Rangers Recap: Rangers Stoned by Leclaire, Lose to Senators 3-1
How many times have the Rangers lost games because of missed opportunities and failures on the powerplay? Well, whatever the number may be, you can add tonight's 3-1 loss to the Senators onto it. It was a winnable game, especially since they got away with a horrible first period, but they could not convert when the chances presented themselves. It is a loss that hurts, especially since once again it occurred on home ice.
The first period was a putrid one for the Rangers, which you could probably tell by the red in the face of John Tortorella during his timeout. Despite playing less than 24 hours ago, the Senators came out and dominated the Blueshirts in all areas of the ice. Ottawa was retrieving all of the loose puck, therefore getting some quality scoring chances. Henrik Lundqvist stood strong in goal, though, and made a total of ten saves in the period. If you were wondering, the final shot count in the first was 10-5. New York was unable to generate anything offensively as the Sens were all over them in the neutral zone, giving them no room to make plays. Luckily, the teams went to the locker rooms in a scoreless tie.
That tie was broken just 4:27 into the second period when Chris Kelly took advantage of a Derek Stepan turnover at the blue-line by taking it all the way down ice and beating Lundqvist with a quick shot. That goal would go down as shorthanded since the Rangers were on the powerplay at the time. The Blueshirts would later cash in on a shorthanded opportunity of their own, though, as Brandon Prust whizzed a wristshot over the shoulder of Leclaire on a 2-on-1. Prust showed great patients by holding the puck until the last second to keep the goaltender guessing before actually letting it rip.
The two clubs would stay interlocked at one until late in the third period when a bang-bang play ended up in the Rangers' net. Chris Kelly, again, would benefit by scoring his second goal of the game. This was a dagger in the heart for Tortorella's squad, because they were dictating the pace in the third period and had just failed on back-to-back penalties. Leclaire was solid late when the Rangers scrambled to things, and that enabled Chris Kelly to complete the hat trick by burying the empty-netter with less than a second remaining in regulation.
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Missed opportunities, in my opinion, were the theme of this game from a Rangers standpoint. They had four powerplays, two of which were in the third period, and could not convert on any of them. How many times have we seen that come back to bite them in a game? Granted they ran into a very hot goaltender, but there is often no excuse for missing the net, which the Blueshirts did quite often this evening. That has become a major problem over the past few losses.
This game wouldn't have been low scoring if it were not for the goalies. Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves on 24 shots faced, and basically kept his team in it. He made multiple saves on odd-man rushes as well as on the penalty-kill. He was impressive, but unfortunately his mates were not. Hank was equaled on the other end by Pascal Leclaire, too. Leclaire was forced to make 25 stops, and most of them were beautiful. However, if the Rangers would have lifted the puck a little like Prust did, they may have been able to beat him more often.
Derek Stepan was a very noticeable player in this game. He registered four shots on goal and was second amongst forwards in ice time behind Marian Gaborik. He could not find the back of the net behind Leclaire on a few chances right in the slot, but at such an early stage of his career, the coaching staff is going to be happy that he is at least getting himself in the right places and getting those chances.
I liked Michael Sauer's game tonight as well. The defense was not all that great whatsoever, but Sauer was his usual aggressive self. I also though Joe Michelletti on the MSG broadcast did a great job of picking out that replay where Sauer was very calm holding the puck. Those are great signs out of a young defenseman, and he is only getting better on a gamely basis.
So it is back to the drawing board before the Rangers hit up Ottawa on Thursday night to take on the Senators yet again. Three days of rest will do this team good because they have been playing very frequently as of late. Hopefully they can get retribution against the Sens in that one.