Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stormy Weather - Henrik Cannot Outlast Hurricane 3rd Period Onslaught | CAR 4 NYR 3

If the NHL (and the Rangers) want to encourage a growth in popularity, it needs to do 2 things -- schedule more Friday night games and present games like last night.

The difference in the Garden crowd from Wednesday night's crowd could not be more startling. Last night, the stands were packed with fans wearing their Ranger sweaters.

More importantly, numerous kids were in attendance including my friend's little boy, my nephews and some of their friends.

A young mother with her son in tow told me that the Rangers should have more Friday night games so that more kids can come. After last night's game, these youngsters may have become fans for life.

Led by 2 goals and an assist by 18 year old rookie, Jeff Skinner, the Carolina Hurricanes rode the goaltending of Cam Ward and a fusillade of 17 shots in the 3rd period to defeat the Rangers 4-3 in a very entertaining game. Henrik Lundqvist was the unlucky loser who certainly played well enough, especially during the 3rd period, to win.

The teams came into the Garden evenly matched in the standings and statistically -- their special teams, both power play and penalty killing, were near the bottom of the league standings. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the Carolina team came armed with more and better weapons, and took 17 shots on Henrik Lundqvist during the 3rd period before finally beating him during a power play with 4 minutes left to break a 3-3 ties and leave New York with a 4-3 victory. Official recap is here.

Stepanesque beginning -- Skinner had 3 points

in his N.Y. debut including scoring 2 goals in

the second period to put the Rangers down twice.

Yes, the Rangers lost but it was not in the dispiriting manner of that dreary Thrasher loss a couple of nights earlier. Although unhappy with the outcome, Ranger fans did not leave disappointed because they saw a free-wheeling, fun game with more than 80 shots on goal, some fantastic goalie play by both Henrik Lundqvist (who was called on to make a series of fabulous saves) and Cam Ward and the continuing evolution of a resilient Ranger squad.

The squad fell behind 2-0 within in the first 54 seconds of the second period (on Skinner's first goal), but kept cool, eventually tying the game at 2 with two power play goals, falling quickly behind 55 seconds later on Skinner's second goal before finally tying the game at 3 two minutes later (after launching 18 shots on goal) going into the final period.

Driving fans batty. Callahan scored to make it 2-1 by batting in the puck

past goalie Cam Ward. Unfortunately, so far this season, he continues

to be unable to score in a more conventional manner.

Ryan Callahan had his second difficult game in a row. He was again guilty of watching an opponent score, missed several checks and missed several opportunities to score (including at least one empty net) before getting lucky by batting a puck past Cam Ward during a Rangers' power play to make the score 2-1 four minutes into the second period.

The tying goal (at 2-2) came on a beautiful power play when Erik Christensen (who was told by Coach Tortorella to step up his game) drew all 4 Hurricane players to Ward's left, and found Marc Staal cruising in from the left side of the blue line. Christensen hit him in stride and Staal waited to settle the puck and take aim before beating Ward to the short side. A beautiful play and quality shot by Staal for his second goal of the season.

Brandon Prust seems to be struggling since his eye injury

on Saturday and has lost some of his speed this week.

Carolina (or really, Jeff Skinner) demonstrated lightning-quick scoring during the 2nd period. His first goal came at the :54 mark. Almost immediately after the Rangers tied the game at 2, Skinner scored (before Staal's goal was announced) to take a 3-2 lead within 55 seconds and the Garden was quickly silenced.

But later, Callahan and Dubinsky teamed up on a 2-on-1 rush and Callahan fed Dubinsky on his left and he went high to beat Ward to tie the game going into the final period. Dubinsky now has 5 goals for the season.

In that final period, the Rangers had some quality chances that were foiled by Ward including a bang/bang play where Avery, behind the net, fed Derek Stepan who was speeding in for a one-timer that was snared by the goalie.

Later, during the fateful power play that cost the Rangers the game, Callahan and Dubinsky had another 2-on-1, but Callahan's shot was stopped by Ward. It was perhaps the Rangers' last quality scoring chance. The Rangers also hit a couple of posts during the game. So it is not a question of making some opportunities but as usual, converting them.

Erik Cole (after his game winner) and Skinner (2G and 1A)

were the offensive recipe for the Carolina victory.

On the ensuing rush back into the Rangers' end, Erik Cole, assisted by Skinner, scored the game winner 20 seconds later with 4 minutes to go in the game.

The Rangers now have lost 2 in a row at home and have a 4-4-1 record. Luckily, you have to figure the team will improve once their front line players return.

Except for the Canadiens, no other team in the East has gotten off to a quick start so the Rangers are not suffering as they try to make their way until Gaborik, Drury and Prospal return. You have to feel better about the team as it was evenly matched against Carolina despite missing its primary scorers.

The Rangers are halfway through a 4 game in 6 night stretch with a visit to Toronto (again) tonight for this week's edition of Hockey Night in Canada.

Then the champion Blackhawks, a team itself in turmoil, visit the Garden. By the time Tuesday morning dawns, the Blue Shirts could be in the midst of a 4 game losing streak.

Last night's loss was not from a lack of effort, simply a lack of corresponding talent.

--- The Graying Mantis

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