Tonight's loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs hurts. It may just hurt more than any other loss this season because they New York Rangers should have won this game in regulation and continue on with their quest for one of the last few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they let up a late goal and next an overtime wraparound. Unfortunately, this team never makes things easy on its fans and now will have to pretty much win out, or at least win six of seven in order to make the playoffs. It is going to be extremely difficult now.
Midway through the first period, P.A. Parenteau's spin-around shot beat Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson low to give the Blueshirts the 1-0 advantage. Brandon Dubinsky then followed that up with a beauty of a goal with the final seconds ticking off of the clock in the period. Brandon made his way through the defense, made a quick move around the net, and then stuffed the puck past the goal line to give the Rangers a two goal lead heading into intermission.
That lead would not last long, though, as John Mitchell was left wide open in the slot where he easily put home his sixth of the season. There is no excuse for the lack of coverage on that play. At this stage of the season, you just cannot afford to make mental mistakes like that. That would not be the only mental mistake of the night for the Rangers, however.
In the third period, the Blueshirts were doing a great job of holding the lead with a couple of strong penalty kills and a solid forecheck. That is until Tomas Kaberle flung a puck at the net from the goal line which somehow beat Lundqvist to the post to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. This time, there is no scapegoat that us fans can come up with for Henrik allowing that goal. He was having a great game up until that point, but he must stop that puck. This is not the first time Lundqvist has been guilty of allowing a tying goal of that nature in his career.
Nikolai Kulemin's wraparound ended this game quickly in overtime, 39 seconds in to be exact, and no one is at fault for that goal other than Chris Drury and Wade Redden. First, Redden was caught sliding on the side of the net allowing Kulemin to easily go behind the net on one side. On the other side, where Kulemin stuffed the puck in, Chris Drury watched and gave a half-a$$ pokecheck that wasn't going to do anything. Henrik had no chance of stopping that, even though he almost did, and it left Hank in frustration, slamming his stick on the glass when exiting the rink.
The Rangers did not play a bad game tonight, so do not take this postgame recap as a complete rant. What was said above was simply steam being letting off after watching this hockey club drop a must-win game because of foolish mental mistakes. They cannot be satisfied with just a single point tonight. It was a game that needed to be won and they could not do that, which only hurts themselves.
Anders Eriksson, replacing a benched Matt Gilroy, played well when put onto the ice. Granted he did not play all that much, but when he did, the veteran blue-liner was sharp. As for Parenteau, as long as he is re-signed this summer, he will have a great chance of making this Rangers team out of training camp next year. Parenteau has been remarkable whenever called upon this season.
Sean Avery left the game in the second period after going into the boards hard with Luke Schenn in an attempt to beat out an icing call. If Avery is out long term, this team will be hurting because besides Lundqvist, Sean has been the best player for the Rangers lately. As head coach John Tortorella said, it was a "tough break".
As I said above, the Rangers will most likely have to win six out of their final seven games in order to make the playoffs. The Bruins and Thrashers won today while the Flyers lost, meaning the Rangers remain five points out of playoff position in tenth place. Their next game will be on Tuesday against the Islanders in Nassau.