Well, the New York Rangers didn't make it easy on themselves this afternoon as they fell to the San Jose Sharks by a score of 1-0. As the titles shows, Antii Niemi stood on his head all game long, and prevented the Rangers from scoring a single goal.....well sort of. Henrik Lundqvist also put up quite the performance, but the team in front of him couldn't find a way to solve the red-hot Niemi at the opposite end.
Stats don't normally tell the entire story, but today, the Rangers did basically everything they could to win a hockey game. For at least 75% of that game, the Rangers spent time in the offensive zone, and peppered Niemi with every chance they had in close. Like it has been for these last several weeks, the Rangers wind up making one costly mistake, and it winds up coming back to bite them at the end of the game.
That mistake wound up coming midway through the first period, when the Rangers appeared to have favorable momentum heading into a 5-on-4 power play. Mats Zuccarello wound up fumbling a breakout pass from Brad Richards, and it was basically all down hill from there. Richards was caught flatfooted on his way back to retrieve the puck, and Logan Couture took full advantage of the opportunity.
He was able to break in on a partial breakaway ahead of Richards, and made a nifty move to his backhand to fool Henrik Lundqvist. You had a feeling that with the way the game had been going for the Rangers, and the way Niemi was playing across the way, the Rangers would really need to dig deep to come away with at least a point.
Finally, with about four minutes remaining in the second period, it appeared as if the Rangers had tied the game up at 1-1. After some serious pressure in the offensive zone, Carl Hagelin attempted to stuff the puck in on a wraparound, and it seemed like the play was dead. However, Benoit Pouliot wound up raising his hands shortly after the whistle had blown, because the puck was in the back of the net.
Carl Hagelin was practically hounding the referee's in the corner to take a look at it upstairs, and sure enough, they did. From every angle the puck appeared to be stuck under Niemi's pad, and there was really no conclusive evidence that the puck had crossed the goal line. That was, until, a shot from the side caught the puck slipping between Niemi's pad, and just crossing the goal line.
I'm not entirely sure what camera angles the NHL has available to them in such situations, but there was really no denying the fact that the puck went in the net. But, as usual, the Rangers have been screwed more often then not on these types of calls, and it turned out that way once again. The call from Toronto was that they had no clear indication that the puck had crossed the line, which in turn lead to the call of no goal.
The entire bench was up in arms once the final call was made, and you visibly see it angered the Rangers quite a bit. They wound up channeling that anger in the play throughout the third period, but they still weren't able to find a way to beat Niemi. The final buzzer sounded, and two more points went flying out the window for the New York Rangers.
While it's always frustrating to lose a game because of a red-hot goaltender, there were some really encouraging signs coming from that game. Effort definitely wasn't an issue in this game, as the Rangers generated plenty of scoring chances to win the game. Their main issue right now is getting some mental toughness back, and converting on all of those glorious opportunities. The Rangers have three massive games coming up on the road, and two of them are against Metropolitan Division opponent's. If there was anytime to string together a few wins, it'd be on this upcoming road trip. Hopefully the Rangers respond accordingly.