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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
A long day filled with change and some upheaval ended for the Rangers with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Tuesday night.
In the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, the Rangers completed a trade with the Calgary Flames in which veteran center Olli Jokinen and rugged winger Brandon Prust were acquired in exchange for forwards Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Both players arrived hours before the contest against the Kings, although their presence was not enough to help lift the Rangers to victory.
“It’s been pretty hectic the past couple of days,” said Jokinen. “It’s part of the business. You have to be prepared to play, and that’s the bottom line. But it’s most disappointing we didn’t get the two points.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 20 shots to backstop Los Angeles to its seventh consecutive win. Henrik Lundqvist returned to the nets for the Rangers after a two-game absence and made 19 saves.
Marian Gaborik brought the Rangers to within one of the Kings by scoring his 34th goal of the season with 2:37 to play in the third period. Gaborik redirected Erik Christensen’s pass into the cage for his fifth goal of this just-completed road trip in which the Rangers sandwiched a pair of one-goal losses in Phoenix and Los Angeles around a 3-1 win in Denver on Sunday.
Jokinen was in the Rangers starting lineup, centering the top line with Gaborik and Vinny Prospal on the wings. The Kings clearly focused on shutting down that line, and checked all three Rangers tightly the entire night. Young defenseman Drew Doughty, in particular, stood out with his air-tight defensive play for the Kings, although Jokinen did manage four shots on goal.
Prust played on the left side of Artem Anisimov and Christensen and displayed his typical feisty game. Prust was penalized for boarding Jack Johnson just 7:49 into play. He then engaged in a fight with the Kings Brandon Segal midway through the second, earning an instigator penalty during his 19th fight of the season. All told, Prust racked up 19 minutes in penalties in his first game with the Rangers.
“That’s kind of what I do, get some hits, get some energy, and if need be stick up for the teammates,” said Prust.
The game remained scoreless for more than 36 minutes until Anze Kopitar scored a shorthanded goal to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. Kopitar took advantage of the Rangers using five forwards during their power play, beating Chris Drury to a loose puck and then skating down ice with only Jokinen back. Kopitar finished off the 2-on-1 rush by zipping a wrist shot from 15 feet out past Lundqvist for his 24th goal of the season at 16:43 of the second period.
It was an aggressive decision by Rangers head coach John Tortorella to put five forwards on the ice during the man-advantage. But clearly he was trying to shake the club out of its power-play doldrums, since the Rangers had not scored on the power play during the previous six games. Since both Jokinen and Drury have played the point on the power play during their careers, it was a calculated risk. Unfortunately for the visitors, Kopitar, in the midst of a standout season, made a great play.
“It was terrible tonight, and it cost us late in the second period,” Tortorella said of his team’s power play. “We beat ourselves there.”
Los Angeles scored again with 8:46 remaining in the third period to double its advantage with would turn out to be the game-winner. The Rangers turned the puck over at center ice, and the Kings quickly transitioned the other way. Ryan Smyth roofed his 17th goal off a pretty feed from Dustin Brown for the hugely important score.
The goals by Kopitar and Smyth were the only blemishes against Lundqvist, who looked extremely sharp after missing the first two games of this trip due to a stomach virus. Lundqvist was challenged on the game’s opening shift, when he had to react quickly on a booming 20-foot shot from the slot. He faced only four more shots the remainder of the first period as his teammates did an excellent job defensively against the smooth-skating, offensively-gifted Kings.
The Rangers managed only four shots in the opening 20 minutes as the Kings, likewise, played very smart defensively. Perhaps fittingly it was Jokinen who recorded the Rangers’ first shot on goal, a long wrist shot from straight away, after 14:03 had elapsed on the game clock. Prospal, though, had the best scoring chance for the Blueshirts in the first, nearly beating Quick from the side of the net with a jam attempt at 17:27.
Both teams had better scoring chances in the second period, with Lundqvist and Quick both performing impressively. Lundqvist bookended his fine second period with a pair of terrific saves. First he made a lightning-quick save with his left pad after Brad Richardson intercepted a Dan Girardi pass in the slot just 22 seconds into the period. And then Lundqvist closed out the middle stanza by robbing Randy Jones on a one-timer by bursting across the crease from right-to-left with 23.4 seconds left.
Jones was denied on several good chances in the second by Lundqvist, in particular during the Kings’ two power plays in the period. Jarret Stoll also fell victim to Lundqvist on a pair of booming power play shots.
“He played good,” Tortorella said of Lundqvist. “After a few days off, he played very well.”
Perhaps the best save for Quick came 3:05 into the third period when he held his ground and denied Gaborik on a partial break off a head-man pass by Prospal. He also made a gem of a stop with 11 seconds left in the game when he smothered Ryan Callahan’s perfect deflection down low.
“It’s tough, that tip I had from Vinny I thought I had a chance at (Quick’s) five-hole, but he made a good stop,” said Callahan. “We made a good push there at the end, but I guess a little too little too late.”
The Rangers return home and are back in action at Madison Square Garden on Thursday when they host the Washington Capitals.
|Ryan Smyth Hooking against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Brandon Prust Boarding against Jack Johnson|
|Brandon Prust Misconduct|
|Brandon Prust Instigator against Brandon Segal|
|Brandon Segal Fighting against Brandon Prust|
|Brandon Prust Fighting against Brandon Segal|
|Michal Rozsival Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Jarret Stoll Interference - Goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Michael Del Zotto Tripping against Sean O'Donnell|
|Matt Greene Delaying Game - Puck over glass|
|Jack Johnson Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|SA: 21||TOI: 59:17|
|Saves: 19||EV: 14 - 15|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .905||SH: 0 - 1|
|SA: 21||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 20||EV: 18 - 19|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .952||SH: 0 - 0|