Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rangers Lose 1-0 in Shootout, Lose Straka

The New York Rangers squandered a Henrik Lundqvist regulation shutout Saturday afternoon when they lost 1-0 to the Boston Bruins during a shootout at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.

After the making a big splash during the off-season by signing Chris Drury and Scott Gomez the Rangers were not expected to have much trouble offensively. Despite the $15 million they are paying the two players this year, the Rangers’ offense is dead-last in the NHL in goals scored and are at the bottom of the league in many other offensive categories.

After the first five shooters were stopped during the shootout 20-year old speedster Phil Kessel beat Lundqvist glove side when he got a wrist shot just under the crossbar for the game winner. In just his second season in the NHL Kessel now has five game-winning goals during shootouts.

The Rangers suffered a setback in the first period when Martin Straka broke a finger on his right hand after blocking a shot by Zdeno Chara while killing a penalty. As soon as Straka was hit he grimaced in pain and started to take off his glove, but he kept it on once he realized the Bruins were still controlling the powerplay. Straka stayed on the ice to finish off the penalty kill and even successfully blocked another from Chara before getting off the ice and heading to the locker room.

Goaltending and defense came up big for both teams in this game. Lundqvist, who has started in every game for the Rangers this season, played 65 minutes of shutout hockey before allowing the goal to Kessel during the tiebreaker and stopped all 19 shots he faced.

Manny Fernandez, who has struggled since being acquired by the Bruins from the Minnesota Wild during the off-season, got the start over starter Tim Thomas. He saved all 26 shots he faced and then beat Brendan Shanahan, Drury, and Jaromir Jagr during the shootout.

Much of the game was played with a man advantage. The Rangers had six chances on the power play and failed to score every time, but made up for it by keeping the Bruins from scoring on their eight attempts.

Towards the end of the first period the Rangers faced their only serious situation when Jagr received a double minor high sticking penalty for clipping Glen Murray in the face, but they survived it thanks to a fantastic play by Lundqvist

The Rangers killed the first penalty and were working on the second when former Ranger Marc Savard found himself alone at the bottom of the right circle. He got off a shot which at first looked like a sure thing. It was at that moment that Lundqvist came sprawling across the crease to make a huge glove save and preserved the tie game. As Lundqvist made the save Savard fell to the ice in disbelief before getting to his feet and going over to congratulate Henrik on the save.

The Rangers’ biggest opportunity came early in the second period when Petr Prucha got the puck alone in front of the net. He was turned away by Fernandez who managed a nice kick save to stop the opportunity. The play was unique because it seemed like the only time during the game the six foot nine inch Chara was not in front of the net to clear any Rangers away.

The Rangers certainly need their power play units to get their act together. It could be that their lineup is too top heavy. Their first PP unit is Jagr-Gomez-Shanahan with Drury at the point, but their second man advantage unit consists of Brandon Dubinsky, Nigel Dawes, and Ryan Callahan upfront. While the first group has 1562 career goals combined the second group has just six. This may be allowing teams to stack up their best penalty killers against Jagr and company and take a break during the second half of man-down play.

You can also read Rangers news @ Hot Stove NY and Rangers Press.

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