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• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Youth was most definitely served in the Rangers’ second game of the preseason on Wednesday night.
Matt Gilroy, Michael Del Zotto, Jordan Owens, and Chad Johnson all helped spark the Rangers to rally from a 2-0 deficit in the third period, although the Blueshirts did drop a 3-2 decision to the New Jersey Devils in a game decided by the shootout at The Prudential Center in Newark.
“I was not unhappy in how hard they played,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of his team. “They came back. I thought some guys contributed that we’re looking at. I hate losing, but we’ll start again tomorrow.”
Travis Zajac’s goal in the sixth round of the shootout secured the victory for the Devils, but Johnson was excellent in denying four of the six shots he faced. Gilroy scored in the third round of the shootout for the Rangers, beating Devils goalie Yann Danis between the pads with a forehand shot.
Zach Parise tied it for the Devils in the shootout’s third round, before Zajac won it by roofing a shot just under the crossbar.
“It’s exactly where I want to be in the preseason, getting the pressure of things in the NHL like going to the shootout with Brendan Shanahan and some of those other top-notch players,” said Johnson.
With the Rangers trailing 2-0 early in the third period, Gilroy scored a gorgeous goal to pull the Blueshirts within one. Aaron Voros tipped a Sean Avery pass ahead to Gilroy, who jumped up into the rush, danced around Devils’ defenseman Mark Fraser, skated in tight on Danis, and then backhanded a shot high into the net for his first goal of the pre-season.
So impressive was the move and goal that every player on the Rangers bench jumped up, with several shaking their heads in disbelief.
The goal capped a second straight strong outing by the 25-year-old Gilroy, who was one of seven players in the Rangers lineup that had also played in Tuesday night’s preseason opener against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.
Owens pulled the Rangers even at 11:46 of the final stanza, when he scored his first goal of the preseason. The 23-year-old forward, who played with the Hartford Wolf Pack last season, banked a shot from the slot off Danis’ left pad and over the goal line to tie the game 2-2. Right before the goal, Rangers winger P-A Parenteau escaped the cage after being checked into the back of the net.
Del Zotto, who also was playing for the second straight night in his bid to win a spot on the Rangers defense, earned the lone assist on Owens’ goal.
“I think it was a huge test, playing two (games) in two (nights), especially after Traverse City and playing four (games) in five (nights) there,” said Del Zotto, who logged nearly 26 minutes of ice-time on Wednesday. “It’s a lot of hockey, but I think I’m in shape for it. And I’m glad the coach is giving me a lot of minutes so that I can show him how I can play.”
The Rangers were able to force overtime after Owens had tied the score due in large part to Johnson, the rookie goalie from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, who calmly made several big saves in the closing minutes of regulation.
In overtime, Johnson denied several shots during a Devils power play, helping the Blueshirts kill off a charging minor assessed to Del Zotto. Johnson finished with 19 saves in regulation and overtime.
Henrik Lundqvist made his first appearance of the preseason, starting in goal for the Rangers and playing the first half of the game. Lundqvist stopped 16 of 17 shots over 29:51 worth of ice time.
The lone goal surrendered by Lundqvist came at 13:31 of the first period, and there was little he could do to stop it. David Clarkson slipped in behind both Rangers’ defensemen during a New Jersey power play, accepted a chip pass from Niclas Bergfors, and was denied on the doorstep by Lundqvist before finally tucking the puck under the sprawling Rangers’ goalie to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead.
Lundqvist, who made 11 saves in the opening period, was at his best early in the second while the Rangers were killing off a four-minute double-minor to Avery. During that penalty killing sequence, Lundqvist made three excellent stops, including a lunging right-pad save on Johnny Oduya’s straightaway blast.
The original penalty called against Avery for goaltender interference at 18:41 of the first period negated the tying goal for the Rangers. Enver Lisin’s wrist shot tipped off Danis’ glove and was headed into the net as the Devils’ goalie had no idea where the puck was when Avery crashed into Danis. The puck crossed the goal line just as the referee raised his hand to signify the interference call against Avery.
While skating to the penalty box, Avery was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting the Rangers in a four-minute man-disadvantage that the club was able to survive.
Lisin’s disallowed goal was one of his team-high three shots fired on net in the opening period. As was the case as the night before against the Bruins, Lisin played a very impressive first period. Among his highlights was a pretty feed to an onrushing Corey Potter that led to a prime -- albeit unsuccessful -- scoring chance against Danis.
“Lisin’s another guy we’ve got to continue to watch,” said Tortorella. “You can see his ability. As far as his talent, you can see that he’s got talent.”
The Rangers had several excellent scoring opportunities against Danis in the second period, as well, but the former Islanders’ netminder stopped them all. Danis made impressive stops on Wade Redden, Tyler Arnason, and Gilroy during the middle stanza. He also was lucky again at 3:48 of the second when Parenteau’s snap shot caught the left post instead of the back of the net.
Johnson, who was acquired by the Rangers in a draft-day deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, replaced Lundqvist at 9:51 of the second period. Only 23 seconds later, Clarkson scored another power-play goal, and the Devils had a 2-0 lead.
The Rangers turned the puck over at center ice, and the Devils transitioned the other way on a 3-on-2 rush. Clarkson capped off a neat passing sequence with Shanahan and Dainius Zubrus by zipping a left-wing shot past a helpless Johnson on the first shot the youngster faced in his pro debut.
“I really didn’t have time to think,” said Johnson. “Your first experience out there, you just want to get in there and get in the fire. Obviously, 3-on-2 and the goal right off the bat on my first shot, you don’t want that. But I settled down after I got my feet wet, and I think I did all right.”
Johnson faced six more shots the remainder of the period, and handled them all, displaying a knack for controlling his rebounds well. In the third period, Johnson made a sensational diving save across his crease to deny a wide-open Brian Rolston.
After a fairly quiet first period, tempers flared in the second. Voros dropped the gloves for a spirited battle with Fraser at 8:02. And six minutes later, Rangers defenseman Brent Henley roughed up Devils enforcer Pierre Luc Letourneau-Leblond in another fight.
The fights on the ice were only one type of battle being waged on Wednesday night, according to Tortorella.
“There’s probably 10 or 11 guys that are fighting for some spots here, and that’s healthy” said Tortorella, who plans to trim his training camp roster down to 29-30 players on Thursday.
Following Thursday’s practice, the Rangers return to action with a preseason tilt against the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday evening before skating against the Bruins in Boston on Saturday.
|PPG - David Clarkson (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Niclas Bergfors (1), Dainius Zubrus (1)|
1 - 0 NJD
|PPG - David Clarkson (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Brendan Shanahan (1), Dainius Zubrus (2)|
2 - 0 NJD
|Matt Gilroy (1) Backhand shot - ASST: Aaron Voros (1), Sean Avery (1)|
2 - 1 NJD
|Jordan Owens (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Michael Del Zotto (1)|
2 - 2 Tie