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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers let a one-goal lead slip away late in the third period and then were beaten 3-2 in overtime by the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
So close to earning two crucial standings points, the Rangers still picked up a point and are just four behind sliding eighth-place Philadelphia, which lost its fifth straight game at Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Rangers will play the Flyers twice to close out the regular season on April 9 and 11.
Nikolai Kulemin, who assisted on Tomas Kaberle’s tying goal with 3:35 left to play, scored the game-winner for the Maple Leafs 39 seconds into overtime, with Kaberle earning the primary assist. Kulemin collected the puck after Kaberle’s shot was blocked and wrapped it past a diving Henrik Lundqvist from behind the net.
“We get a point and we’ll keep fighting,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella after the game. “I thought we played a good hockey game. So we’ll take the point and keep fighting.”
Only 3:35 away from a regulation victory, the Rangers surrendered the tying goal as the home crowd erupted in its first real sustained roar of the evening. Kaberle scored the goal from behind the goal line near the right-wing corner. Lundqvist somehow misplayed the shot; and he stared at the rafters while on his knees as the Maple Leafs celebrated around him.
“I timed it bad,” said Lundqvist, who finished with 29 saves. “I tried to kick it to the side, and I kicked it too early and it hit my skate and went in. For all the chances they had and then score on a shot like that it’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. At least we got a point, but it’s real frustrating.”
Despite playing a somewhat sloppy first period, the Rangers were able to exit the ice after 20 minutes leading 2-0, due in large part to the splendid play of Lundqvist and a pair of hard-working opportunistic goals.
Lundqvist covered for his teammates on several giveaways and defensive-zone breakdowns during the first period, stopping all ten shots he faced, making goals by PA Parenteau and Brandon Dubinsky stand up to the first intermission.
Parenteau’s second goal of the season not only put the Rangers in front 1-0, but it was a nice early reward for two players who were reacquainting themselves with being back in the Rangers lineup. Parenteau had been recalled from Hartford on Friday to take the place of the injured Ryan Callahan, and was back playing in the NHL for the first time since mid-December. And Voros returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 14, after being a healthy scratch in 12 straight games.
“Olli made a pretty good play, and so did AV, cycling the puck,” explained Parenteau. “I cut to the middle and saw that (the defenseman) lost the puck for a second so I took a spin and turned around and got a bit lucky. But it’s a nice bounce, and I’ll take it.”
After Lundqvist made a string of big-time saves -- dropping into the splits to rob Kulemin on the doorstep off a great Tyler Bozek feed at 14:28 and then making a huge pad stop to deny Viktor Stalberg from point-blank range at 18:55 -- the Rangers scored in the final seconds of the period to grab a 2-0 advantage.
Dubinsky accepted a pass from Erik Christensen in the right circle as the clock was winding down, deftly faked Maple Leafs’ defenseman Dion Phaneuf out of the play, carried the puck behind the net, and scored when his wraparound shot banked off Gustavsson and over the goal line with just 10.6 seconds remaining.
The goal -- Dubinsky’s 18th of the season -- was the result of a great individual effort by the young Rangers forward. However the scoring play would not have taken shape if not for Michal Rozsival’s effort to keep the puck in at the right point and his subsequent pass along the wall to Christensen.
Rozsival, who was wearing an alternate captain’s letter with Callahan missing from the lineup, earned assists on both of the Rangers’ goals in the first period.
Toronto cut the visitors’ lead in half just 1:33 into the second period. All three Rangers forwards on the ice neglected to pick up John Mitchell, who cruised into the slot untouched to one-time Mikhail Grabovski’s centering pass past a helpless Lundqvist for his sixth goal of the season.
That there would not be another goal in the second period was a credit to the play of both Lundqvist and Gustavsson, who took turns making clutch saves at either end of the ice. When the horn sounded signaling an end to 40 minutes of play, the Rangers held a 2-1 lead and Lundqvist had 21 saves already, while Gustavsson had 26.
Sean Avery, Jody Shelley, and Christensen had the best scoring chances in the middle period for the Rangers, but fell victim to Gustavsson’s strong play, while Lundqvist held the Maple Leafs -- Phil Kessel in particular -- at bay.
Gustavsson continued his stellar play throughout the remainder of the game, finishing with 36 saves while winning his seventh consecutive decision.
“We had a number of chances, but their goalie played really well,” said Tortorella. “In these types of games, and we’ve been through them before, if you don’t get that third (goal) it just leaves that door open to what happened.”
The Rangers, unfortunately, lost the services of Avery -- who earlier had engaged in a post-whistle wrestling match with Phaneuf -- with seven minutes to go in the second period. Avery got tangled up with defenseman Luke Schenn while chasing a puck into the corner and got up favoring his left leg. Avery limped on one leg directly to the bench and then headed straight to the dressing room, not to return for the remainder of the game, leaving the Rangers without two of their heart-and-soul players, Avery and Callahan.
“He’s probably playing his best hockey of the year, and it hurts the club,” Tortorella said of losing Avery. “He’s been a really big part of us trying to find a way, and that’s a tough break, not only for him, but more importantly for the hockey club.”
Along with Parenteau, who finished with a team-best four shots on goal, veteran defenseman Anders Eriksson was inserted into the lineup by Tortorella after being recalled from Hartford on Friday. Playing in the place of rookie Matt Gilroy, Eriksson acquitted himself well, logging 14:08 worth of ice-time with one shot on goal.
“It’s always fun to come up and get another chance,” explained the 35-year-old Eriksson. “And it’s exciting to be here with a team needing any type of win it can get. I enjoy it and it’s a lot of fun, obviously.”
The Rangers will look for that next important win on Tuesday night when they return to action at the Nassau Coliseum against their local rivals, the Islanders.
|PA Parenteau (2) ASST: Olli Jokinen (33), Michal Rozsival (17)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Brandon Dubinsky (18) ASST: Erik Christensen (16), Michal Rozsival (18)|
2 - 0 NYR
|John Mitchell (6) ASST: Mikhail Grabovski (22), Luca Caputi (6)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Tomas Kaberle (7) ASST: Nikolay Kulemin (19), John Mitchell (12)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Nikolay Kulemin (16) ASST: Tomas Kaberle (42), Mikhail Grabovski (23)|
3 - 2 TOR
|Phil Kessel Interference against Sean Avery|
|Vinny Prospal Boarding against Dion Phaneuf|
|Luca Caputi Too many men/ice - bench|
|Olli Jokinen Cross checking against Mikhail Grabovski|
|SA: 32||TOI: 60:39|
|Saves: 29||EV: 27 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .906||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 38||TOI: 60:39|
|Saves: 36||EV: 33 - 35|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .947||SH: 1 - 1|