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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
For the second straight game on home ice, the Rangers valiantly rallied in the third period only to fall short on the scoreboard, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“It was ugly at times, but I think we gathered ourselves and took a run at it in the second half of the game,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We didn’t win the game, so it’s not good enough, but we’re just going to keep on working at it and find a way to not have to have a goalie perfect by scoring just one or two goals.”
After the Rangers had allowed the Panthers to take their first two-goal lead of the night -- on Nathan Horton’s sixth of the season at 2:35 of the third -- Marian Gaborik came through again for the home team to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Gaborik accepted a nice touch pass from Michal Rozsival and wristed his team-high 16th goal of the season past the gloved hand of Panthers’ goalie Tomas Vokoun from the right-wing circle at 6:01.
Incredibly, Gaborik has now recorded at least one point in 18 of the 20 games he has played in this season. His 16 goals tie him for the NHL lead along with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
The Rangers came close to tying the game several times as the third period played on. Sean Avery probably had the best chance to pull the Blueshirts even when with 2:22 left on the clock he was behind the defense with the puck on his stick. He spun towards the goal, made a one-on-one move, but was denied by Vokoun.
In the third period, Vokoun stopped 12 of 13 shots. He finished with 32 saves.
“Obviously it’s very frustrating not to get this win,” Lundqvist said. “We do a lot of good things again, but it’s not enough.”
The Rangers had held a precarious 1-0 advantage -- on Prospal’s first period goal -- until the Panthers potted a pair less than three minutes apart midway through the second period to take over the lead.
Steven Reinprecht, Florida’s leading scorer so far this season, tied the game at 8:46 of the second. After confusion along the left-wing boards by the Rangers -- and failed swipes at the puck by Matt Gilroy and Ales Kotalik -- Reinprecht wound up between the circles with the puck on his stick. He sent a backhand shot against the grain, beating Lundqvist to the stick side for his 10th goal of the season, tying the contest at 1-1.
Then at 11:09, Florida defenseman Jordan Leopold sent a floater from the right point that dipped between the pads of a screened and surprised Lundqvist to give the Panthers their first lead of the night. At first it appeared that the puck might have been deflected in front with a high stick, but the ensuing video review not only proved that theory to be incorrect, it showed that Leopold’s shot actually dipped on its own, and was not touched at all on the way in.
Lundqvist was clearly frustrated by the goal. To that point he had provided the Rangers with a spectacular effort. And even though he appeared to be screened on Leopold’s goal, Lundqvist seemed angry with himself for letting the shot slip past him.
“I just lost (sight of) it, and guys were waving their sticks, and it just bounced right in front of me,” said Lundqvist. “That’s the spot we’re in right now, it was just a bad bounce. We can’t blame our losses on bad bounces, because you earn your luck.”
In the first period Lundqvist stopped all 10 shots that he faced, including two in the opening 90 seconds off odd-man scoring chances for the Panthers. At 12:16 of the first -- less than two minutes before Prospal’s goal -- Lundqvist made a huge blocker save after Horton broke in on goal and flicked a backhand shot that seemed destined for the back of the net.
“I thought we fought it at first at the beginning, and Hank gave us a chance in the first period,” said Tortorella.
Florida controlled large chunks of the opening period, though the Rangers did play a rugged, hard-checking period. Aaron Voros and Enver Lisin -- who opened on the fourth line -- and Donald Brashear -- who was moved up to skate with Christopher Higgins and Ryan Callahan -- all delivered a series of crunching hits in the offensive zone during the first period for the Rangers.
The Panthers, though, still had the better of the scoring chances, and, if not for Lundqvist, could have easily grabbed the lead. Instead it was Prospal who opened the scoring for the Rangers at 14:11 of the first period.
Prospal intercepted a clearing pass just outside the Panthers blueline. He patiently waited for Gaborik and Kotalik to get onside, and then entered the offensive zone. Prospal skated to the left circle and fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Vokoun and trickled off the goaltender and over the goal line for his sixth goal of the season.
After the Panthers scored twice in the second, the Rangers nearly pulled even in the same period. With 7:20 remaining in the middle stanza, Higgins fired a point-blank shot from between the circles, but was stoned by Vokoun. Lisin then was robbed on the ensuing rebound by the sprawling Vokoun.
“Once again we don’t come up with the result,” said Prospal. “We need timely goals from other people. That’s what helps a team to win.”
Gaborik and Prospal have scored the Rangers’ last five goals, and six of the last seven dating back to the Nov. 12 game at The Garden against Atlanta.
“We’ll go back to work tomorrow and keep working at it,” said Tortorella.
After practice on Sunday, the Rangers are back in action on Monday night at The Garden when they play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
|Vinny Prospal (6) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 NYR
|Steve Reinprecht (10) ASST: Rostislav Olesz (5), Radek Dvorak (3)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Jordan Leopold (2) ASST: Kenndal McArdle (2), Kamil Kreps (5)|
2 - 1 FLA
|Nathan Horton (6) ASST: Stephen Weiss (7)|
3 - 1 FLA
|Marian Gaborik (16) ASST: Michal Rozsival (5), Vinny Prospal (17)|
3 - 2 FLA
|Ales Kotalik Tripping against Nathan Horton|
|Ryan Callahan Boarding against Dmitry Kulikov|
|Ville Koistinen Holding against Brian Boyle|
|SA: 34||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 32||EV: 30 - 32|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 0|
|SV%: .941||SH: 2 - 2|
|SA: 28||TOI: 58:42|
|Saves: 25||EV: 23 - 26|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .893||SH: 0 - 0|