) Wrist shot - ASST: Ray Whitney (46), Eric Staal (34)|
2 - 1 CAR
|PPG - Dan Girardi (4) Snap shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (41), Paul Mara (16)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Chad LaRose (18) Tip-in - ASST: Jussi Jokinen (17), Ray Whitney (47)|
3 - 2 CAR
|Rod Brind'Amour (15) Wrist shot - ASST: Dennis Seidenberg (23)|
4 - 2 CAR
|Dan Girardi Roughing against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Tuomo Ruutu Interference on goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Tim Gleason Interference against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Tuomo Ruutu Boarding against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Scott Walker Hi-sticking against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Colton Orr Tripping against Jussi Jokinen|
|Markus Naslund Hi-sticking against Jussi Jokinen|
|Erik Cole Cross checking against Ryan Callahan|
|Rod Brind'Amour Holding against Fredrik Sjostrom|
|Marc Staal Interference against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Sean Avery Roughing against Cam Ward|
|Paul Mara Holding against Chad LaRose|
|Ray Whitney Hooking against Nikolay Zherdev|
|SA: 23||TOI: 57:15|
|Saves: 19||EV: 11 - 14|
|PIM: 0||PP: 7 - 8|
|SV%: .826||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 38||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 36||EV: 24 - 25|
|PIM: 0||PP: 11 - 12|
|SV%: .947||SH: 1 - 1|