MONTREAL CANADA - FEBRUARY 5: Scott Gomez #11 of the Montreal Canadiens shoots the puck to score on Martin Biron #43 of the New York Rangers during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on February 5 2011 in Montreal Quebec Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
This afternoon's 2-0 loss to the Canadiens stretches the losing streak to four games as the Rangers are in the midst of their worst run of the season. Believe it or not, the Blueshirts did a lot of things right in this game, and also received clutch goaltending from Martin Biron. That, though, does not excuse them on the defeat. They had their chances, whether it was full strength or on the powerplay, but did not covert.
Come to think of it, that has been the story in almost all of these games that the Rangers lose by a hair. The effort is there, the opportunities are there, but the goals are not. Something needs to change quickly before time runs out.
These two teams wasted no time getting at each other, as there were multiple altercations just in the first period alone. The biggest one came during a brawl behind the Montreal net when Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust dove into a pile-up while Sean Avery dropped the gloves with Alexandre Picard. That got the emotions going and the game opened up a bit from that point on.
The scoring did not come until late in the second period, though, when Scott Gomez capitalized on a lively bounce off the boards and roofed a shoot from in close. Up until then, Biron was extraordinary between the pipes and you got the sense that it would take a fluky bounce to beat him. Unfortunately, to the dislike of many Ranger fans, that bounce ended up on the blade of none other than Scott Gomez.
The Rangers took complete control of the game in the third period, or at the very least, the tempo of it. New York outshot Montreal 19-6 in the third stanza, but still were unable to put one behind Carey Price. You may call me crazy for saying this, but I honestly don't think the Rangers put enough pucks on net. They were trying to be too cute in the offensive zone instead of throwing it on net from sharp angles. That wasn't entirely the case in the third, but it was in the first and second.
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The powerplay is nothing but a momentum killer. Several times in this game the Rangers had very good shifts and created some offense. They drew penalties because of that, but then failed to capitalize with the extra man. It's been a problem in all of the last four losses, so coach Tortorella (or maybe Glen Sather) needs to pay some attention to it and get that fixed.
Tomas Plekanec put the game to bed when he scored on the empty net with only 38 seconds remaining in regulation. The puck bounced over Mats Zuccarello's stick and his half-effort check was not stopping the speedy Plekanec. So yet again, after attempting the comeback, the Rangers came up short only to leave the ice in disappointment. Same story, different day.
There were some standout performances in this game even though the Rangers did not get the win. On offense, the most impressive to me was Sean Avery. For the second straight game his persistent effort and gritty swagger earned him extra minutes in the later stages of the game. Maybe the coach should consider moving him up in the lineup. Seems logical, doesn't it?
The Wolski-Stepan-Zuccarello line created a lot of chances as well. They probably were the most active out of all the trios out there, but it all comes down to conversion, and that they couldn't do. I would keep them together if I were Torts, though.
I still believe Del Zotto may need more time in Connecticut, but he showed improvement today. He was smarter with the puck and was one of the few that made a difference on the powerplay.
As I said above, Martin Biron was unbelievable in net and at certain points kept the Rangers in the game. So that brings me to my next question, which is if Torts should go with Biron or Lundqvist in goal against the Red Wings. Remember, at this point of the season it is whoever gives you the better chance of winning.
This is not the time for the Rangers to take a nosedive. The standings get tighter each night and consecutive losses like this could end up in the season slipping out of their hands. With Atlanta and Carolina playing each other later tonight, one of those teams will creep up even closer to the Rangers. There are no excuses anymore. This team needs wins.