After a disappointing home opener Thursday night, the New York Rangers looked to gain a winning momentum when facing the Ottawa Senators. Unfortunately, their woes continued on home ice as the Blueshirts fell to the Senators in a shootout Saturday afternoon at The Garden.
It was the Rangers’ game to lose as they led 4-1 with less than 10 minutes left in the third period. Slowly breaking down, the Blueshirts allowed the Senators to dominate the offensive zone. Knowing the Senators were on a winning streak, they now have won their last five games, the Rangers had to keep the pressure on. But due to a few reckless penalties, the Blueshirts gave the Senators optimal chances to creep back into playing contention.
The Senators did just that.
Jason Spezza cut the lead to two when he scored on a feed from Filip Kuba. “The King,” Henrik Lundqvist was favoring the left side of the net to prevent Kuba from shooting, which left the entire right side of the goal open and gave Spezza room to work with.
Still with a two-goal lead the Rangers had some breathing room. Wojtek Wolski would help the Senators cut the lead to one after he dealt an illegal hit to the head to Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson stayed on the ice for a few minutes before being helped off into the locker room. While some Rangers believed the two players collided and no foul was committed, the penalty stood.
As Wolski skated toward the penalty box, the Senators gained another opportunity to make a comeback. Spezza would come through for the Senators again as he fired a slap shot from the blue line past Lundqvist, making the score 4-3.
Milan Michalek, who would deliver the Rangers the final blow in the shootout, forced the game into overtime after he scrambled in front of the net to collect his own rebound, and put the puck between the posts with less than four minutes to play in the game.
The outcome of the game wasn’t what the Rangers were hoping for, and with a three-goal lead in the last half of the third period, it wasn’t something they expected, but they just weren’t able to hold it together.
“We had the game we wanted to, we were playing the first two, two and a half periods the way we needed to, said Callahan. “It seems after we were up 4-1 there we took a bit of a deep breath and, you know, they came at us and sustained some pressure and we didn’t handle it the way we needed to and they popped a couple in on us.”
The Senators drew first blood in the first period after a goal by Chris Neil. Originally awarded as a goal to Filip Kuba, who shot the puck from the top of the blue line, Neil got the point after video review proved he touched the puck last as it lightly tapped the tip of his skate and landed in the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Ottawa would end the first period leading 1-0.
The Rangers would pick up the pace in the second, gaining momentum after Zenon Konopka sent Artem Anisimov into the boards and received a five-minute penalty for boarding and a game misconduct.
With a five-minute power play the Rangers, who were down by one, capitalized not once but twice on Konopka’s penalty. Captain Ryan Callahan gave life to the Rangers scoring on Brad Richards rebound. Richards ripped a shot from the top of the blue line, it bounced off of Senators’ goaltender Craig Anderson and Callahan was able to place it in the top right-hand corner of the net. Less than two minutes later, Richards scored on a two-on-one with Brandon Dubinsky. Marian Gaborik started the play by intercepting a pass and keeping it in the offensive zone.
Going into the third, the Garden Faithful felt more at ease as “Let’s go Rangers” chats filled the arena. The fans had more to cheer about as the momentum the Rangers had in the second seemed to continue into the third. At 4:53 Gaborik tacked on another goal to the Ranger lead after he cut in front of the net and received a crisp pass from Derek Stepan. Four minutes later, Richards struck again. Working to keep the puck in Ottawa’s zone, Richards sliced the puck toward the goal. It hit the side of the net and Kuba couldn’t clear the puck as Wolski applied pressure. The puck bounced off Wolski and found its way to Gaborik who fed it a waiting Richards in front on the net.
After that goal, the Rangers broke down and the Senators came to life.
Both teams weren’t able to score in overtime, which led to the shootout. The Rangers opted to shoot first but Erik Christensen wasn’t able to get the puck between the pipes. Richards and Wolski would also blank on their shots, making the lone shootout goal by Michalek the game-winner. With the win the Senators advanced their shootout victory streak to 3-0.
It was no surprise after a game like this that the word floating around the Rangers’ locker room was disappointment.
“We played in spurts again, but in longer spurts. I’m not dwelling on the bad stuff and there was some bad stuff obviously,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “I’m not going to dwell on that right now that’s something we have to continue to chip away at and stay with it. “
No player could pinpoint the exact moment the breakdown began, but they were all at a loss for words on how they let it happen.
“It’s hockey, things can happen so fast and things can change the game so fast and in this game it changed a couple of times. I felt they were better in the first and we took over parts of the second period, especially after the power play and the start of the third we had a great stretch and then it changed again,” said Lundqvist. “Right now we just have to fight really hard to get the wins and we just have to keep doing that.”
“We didn’t get the job done, it’s on us,” said Tortorella. “I think some of the details of our game are still weak and until we get that solid foundation of the details we’ll sputter. But we are going to take some good things out of this and try and build off of that too.”
Although this is a game the Rangers want to forget and bounce back from, Callahan believes that the team took away some valuable lessons.
“You got to take everything from each game and we have to realize, especially at home here, with a lead that late we have to do whatever it takes to protect that lead,” said Callahan. “You got to realize now that no lead is safe in this league and at any point teams could come back in the game and take momentum from you so you have to learn how to sustain momentum and handle the swings of the game.”
Callahan and the rest of the Rangers are sure to keep that belief in mind as they tackle another opportunity to gain their first victory on home ice when they take on the San Jose Sharks on Halloween night.