Not the way the Rangers wanted to come out after a heartfelt 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. They clearly missed their leading scorer Marian Gaborik at times in this game, but there is no excuse for not capitalizing on the opportunities they had all night long. The Blueshirts had a total of 38 shots on goal but were only able to bury one of them. Sure, Dan Ellis had himself a solid performance in net for Nashville, but the Rangers have no excuse for scoring just once on 38 shots.
The Rangers had another one of those "energetic-less" starts to this game and the Predators were all over them early. Henrik Lundqvist had to be good early on, which seems to be the case each and every night. However Jordan Tootoo's deflection on a Calvin, I mean, Kevin Klein shot from the point made New York pay for their mistakes and saw them trailing by the score of 1-0. The Rangers were outshot in that period 11-9.
The second period just may have been the most careless hockey I have seen from this team all season long. Henrik Lundqvist had to bail out the atrocious defense five, yes I counted, five times to open up the second and lucky for them it wasn't 4-0 at that point. The Rangers then were put on a 5 on 3 powerplay for just under a minute at about the midpoint. Olli Jokinen's slapper rocketed off of the backboards and onto the blade of Vinny Prospal, who snuck one past Ellis for his 12th goal of the season, tying the game for the Rangers.
Following that, rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto was called for a double minor. The first for an "iffy" penalty call, but the second for sharing his feelings about the call with the official. The Predators capitalized on this when Michael Rozsival's attempted clear caromed off the back of Ryan Callahan and right to Colin Wilson. Wilson quickly roofed a shot over Lundqvist and just like that it was 2-1.
Upon arriving to the bench, Del Zotto got an earful from head coach John Tortorella and was sent to the end of the bench where he would remain until the end of the period. Tortorella then had the youngster start the third period on the ice, obviously deciding that he learned his lesson. I think Torts actually handled this correctly. He scared the living tar out of Michael after taking an unnecessary penalty, but made sure to give him a chance to redeem himself in the third period. He would have been wrong to keep him on the bench for the remainder of the game. That wouldn't have accomplished anything.
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Although the third period did not have any scoring, it sure was an eventful one for the Blueshirts. They registered 18 shots on goal, about ten of which came in the final minutes, but Dan Ellis shut them down, plus they could not hit empty nets if their lives depended on it. This is where they miss a player like Gaborik, who is known to score goals in critical situations. Unfortunately, no one stepped up and filled Gaborik's spot tonight.
You cannot help but to feel for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. The guy works his behind off, makes unbelievable saves to keep his mates in the game, but they do not return the favor, giving him very limited help in front of his net and no offensive support whatsoever. It has been a theme all season long and if I were Hank, I would be pretty fed up by now.
The defense was not the defense we saw against the Devils. They did not clear the front of the net of loose pucks like they did against New Jersey, and players were constantly allowed to crash Henrik in his crease. Oh and the whole seven defensemen on the bench was just ridiculous. What was the point in that? Banged up? Don't give me that, Torts, we are not dumb.
I still like what I am seeing from newly acquired center Olli Jokinen. First of all, it is only his fourth game with the team, yet when Nashville took a timeout in the third period, Jokinen took charge of the Ranges bench and detailed what he wanted the squad to do when they took the ice again for the faceoff. I love that sort of stuff, especially when you are the new guy on the block but still have the courage to do it.
Only two games left until we break for the Olympics, which as Jim mentioned on the show last night, I will be covering live from Vancouver. Their next will be in Pittsburgh against the Penguins at the Igloo on Friday night. Personally, I'm not looking forward to that one because Mellon Arena has been a house of horrors for the Rangers for the past three years.