Sunday, October 25, 2009

Truth or Consequences | MTL 5 NYR 4 (OT)

“There has to be some consequences; we have to go with the guys that are doing the things to help us win the hockey game.”

So said the Coach after last night's back and forth affair in Montreal last night. He was discussing his decision to bench Brandon Dubinsky & Christopher Higgins after the 2nd period as the Rangers squandered a 2 goal lead twice.

The Rangers were the American stars of for the 3rd time this season on Hockey Night In Canada.

It also was reunion night as the Rangers got to see Scotty Gomez and Paul Mara dressed in the red of Montreal. Montreal got to see Christopher "No Goals" Higgins for the first time since his departure.

Michael Cammalleri was unmarked for large portions of
the game making it easier to score three times.

The game was entertaining, riveting and ultimately frustrating as the Rangers fell in overtime after yielding a pair of 2 goal leads. Thankfully, there was no viewing distraction because the Yankees were rained out. Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for the Blueshirts and unfortunately, Casey Price was replaced (perhaps permanently) by Jaroslav Halak.
The official recap is here.

The Rangers withstood an initial onslaught by the Habs that resulted in an early 1-0 lead on a nice rush up ice by the Canadiens' imports -- Michael Cammelleri, Scotty Gomez and Biran Gionta who shredded the defense to lead Cammalleri's wrist shot that beat Lundqvist at 4:16. That capped off a 5-1 shot advantage to the delight of the Montreal faithful. It seemed like a long night was imminent.

But the Rangers settled down and found a solution to the confusion that threatened to make the game a blowout -- send out the 4th line. Atrem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Aaron Voros had an incredibly strong shift that bottled up the Canadiens until the puck found its way to Michal Rosival at the right point. His shot found its way to Havlak, the puck rebounded off Voros in the crease to Anisimov who chipped it from a oblique angle into the high corner to tie the game. That goal energized the Rangers who immediately played like they did in the opening weeks of the season. By the time the dust settled as the period ended, the Rangers were leading 3-1, outshooting the Habs by 11-1 and silencing the crowd.

Still smiling. Gomez proved that he works well with
Gionta and Cammalleri and got himself 2 assists.

Fine minutes after the tying goal, Ales Kotalik scored on a great set-up pass from behind the net by Sean Avery after the Rangers kept the Habs bottled up in their defensive zone for several minutes, it seemed. Dan Girardi made a great stop of a clearing pass to keep the puck in and set up the tie-breaking goal at 14:42. I had to admire how the Rangers had rebounded and the energy in their forecheck that kept the puck in. Another 5 minutes later, the Rangers scored again as Matt Gilroy blasted a shot that wound its way into the back of the net. What was significant about the shot was that Gilroy patiently moved the puck to the center from the right point, which allowed his teammates to get in position near the net, before he shot. It continues to be a strong point of the Rangers' play that the defensemen are scoring and their shots (like Roszival's earlier one) are hitting the net and leading to goals. A positive change form last year.

I don't recall Paul Mara ever close to the net
on offense or defense.

It would have been nice to stop the game there but there were 2 more periods to play. The middle period was the reverse of the first as Montreal outscored the Rangers 3-1. The Canadiens started to dominate the pace (14-9 advantage in shots) and it paid off when Matt D'Agostini converted to make it 3-2. That play was started when Dubinsky was stripped of the puck in the neutral zone and in his desire to chase down LaPierre and D'Agostini ended up flying into the Rangers goal as D'Agostini was hoisting the puck over Henirk. Henrik was down for a bit as the back of his leg had been pounded into the goalpost and Ranger fans like me had to have their hearts in their throats (once again). But Henrik did get up, skated around and returned. Surprisingly, perhaps, Dubinsky did not as he had a place in the coach's doghouse.

Within 3 minutes, the 2 goal lead was restored as Marian Gaborik pulled out another breathtaking shot fromhis arsenal by taking a pass from Enver Lissin and walking in on the hapless Havlak, who had no idea what Gaborik would do -- and in fact, no one knew -- as he moved to his left and chipped the shot between Havlak's legs to restore a 2 goal lead a little more than halfway through the game. And this is where the game turned.

Bad penalties cost the Rangers as the teams battled at the boards and Prospal's cheap shot elbow found D'Agostini. Immediately, after that, the invisible Christopher Higgins highstick gave the Canadiens a 2-man advantage. Marc-Andre Bergeron converted that with a slap shot beating Lundqvist on his right side while Drury tried to dive in front of the shot. Gomez had his 2nd assist of the night. Higgins, not having the return to Montreal he hoped for, ended up being a bunkmate with Dubinsky for the rest of the game.

With about 90 seconds to go, I thought aloud that if the Rangers got out of this period with a 4-3 lead, I liked their chances in the 3rd. Silly, silly me. Within seconds, Cammalleri had burst in and buried a wrist shot behind a stunned Lundqvist.

The third period went by quickly as neither team converted power play chances. The ebb and flow was fun to watch and both goalies made the necessary stops to keep the game tied. Then in overtime, Cammalleri, who often had swaths of open ice to cruise through, picked up the puck in his own zone, worked his way up the right side, ignored the half-hearted back checking of Gaborik and outmaneuvered Matt Gilroy to set up a wrist shot that beat Lundqvist past his glove to win the game. It was a brilliant effort by the former Flame/King who ended the game with the completion of a hat trick.

The Rangers' loss (3rd in a row) epitomized what we have seen from the team through the first 11 games:
  • Goal Scoring -- another 4 regulation goals including 3 in the first period with another goal coming from a defenseman.
  • Eye-opening scoring plays -- Anisimov's was a tremendous shot from a bad angle and showed great patience and skill; Kotalik's came from the beautiful set-up from Avery and blue line save by Girardi. Both came from hard work in the offensive zone.
  • Daily eye-opening goal by Marian Gaborik -- anyone have that shot between the legs of Marian Havak in the pool?
  • Defensive breakdowns -- the Canadiens swarmed all over the Rangers at times and it was not pretty.
  • Henrik Lundqvist being bowled over -- by an opponent or a teammate. Last night's collision with Brandon Dubinsky was downright scary.
Despite being entertained, I was not happy with the outcome. 3 in a row is now a losing streak. The Devils beat Pittsburgh, the Flyers won, the Canadiens showed that with a little more time, they may have a team that will be a force. The Rangers took 1 point out of 4 from conference rivals this week when they should have had 3.

Girardi, apparently listening to the dressing down he got from the Coach, responded well with a strong game all over the ice. Staal, also the target of the Coach's wrath, played better. Callahan seems to still be suffering from the flu as he was not his usual speedy, energetic self. That spark has been missing this week. We'll see how Dubinsky and Higgins react to their benching when the Rangers return to the Garden on Monday against the Coyotes.

--- The Graying Mantis

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