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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Carolina Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney scored with 1:15 remaining in overtime to hand the Rangers a 2-1 loss Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
After working hard to control the puck in the left-wing corner, Whitney played give-and-go with teammate Matt Cullen, finishing the play by lifting a shot over Henrik Lundqvist’s shoulder and just under the crossbar for the game-deciding score.
“I thought we battled back, got our point,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But to me we shouldn’t even be there in overtime. We should have had two points after regulation.”
The Rangers are now 2-5 in overtime this season, and have lost all four games decided in the five-minute overtime period. Four of Carolina’s 11 wins this season have come after 60 minutes of play.
Marian Gaborik put the Rangers on the scoreboard, and tied the game 1-1, 9:08 into the third period. Gaborik collected a loose puck in the low slot and whipped a backhand shot past Carolina goalie Cam Ward for his league-leading 27th goal. The goal, which was assisted by the hard-working pair of Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen, came three minutes after Gaborik had nearly scored, but instead had hit the post behind Ward.
The Rangers had not scored on home ice in more than five-and-a half periods of play, dating back to Dubinsky’s goal in the final minute of last Saturday’s contest with the Islanders.
“We try and stay patient,” said Tortorella. “But the bottom line is we have to start scoring goals in these types of games. We lose a point because we simply don’t bury a few of our chances.”
Gaborik’s goal did give the Rangers an important point in the standings, which they earned by reaching overtime. The Rangers now have at least one point in seven of their last eight games, going 5-1-2 in that span.
“We’ve been kind of doing that lately,” said defenseman Marc Staal, who played a solid 22:37 on Saturday. “We’ve been sticking around to get points.”
With 2:44 left to play in the third period, Lundqvist made a game-saving stop, denying Cullen from the doorstep after Carolina had won a faceoff in the Rangers zone. After Lundqvist’s lunging save, Cullen was on the verge of slamming his stick atop the crossbar, but stopped himself before incurring a penalty or possibly hurting his former teammate Lundqvist.
Ward did his part to ensure overtime when he made a strong chest save on Ryan Callahan’s tricky flip shot after a mad dash up right wing with 23 seconds remaining on the clock. Ward, selected as the game’s first star, sparkled all night with 27 saves in total.
A thoroughly frustrating first 40 minutes of play for the Rangers was capped when Carolina pest Tom Kostopoulos scored the game’s first goal with 45.9 seconds left to play in the second period.
A minute after Lundqvist had made a sensational left-pad save to rob a wide-open Tuomo Ruutu in the slot, the Hurricanes capitalized on the Rangers’ inability to clear the puck out of their own zone. When a loose puck hopped into the slot, Kostopoulos -- who had been a human pinball all afternoon long -- whacked at it and sent a bouncing shot off the pads of Lundqvist and over the goal line to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers’ frustration level, which had been rising over the first two periods following each muffed scoring chance, misfired pass, and wasted power play opportunity, reached a new peak after Kostopoulos’ goal.
Although they were far from perfect, the Rangers were clearly the better team with the better chances to score over the first two periods of play. Yet, the scoreboard flashed a 1-0 deficit for the home team when the two clubs skated off The Garden ice into the second intermission.
“I actually thought we played hard tonight,” said Christensen. “We just couldn’t get any transition or flow into our game. It was back and forth neutral-zone play. But we had chances we missed on, and we hit some posts. It was frustrating.”
Callahan had rung a power-play shot off the post 10:48 into the second. Christensen had Gaborik’s centering pass glance off his skate and ring the iron behind Ward four minutes later. And Christopher Higgins, Dubinsky, and Sean Avery all had missed open nets on excellent scoring chances.
Then there was the four-minute power play in the second period that epitomized the Rangers’ frustration. With Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen serving a double-minor for high-sticking at 7:32, the Rangers were completely thwarted by the ‘Canes’ penalty kill. The Rangers managed only one shot -- by Gaborik -- and had Callahan’s blast from between the circles smack the post behind Ward. Other than that, the Rangers’ three power-play units failed to mount any offense during their four-minute opportunity while the game was still scoreless.
“It wasn’t good tonight, but our power play has been pretty good,” said Tortorella. “When we are not scoring five-on-five, (the power play) has to be good all of the time, and it puts a lot of pressure on that special team.”
The Rangers did excel on their own penalty kill, playing impressively while shorthanded, going 3-3 on the kill over the first two periods. Drury, Callahan, and Brian Boyle, in particular, stood out on the PK for the Rangers.
And that very same PK unit for the Rangers nearly tied the game early in the third period, when Drury led a 3-on-2 shorthanded rush that culminated in a pair of quality shots by Dan Girardi at 3:32. However, Ward made two sharp saves, and the Rangers continued to trail 1-0.
Three minutes later, Gaborik stepped into a left-wing slap shot that beat Ward, but hit the far post, the third piece of iron the Rangers had struck on the night. Fortunately for the Rangers, Gaborik’s next shot, several minutes later, found the back of the net and not any more iron.
“I think tonight we played well enough to definitely win this game,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 17 saves. “It’s tough when you score only one goal. I think if we score two or three goals in the second or third, then everyone is sitting here afterwards saying that we played a great game.”
The Rangers will return to action on Monday night when they host the Boston Bruins, the start of a busy week in which they play four games in six days.
|Tom Kostopoulos (3) ASST: Jiri Tlusty (1), Patrick Dwyer (1)|
1 - 0 CAR
|Marian Gaborik (27) ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (11), Erik Christensen (2)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Ray Whitney (11) ASST: Matt Cullen (15), Joni Pitkanen (17)|
2 - 1 CAR
|Chris Higgins Roughing against Tuomo Ruutu|
|Chris Higgins Slashing against Aaron Ward|
|Tom Kostopoulos Interference against Ryan Callahan|
|Brett Carson Slashing against Sean Avery|
|Jussi Jokinen Hi stick - double minor against Dan Girardi|
|Chris Drury Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Erik Christensen Hi-sticking against Ray Whitney|
|SA: 28||TOI: 63:45|
|Saves: 27||EV: 19 - 20|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: .964||SH: 5 - 5|
|SA: 19||TOI: 63:45|
|Saves: 17||EV: 12 - 14|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: .895||SH: 1 - 1|