The Rangers Game Log

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Game 20 - Rangers 1 at Toronto 2

Game 20 – Rangers 1 at Toronto 2
Record: 11-6-3, 25 pts.
Last Year: 0-0-0, 0 pts.
Conference Standings: 4th
Islanders: Idle

- It was an increasingly rare Original Six matchup for the Broadway Blueshirts, as the Rangers are the only one of the six who do not play in a division that has at least another one. So as opposed to Montreal, Boston, and Toronto, who all play each other eight times and are surely sick of each other, these games still seem a little special to me; especially with the two teams in their classic jerseys. Is anyone else out there old enough to remember the time that the Rangers would have tons of fans rooting for them at the old Maple Leaf Gardens? As a kid I used to keep a collection of reel-to-reel tapes of radio and TV play-by-play calls of goals, and I specifically remember one game in which Win Elliot’s calls of Ranger goals on channel 9 were drowned out by the cheers from the Toronto crowd.

The explanation was always that the Blueshirts had gained a following there from playing many of their “home” playoff games there. That’s right; the team played second fiddle in the Garden to the circus, was banished from their home ice come playoff time, and found a second home in Toronto, apparently gaining significant support there. Those who ridicule the team’s paltry Cup-winning record conveniently ignore this fact. I imagine the Islanders wouldn’t have won their four Cups if they played their home games at the Capital Centre in Landover.

- Big Plays: Well, once again I’m forced to point to two questionable (and in one of those cases, ‘questionable’ doesn’t even begin to apply) penalty calls as big turning points in the game. It seemed the team was a bit awestruck in their first game in Toronto and it was a decidedly shaky start, and the visitors dodged a bullet on Matt Stajan’s early miss of a wide open net. But they were settling down as the period went on, thanks in part to hard work by the 4th line, and let’s once again mention Maxim Kondratiev. I am extremely impressed by this guy; he may look a bit lumbering at first glance, but he’s quick with his feet and hands, shows excellent instincts, and seems to thrive on physical play. When the Leafs were hitting early, he was one of the guys who was taking it and dishing it out as well, even delivering a ferocious open-ice hit on Darcy Tucker.

It was Tucker who shot the puck in at the Ranger blue line late in the first and after one of three failed power plays; Roszival hit him just after he released the puck and was hit with a ponderous interference penalty. When Dominic Moore was whistled for a hook which was minor but consistent with the calls we’ve seen this year, the Leafs already dangerous power play went five-on-three, leading to McCabe’s first goal.

After Jagr tied the game in the second, the Blueshirts threatened to take over this game. The line of Rucchin-Hossa-Niemenen was particularly effective on this night. Niemenen may have lacked conditioning at the beginning of the year, and is skating much better now; and Hossa, who has been a fixture on the second line all year, is showing grit and determination, and was relentless in his best game as a Ranger with four shots and a disallowed goal after he knocked the puck down with a high stick. The momentum continued early into the third and it seemed just a matter of time. Until….

The 4th line was pressing deep; Ortmeyer skated out from behind the net and cruised by Belfour, who was way out of his crease. As he went by, it looked like Belfour stuck out his skate into Ortmeyer’s path, and they grazed without much incident. Yet the Ranger forward was whistled for an absurd interference call that I don’t even know what to say about. Not only did it lead to the winning goal, but the Blueshirts never were able to regain their flow. Now yes, blame the team for not converting on a subsequent power play of their own (on a dicey elbowing call on McCabe), but that call on Ortmeyer completely changed the game. And if I sound like a homer….well, I am!!

When Martin Straka took Jagr’s perfect breakaway pass with around six minutes left, and grazed the inside of the post after beating Belfour cleanly, I suffered my first major meltdown of the season, leading the Head Chef to make sure I was OK. The team seemed to sag as well, spending the next minute running around in their own zone and leaving it to Weekes to keep them close, and were never able to mount another serious threat, despite Blair Betts’ two super-clutch faceoff wins (against Sundin) in the final minute.

- Betts was 14-4 on faceoffs; Nylander was 2-10.


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