Ryan Callahan’s debut at Madison Square Garden was reminiscent of the New York Rangers’ home opener on Oct. 28; disappointing. Last night Callahan and the Rangers lost 2-1 to one of the top teams in the National Hockey League, the Anaheim Ducks.
While this game is far from the embarrassing outing the Rangers displayed in Anaheim, Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault was less than pleased with his team’s efforts in the first and third periods.
“We needed to be better in certain areas. We knew exactly what they were going to do, how they were going to press. We knew the plays we needed to make,” said Vigneault postgame. “Obviously we weren’t going to play a perfect game, but that wasn’t the way we wanted to start it.”
The Rangers’ slow start and passing error enabled the Ducks to get on the board less than three minutes into the game. Derick Brassard attempted to clear the puck from the goal line by sailing it cross ice through the slot. Unfortunately, no Rangers were in the vicinity, and Luca Sbisa took advantage by taking a shot from the point. Dustin Penner gathered up the rebound and threw the puck toward the net where Corey Perry was waiting. Perry was denied on his backhand, but was able to lift the puck over Henrik Lundqvist and into the net. The early goal by the Ducks silenced the crowd as fans feared the offensive power Anaheim possessed would once again wreak havoc on the Blueshirts.
The Ducks struck again on another turnover, this time in the neutral zone after Brad Richards backhanded a pass out of the Rangers’ zone. His intended recipient, Carl Hagelin, was backchecking, but not hard enough to beat out Francois Beauchemin who gained the offensive zone and slid a cross-ice pass to Kyle Palmeiri. Palmeiri wasted no time firing a wrist shot from the top of circle. Although the Rangers only allowed the Ducks six shots on goal, Anaheim went into the second period with a two-goal lead.
“It was a tough start. Definitely not how we wanted to start off this game,” said Lundqvist. “They showed why they are a good team. They make you pay when things like that happen early.”
Callahan agreed. “I don’t think our start is where it needed to be, but our response after that, in the second and parts of the third, I thought we were all over them,” said Callahan. “We had a couple of chances we needed to bury.”
The start of the second period showed the Rangers in new form. They started to come together, making smart passes, creating chances and pressuring Anaheim’s goaltender Frederik Andersen. Andersen stood his ground by stopping all of the Blueshirts’ attempts. With time dwindling down and nothing to show for their efforts, the Rangers desperately needed something—a lucky bounce, a break or a spark—to reignite their hope for a comeback. Michael Del Zotto and Ryan McDonagh were those sparks.
Del Zotto, who hasn’t registered a goal in 31 games, was able to cut the Ducks’ lead in half at 18:36 in the second. John Moore made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone for the Rangers. He gathered the puck along the boards deep in the zone, winning a battle against Palmeiri, and threw it toward the net. Callahan came from behind the net and put the puck on goal. Andersen was able to stop his attempt, but the rebound landed in front. A scramble for the puck ensued with Carl Hagelin getting another attempt, but again the puck bounced out. Del Zotto, breaking toward the net, was able to lift the puck over Andersen who had fallen after his last save on Hagelin. It was Del Zotto’s first goal of the season. Callahan and Hagelin tallied assists on the play.
With the goal in the final minutes of the second, the Rangers had new hope. McDonagh fortified that hope by his stellar defensive plays. Not once but twice in the span of 30 seconds, McDonagh checked Perry over the boards and into the Rangers’ bench. His hard checks and no nonsense attitude fired up the crowd and led to an after-the-whistle scuffle that seemed to send a jolt into the Rangers.
Could the Rangers stage a comeback? It was plausible, no doubt. Down by one goal with 20 minutes left to play and the home crowd behind them, the Rangers seemed to have a good chance at a third-period rally. But for the Rangers, the majority of the third period emulated that of the first. The Blueshirts had trouble getting chances and sustaining pressure. The team couldn’t get a solid forecheck going, and, as a result, they fell short.
“This is a game of mistakes and making your opponent pay when they make mistakes,” said Vigneault
Overall, mistakes lifted the Ducks to a victory, while those same mistakes ended the Rangers’ three-game winning streak. The Blueshirts couldn’t put the puck in the net, even on the three power play opportunities that they got in the game. Going against the team ranked 29 in the league on the penalty kill should have been an early Christmas for the Rangers, but their inability to convert has been and continues to be a major weakness in their game.
The Rangers look to bounce back against another worthy opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Wednesday night.