|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|BOS||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
For the second time this season, the Rangers skated into the TD Banknorth Garden and played a solid game against the Boston Bruins, only to exit on the short side of a 1-0 score on Saturday afternoon.
Back on Jan. 31, it was rookie goalie Tuukka Rask who blanked the Rangers 1-0. On Saturday, it was All-Star netminder Tim Thomas, who stopped all 31 shots he faced to earn the 1-0 victory, his fifth shutout of the season.
With the win, the Bruins clinched first place in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we played really well, but they are a really solid team,” said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “They are really patient, and they don’t take any chances. They make it really tough to get good scoring chances.”
The Rangers remain in eighth place in the East with three games left in the regular season. They are 2-4-1 in their last seven games, and would face the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, should they finish the season where they sit in the standings today.
Down 1-0, the Rangers forced the action in the third period, and they nearly tied the contest on two different occasions near the midway point of the period. Coming up on 10 minutes to go in regulation, Lauri Korpikoski accepted a long pass from Michal Rozsival and blasted a left wing shot that whizzed past Thomas. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Korpikoski’s shot rang off the far post.
Seconds later the Rangers were awarded their first power play of the afternoon, and though the Bruins did an excellent job killing it off, the visitors did have one very good scoring chance. Once again Rozsival -- back in the lineup after missing five straight games due to a sore knee - was involved in the near-miss. This time Rozsival slid in from the right point to one-time a blast on goal, but Thomas burst across his crease from right to left to deny the shot.
Another great opportunity for the Rangers went unfulfilled when they did not take advantage of a 4-on-3 power play with five minutes remaining in the third. The Rangers did not have any real quality chances to score as Boston’s Zdeno Chara, P.J. Axelsson, and Stephane Yelle did a terrific job on the kill.
“I thought we did some good things, but we didn’t score,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “It’s tough to win a game when you don’t score a goal.”
Both teams played with a very patient, defensive-oriented style, and scoring opportunities were certainly at a premium throughout.
The game’s only goal came at the 9:04 mark of the first period, when Boston’s Blake Wheeler blasted a slap shot past the gloved hand of Lundqvist for his 21st of the season. Wheeler’s-right point shot changed direction ever so slightly after ticking off the stick of the Rangers’ Fredrik Sjostrom, just enough to fool Lundqvist and hand Boston a 1-0 lead.
“I just reached for (the puck) and it went right down and to the right, it totally got me,” explained Lundqvist, who finished with 23 saves. “It’s a tough goal to lose a game on.”
Ironically, Wheeler’s score came on the Bruins’ first shot of the contest, after the Rangers held their hosts without one for the first nine minutes by playing a very effective defensive game. Boston did not threaten again in the first period until there were seven seconds left on the clock, although Michael Ryder fired his shot on a partial breakaway wide of the net on that scoring chance.
Both teams recorded seven shots on goal in the opening period. For the Rangers, the line of Scott Gomez, Sean Avery, and Ryan Callahan accounted for five of the team’s seven shots. Similar to Ryder’s excellent scoring chance that went awry for the Bruins, the Rangers’ best opportunity also did not end up as an official shot on goal as Gomez -- alone in front with Thomas out of position -- was spun around before he could take a shot, and the puck rolled harmlessly into the left-wing corner.
Again in the second period, Gomez was the Rangers’ best forward on the ice, creating several more prime scoring chances for his linemates, which included Nik Antropov after John Tortorella had Antropov and Callahan flip-flop lines midway through the middle stanza.
At the 9:42 mark of the second, Gomez fed Antropov for a quick on-timer from the bottom of the left circle that required a solid pad save by Thomas. Gomez also made neat passes to Avery 13 minutes into the period and defenseman Wade Redden with 90 seconds remaining in the second that led to fine scoring opportunities.
Avery also set up Callahan on a 2-on-1 rush at the 10-minute mark of the period, but Thomas smothered Callahan’s blast from 10 feet out.
Thomas was sharp between the pipes when called upon for the Bruins, and through two periods he stopped all 18 Rangers’ shots. In addition, Thomas was helped out greatly by his teammates, who did an outstanding job of forcing the Rangers into shooting from angles easy for Thomas to manage.
“They’re a good defensive team, but I thought we played well,” said Tortorella. “Thomas made some big saves at key times, and we couldn’t find a way to score a goal.”
The likelihood of scoring against Thomas took a major blow midway through the middle stanza when Antropov was clipped at center ice by Boston’s Milan Lucic. It appeared that Lucic caught Antropov with a knee-to-knee hit; and after taking one more turn on the ice, Antropov headed to the dressing room and did not return due to what was termed a “lower body injury”.
With Boston content to rely on their defense and playing a passive style, Lundqvist faced only 17 shots over the first two periods. However, he made a terrific save with his pads on Wheeler’s perfect deflection of a Dennis Wideman slap shot 25 seconds into the second, and then closed out the period by robbing Yelle from in close.
After Lundqvist’s huge save on Yelle with 3:40 left in the second, Yelle collected the loose puck and whipped a pass to Wideman. From 40 feet away, Wideman sailed a shot toward the empty net -- with Lundqvist out of position -- but Redden moved into the crease and blocked the shot with his left glove to save a seemingly sure-bet goal.
The Rangers now will head into the final week of the 2008-09 regular season holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They will next face the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, and then will finish with a home-and-home against the Philadelphia Flyers -- Thursday night at MSG and Sunday afternoon in Philly.
“Obviously we know where we’re at and how important every game is,” stated team captain Chris Drury. “We’ve got to let go of this one and get ready for Tuesday.”
|Blake Wheeler (21) ASST: P.J. Axelsson (24), Dennis Wideman (36)|
1 - 0 BOS
|Paul Mara Holding against Chuck Kobasew|
|Zdeno Chara Roughing against Paul Mara|
|Paul Mara Roughing against Zdeno Chara|
|David Krejci Holding against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Sean Avery Roughing against Tim Thomas|
|Tim Thomas Roughing against Sean Avery|
|Marc Savard Cross checking against Scott Gomez|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Mark Recchi|
|SA: 24||TOI: 59:04|
|Saves: 23||EV: 22 - 23|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .958||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 31||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 31||EV: 25 - 25|
|PIM: 2||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 1 - 1|