Ranger fans once again didn’t receive what they wanted from the Blueshirts, an ovation at center ice after a win. Continuing their troubles on home ice, the Rangers fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 last night.
Disappointment and frustration were the two words floating around the Rangers’ locker room. And those words were circulating with good reason. The Rangers had opportunities, they made fewer mistakes and they played more consistently, which Head Coach John Tortorella was pleased with. But even with all their opportunities, they outshot the Canes 43 to 38, and diligent work ethic, the Rangers still made enough mistakes for the Canes to gain the victory.
A major reason for the Canes’ win was because of teenager Jeff Skinner. The 18-year-old rookie and youngest player in the NHL played like a seasoned pro as he hustled to the puck, created opportunities and finished plays. Ending the night with two goals and a total of three points, Skinner was the Canes’ offensive leader. His most important contribution came late in the third period when he hustled behind the Rangers’ net to get a rebound, made a perfect pass to Erik Cole who positioned himself dead center in front of the goal and put the puck between the pipes to score the game-winning, power play goal.
“I thought I had it,” said Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist of Cole’s goal. “It was very disappointing, and a tough way to lose a game.”
Although the score doesn’t show it Lundqvist, who had 34 saves on the night, had an outstanding game. He scrambled on all fours to snatch up pucks and acted like he had eight arms by grabbing pucks out midair, which made the Garden crowd stand on its feet and chant his name. His positioning was spot on, but small glitches in the Ranger defense and turnovers in the neutral zone helped the Canes take home the victory.
“Frustration is involved because he had a great game,” said Ryan Callahan of Lundqvist.
Even with the Rangers’ problems, one positive is the Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov line is meshing well together and creating scoring opportunities. In the absence of Ranger offensive powerhouses Chris Drury, Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal who are all out with injuries, the Rangers’ first line is proving that the team’s offense isn’t just made up of a few players, but rather every Ranger poses a threat to the opposing team.
Callahan continues to stay hot as he tallied a goal and an assist last night, which extends his point streak to five consecutive games. Dubinsky also had a goal while Anisimov tallied an assist.
“They have been really good offensively, forechecking well, creating chances,” Marc Staal said of the Rangers’ first line. “Unfortunately, in the end, the bounces were slipping by us.”
Staal not only wanted to come away last night with a win to improve the Rangers’ record, but he also had another reason—bragging rights. Once again Staal was facing his older brother, Carolina Captain Eric Staal for the 13th time in his career. Until tonight they both had a 6-5-1 record against each other, but older brother Eric now has an edge in the sibling rivalry.
Marc Staal didn’t end the game totally unaccomplished as he was able to tie the game at two in the second period after he scored off a pass from Erik Christensen. His brother was also able to tally a point when he assisted on the Canes’ second goal of the night.
Another Ranger defenseman worth mentioning is Dan Girardi, who is continually proving his is willing to sacrifice his body in order to come away with the win. Girardi is now second in the NHL for blocked shots and had three blocked shots in the first period, one of which most definitely left a dent in his shoulder. The young veteran defenseman is without a doubt is proving why the Rangers re-signed him for another four years.
With a lot of individuals doing their jobs the Rangers just need to find a way to win as a team. All the elements to a great team are there, they just aren’t falling into place yet.
As Tortorella put it, “We still need to continue to work on how we want to play. We got to keep on fighting. We can’t break apart, and eventually I think some things will bounce our way.”
He hopes the Rangers will continue to progress as the season continues. As for tonight, Tortorella had a much better attitude than he had after Wednesday night’s loss.
“I am really happy about a lot of things with our team, but there are some things we still have to work on to be a better club,” he said. “We did a lot of good things. I still think we have to close up our neutral zone, our gaps need to be better, defensively we still have to work on things, but I’m not unhappy with the work ethic of the hockey club tonight.”
It seems the Rangers need to do a lot of great things and soon as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow and the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. With practically no rest, the Rangers need to progress their game quickly.