NEW YORK – A rookie made Madison Square Garden his own personal coming out party. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the 24-year-old wasn’t wearing blue. Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers stopped 40 shots in 65 minutes of play, then three more in a shootout to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-2 shootout win over the Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. Drouin-Deslauriers, who made his NHL debut three weeks ago, won only his third career game.
“I thought he had a workmanlike game. He’s a big guy,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of his goaltender. “He was in the right spots, and made a 40-save performance look pedestrian.”
Drouin-Deslauriers ended the game when he stopped Rangers assistant captain Markus Naslund on the final shootout attempt by sensationally flashing the glove and catching Naslund’s wrister from close range.
“I was going to go five-hole, but Zherdev tried that and [Drouin-Deslauriers] closed that off, so I tried to get it by his glove hand,” Naslund said. “He made a good save.”
Meanwhile, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots in regulation and overtime, but let the game winning goal sneak by in the shootout off the stick of Edmonton winger Ales Hemsky. The Czech sniper came in and sent a wrister glove side. Lundqvist got most of it, but the puck kept moving towards twine before he could save it.
“It slid on the glove and I thought I had it,” Lundqvist said. “I tried to locate the puck and I saw it went in behind me. It’s a little frustrating to let that one in.”
Edmonton (8-6-1) got on the score sheet first on a deflection goal. Fernando Pisani sent the puck towards twine from the left point, and watched as it deflected off the skate of Erik Cole and past Lundqvist. After a review to make sure Cole didn’t kick the puck in, it was ruled 1-0 Oilers just 3:27 into the first period.
For the Rangers (11-5-2), it was a lackadaisical start to the inter-conference match-up. It’s a familiar tune for the Blueshirts, one they want to turn around.
“I can’t necessarily say we played our best, or played 60 minutes. When this team plays its best, we’re going to win most if not every night,” Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “Like I said, we had a tough first period, and another tough goal against us. We found a way to get ourselves back in the hockey game, and put a lot of pressure on them to give ourselves a chance to win.”
“We’ll make sure it’s a good point in the long run,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “We got going, I didn’t really like our start, but as soon as we engaged physically and got pucks in on them and fore-checked, worked hard both ways, established what we want to be as a team, [we played better]. Tonight, it was the start that needed to be better.”
Renney said he used an unusual tactic to get his troops moving – he didn’t venture into the locker room during either intermission.
“In fairness to the guys, they made a decision however they chose to deal with it. That’s a tactic you use as a coach,” Renney said. “There’s good leadership in there. These guys know what it takes to win, they’re passionate. To stay out of there sometimes and let them talk about it, secure in their own minds what they have to do, it doesn’t have to come from me.”
“We have to stick to the system. When things go wrong, we can’t deviate from the good things we’re doing,” Dubinsky said. “We have to play a physical game, fore-check hard and back-check hard, and really try to play as a six man team out there instead of the forwards or defense playing and being a little disconnected.”
“We did it to ourselves. We have to play with more passion, and play the game we do when we play well,” Naslund said. “We seem to do that when we’re down a couple goals every game. That’s not good enough; it takes too much work to get back in games, and most times we don’t get that point. The start is going to be crucial if we want to start winning games.”
After that first intermission, the Rangers threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Oilers. And upon further examination, they may have thrown that, too. New York fired 20 shots on goal in the second period, but Drouin-Deslauriers stopped 19 of them. The Oilers still struck first early in the period on another deflection. Lubomir Visnovsky fired the puck from the left point towards the net. Kyle Brodziak was sitting inside the circles, and calmly deflected it past Lundqvist for the 2-0 lead.
The Rangers responded nearly five minutes later, with a little help from the Garden faithful. While fans in section 428 chanted a portion of the “Rangers Goal Song” in an effort to will the team to pay-dirt, the Rangers somehow paid off their superstitious supporters when Ryan Callahan carried the puck into the zone with Paul Mara to his left. Callahan sent a feed to Mara, who wristed it past Drouin-Deslauriers from the left faceoff dot to halve the Oilers lead, and send that section into delirium.
The Rangers had more chances than Edmonton in the stanza, including one by Wade Redden that went off the outside of the left post on a power play with 5:28 left. Then, with 2:01 left in the period, Markus Naslund found Callahan on the doorstep. His shot was brought nearly to a complete stop by Drouin-Deslauriers, but still deflected off the back of his pad and towards the goal line. As the puck slid precariously on the goal line, the rookie keeper lunged towards the net to smother the puck with his blocker.
It took a lengthy video review, but referee Gord Dwyer eventually signaled no goal.
The Rangers came out hard again in the third, and this time, it paid off. Scott Gomez shot the puck from the left point, and the rebound sat out in front. Chris Drury was there, and the captain shot it with one hand as he was falling down. He didn’t get all of it, but he got just enough to muscle the puck over Drouin-Deslauriers’ pad to tie the game 46 seconds into the third, and send the Garden crowd into a frenzy.
But that’s the last time the entire crowd sang the Goal Song, as the Rangers were turned away every other time by Drouin-Deslauriers, who was forced to make 33 saves in those final 45 minutes.
“I thought we’ve had some greasy wins, some wins we got away with after some poor play, and still left here happy,” Drury said. “We should leave here happy tonight. For 35-40 minutes, we knuckled down and battled back to tie it up and get a huge point.”
The 40 saves are a career high for Drouin-Deslauriers, after stopping 37 shots Sunday night at New Jersey.
With the loss, Lundqvist’s record is now 9-4-2 on the season, 1-1 in the shootout.
Edmonton closed their seven-game road trip 4-3-0.
The Rangers penalty killing unit has stoned teams during 12 of their 18 games this year. They now sport an Eastern Conference-leading 89.9% success rate.