The Rangers Game Log

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rangers Take a Costly Point

- I went into last night’s game in Florida with a real sense of doom after watching the pre-game show. Kevin Weekes spoke about the difficulty of staying sharp for what would be just his second start in the last ten games. On top of that, we heard about the red-hot Panthers, back in the playoff race and desperate for points, and how they’ve been regularly generating 37 shots or more per game. The Rangers are 1-3 in games without Darius Kasparaitis, we were told. Not the kind of stuff to give me a lot of confidence.

Yet that changed in the opening minute, when a sharp series of passes - Malik to Jagr to Rucinsky – led to the opening shot of the game. It was a good first period for the Blueshirts, despite being outshot 9-4. They withstood the expected Panthers attack with some excellent crisp short passing in their own zone, some of the best we've seen of late, and the team looked extremely sharp. And when the amazing, incredible, words-can’t-even-describe Jaromir Jagr snapped home his 50th of the year, it looked like the team was on its way to a big win.

Not so fast. Once again, it was a series of Rangers penalties that helped to turn the game around. Four straight in the middle of the second period; two of them of the cheap, hooking variety, which becomes far more maddening in the light of the uncalled slash that has apparently ended Rucinsky’s season. Thus, most of the second period was spent in the Rangers zone, leading to a 2-1 deficit.

But the Rangers did a lot of things well in this game. The power play came through with a huge tying goal by Sykora at the end of the second. They came back with a strong third period, only to be foiled by Roberto Luongo, who made several big saves, stopping Ortmeyer twice in succession, and stopping Rucinsky’s tricky backhander on the play that he was hurt on the vicious slash by Jay Bouwmeester. And despite surrendering a season-high 42 shots, they never really withered in their own zone; the forwards stayed in hot pursuit and the D combined for ten blocked shots. Malik rebounded with a superb effort, and Jason Strudwick acquitted himself well in place of Kasparaitis. The ‘H’MO line, with Marcel Hossa replacing Hollweg, provided some good energy. And what can you say about Jagr, who was inches away from ending the game in OT when he made his patented “try-and-stop-me” swoop around Bouwmeester, and his usual move around the goalie, only to be stopped by either the post or perhaps Luongo’s stick.

It was a point on the road, and after all, with the backup goalie in the nets against a hot, hungry club, you have to take that, IF, that is, the Blueshirts, with Lundqvist back in the nets, get two of them in Tampa tonight. Weekes played well in the first and third periods, and made big stops at the end of regulation and overtime to get to the shootout. But while we can perhaps give him a pass on the tricky shot by Nathan Horton that beat him for the first goal, the second was a decidedly soft one, and in the shootout, there was enough space between Weekes’ legs for Horton and Jokinen to have shot Karl Rove through. We’ll look for some better results tonight.

- Sykora is becoming a sure thing on the shootout with the lightning quick top shelf backhand shot. I don’t know if goalies could stop that even if they know that it’s coming.


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