Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Another Two Goal Tank Job

At the 15:22 mark of the first period the Rangers, on the strength of two goals by Michael Nylander (21,22), took a 2-0 lead over the Ottawa Senators. I leaned over to my son and his two friends and remarked, "Ah, the dreaded two goal lead". They laughed and I could sense that they were thinking that this old guy had too much vino. Their disbelief soon turned to dismay as the Rangers, for the eleventh time this year, blew a two goal lead. The Rangers have blown 2-0 leads in each of their last five losses. The final score was 3-2 as the winning goal by Andrej Meszaros ( 7) was nothing more than an errant pass by Meszaros that went off the stick of Marek Malik past Lundqvist for the winner. Now when was the last time we heard of a similar outcome? I will tell you. It happened on March 10, 2007 in Pittsburgh and Corey Armstrong put one in off of Marek Malik's stick to give the Pens an OT win. No wonder the boo birds returned to the Garden in the third period for Malik.

The loss drained the Ranger fans who left with the sense that all the good feelings generated by their 4-0-1 of last week, including the two big wins over the Islanders, were wiped away. It wasn't the loss that hurt so much but how it was lost. The Rangers played a strong first period and then forgot to keep doing what got them their two goal lead. Jagr and company insisted on trying to pass up the middle rather than shooting it in and forechecking. Some fans thought they were tired. From what? Not any more tired than Ottawa or any other team in the NHL with these crazy schedules. Ottawa came in having lost four of its last five. They were ready to be beaten.

The checking line of Betts, Hollweg and Orr was disappointing. They had one shot on goal, five hits, four by Hollweg and were on the ice for the winning goal after they could not keep the puck in the Senators zone and allowed them to break out. Karel Rachunek, who has been very effective lately, hurt his knee in the first period and only played 6:31. This caused many different defense pairings and not all of the D men stepped up. Rozsival again got too much ice time, 28:39, and it showed with his erratic passing and sloppy play. Paul Mara had his worst game as a Ranger taking a hooking and a goalie interference penalty that eventually led to the Senators first two goals. The goals came right after the penalties were over with Mara stepping on the ice. You had the spectacle of three Ranger defensemen on the ice when the two goals were scored. I still think that Alfredsson goal(25) was deflected in off of Pock's stick. Maybe its not too bad when the Rangers lose their sticks.

How bad was the loss? The Rangers dropped from a tie for eight into a tie for tenth, however Montreal has one more win than the Rangers. Carolina, Toronto and Montreal all won tonight. Carolina is now tied with the Islanders for seventh and the Islanders who have lost Simon for the rest of the season saw their goalie DiPietro go out with a possible concussion. This race for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference is topsy turvy and will go down to the last week, maybe last game. The last week finds the Rangers playing Toronto (H), Islanders (A), Montreal (H) and ending with Pittsburgh(A). The Rangers are 7-8-2 against the four.

It was a bitter defeat for Lundqvist, fresh off his winning The NHL First Star of the Week. He has a 1.80 GAA since the All Star game. Last year it was Jagr and Lundqvist. This year Lundqvist is The Lone Ranger. Jagr has failed to supply the scoring punch the Rangers so desperately need. Yes, he had two assists tonight but we need goals from him. After the All Star break he declared that he was ready to carry this team on his shoulders. He has not lived up to that promise. After tonight's game he remarked, "With everything bad, there's something good. I believe something good is going to happen. We're waiting for it. You have some tough luck, but you keep fighting." Maybe he knows something we don't. But let's not wait, let's go get it.

ICINGS:

March 14, 2007
Newsday
Two-goal lead remains curse
Shanahan practices and says he has target date
Daily News
Rangers' bad bounce
NY Post
Deadly Sens

March 13, 2007
Newsday
Jagr & Co. Trying To Rise To Occassion
Daily News
Rangers Continue Playoff Push
NY Post
Renney Sticks To PPG 'Guns'



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