There was a big roar from the crowd when the PA announcer said that Marek Malik was scratched, but I swear his spirit was on the ice. The Rangers, coming home from a dreadful three game western losing streak, were not ready to play and were sloppy and indecisive. Three of the four Tampa Bay goals were deflections, one by a Ranger. Earlier in the season Lundqvist may have made a save or two on these deflections but those moments seem far gone for now. Chris Gratton, who always seems to do well against the Rangers scored twice. Ex Rangers Jan Hlavac and Jason Ward each picked up an assist with Hlavac a +2 and Ward a +3. Our number one line of Gomez, Jagr and Drury were each a -3. Strange night.
The Rangers still scored the first goal by Jagr at the 3:02 mark and then the obsessive defense first coach clueless decided to play defense. Defense against a team that is 29th out of 30th in the NHL. Defense against a team that had three road wins before this game. Defense against a team that had given up the most goals in the NHL. Defense against a team that was playing a goalie, Karri Ramo, who was playing in his 8th game and had a GAA of 3.25 and a save % of .892. No wonder Lightning coach John Tortorella was smiling all night. The fourth line got plenty of ice time, Orr 13:16, Hollweg 13:51 and Betts 13:44 of even strength time. Only Betts got PK time, 2:21. Petr Prucha got all of 8:13 of playing time, no power play time. This was the least of any forwards. One of my sources at the Garden told me that Prucha is being shopped around the NHL.
The Rangers put on a third period rally that got the fans excited but it fell short. They had a good shot at tying it when they were presented with a five on three power play for 1:24 about halfway through the period but they came up empty as Shanahan couldn't hit the net and Rozsival refused to shoot the puck. Later on Mara sent a rocket off the post and Gomez's shot got by Ramo and just skipped by an open net. Then it was over and the Blueshirts lost their fourth straight and are tied with the Islanders, who lost in the shootout last night, for the eighth and final playoff spot.
After the game there were the usual quotes, you've heard them before but there was this from coach clueless. "We've put ourselves in the position where every second of hockey is crucial to us." Really! He sure didn't coach that way. In fact he hasn't coached at all as this team continues to sink like a rock. They are 5-9-3 in their last 17 games. I was wrong when I called them a .500 team, they are sub .500.
ICINGS: Bad news on Avery, who may need surgery and could be out for the season. That would be devastating to the Rangers. Becky Gulsvig of "Legally Blonde" belted out the national anthem and must have been primed for the many outbursts that take place during the singing and she paused at the right moments. She received a rousing ovation at the end.
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