It was another disappointing night for the Rangers while the Devils gave themselves a nice holiday gift in Western Canada.
Tom Renney's club continued to baffle dropping a 3-1 decision to Eastern Conference leader Ottawa at the Garden. Not even the return of Sean Avery could spark this dead team. They really look like they need a change. Maybe the Christmas break will revive them.
As for the game itself, they didn't perform badly like in recent losses at Minnesota and Colorado. However, the finish just wasn't there and against a very opportunistic team like the Sens who can take advantage of your every mistake, the lack of scoring cost the Blueshirts.
Just like the last two games, it didn't start out badly as Scott Gomez tallied his ninth 3:42 in by putting home his own rebound in front off a nice Jaromir Jagr pass from down low. Martin Straka also notched the secondary assist.
But despite playing a strong opening 20 minutes in which they outshot the Sens 12-5, the Rangers were only tied due to Jason Spezza's 12th at 16:16 from Daniel Alfredsson and Luke Richardson. Off a faceoff win just outside the Ranger zone, Spezza got the puck and took a wrist shot which changed direction off rookie defender Marc Staal fooling Henrik Lundqvist.
It was a sign of things to come.
Ottawa's second goal once again victimized Staal. The 20 year-old from Sudbury Ontario lost his stick and then slid down in front of the net but Shean Donovan smartly maneuvered around him for a backhand which rebounded out to Chris Kelly who put it home to put the Sens ahead.
They carried the play getting 14 of the 24 shots in the period. However, the more rested Blueshirts came out stronger in the final stanza.
The problem once again was the lack of finish. Despite two power plays and a 13-6 SOG edge, they weren't able to tie the contest.
Mike Fisher finally put it out of reach when he intercepted a Chris Drury pass up the boards and fired a shot which once again Staal inadvertently deflected in past his own netminder.
You really can't make this stuff up. It was that type of game for the former 2005 first round pick. Coming out of the corner, he accidentally had the puck ricochet off his equipment for the Sens' third goal.
When things aren't going your way, this stuff tends to happen. I wouldn't say the effort was bad. Even Jagr showed up and played extremely hard. Just to show what type of night it was, No.68 rang one off the right post.
It just wasn't clicking. Not even with key ingredient Avery back in and mixing it up to the tune of nearly 19:00 of ice-time, two shots and a minor penalty for roughing to end the first with Ottawa enforcer Chris Neil. He looked pretty good for his first game back. The skating was there and he was in on the forecheck and even setup a couple of great opportunities but the Rangers couldn't hit the net.
Heck. Marek Malik who was back on the blueline as reported by blogger Lenny looked pretty good paired with Jason Strudwick. Go figure. The lanky Czech who's blamed for everything wrong played 16:03 and worked efficiently with his new partner while Paul Mara sat out as a healthy scratch. Confidence had been an issue recently but last night, he made smart reads and quicker decisions with the puck even skating well enough to jump into the play and generate some chances.
Negatives? Nigel Dawes receiving only 5:09 by the coaching staff is inexcusable. They say they want to give the kid a shot. What the heck is he supposed to do in that amount of time?!?!?!?!?! This is where I disagree vehemently with NY Hockey Report host Joe McDonald. The Rangers have an inability to score goals and are basically 30 fewer at this juncture compared to last year. But they can't give Dawes who has two less goals than Jagr in fewer games more time?
Sometimes, this organization is assinine. Ryan Callahan works hard out there but he's without a point in 18 straight. Petr Prucha has two freaking goals and finally was benched. The fourth line is the hardest working unit out there and are getting more and more chances to contribute. But when are they going to put one in?
I like how hard they work but sooner or later, the Rangers need more offense from the third and fourth lines. Dawes was supposed to play on the third line. Instead, he may as well have been Jamie Lundmark or any old Ranger prospect who was ruined. I like Renney but he needs to wake the heck up already.
Also, sending out the same PP units which never score is a joke. You want to send a message? How about having some balls like Brent Sutter and putting out a grinder? Could a Ryan Hollweg who btw played a whale of a game last night really do worse at this point?
It's about time Renney stopped worrying about rubbing his star players the wrong way. Somebody needs to provide a spark.
And yes. I'm talking about Jagr and Mr. Invisible Drury who is minus-nine in this bad stretch and looks more and more lost as the season goes on.
You want to know what's wrong with this team? Look no further than the lack of production from Jagr, Drury, Prucha, Callahan and Marcel Hossa.
There's just no consistency and that's a real problem for a team that was expected to not only take the division but challenge the Sens for the conference.
They're now in a tie for second with the Pens who won again yesterday. You have the Isles and Flyers just two points behind and the Devils who aren't even lighting it up are suddenly five up in the division.
I don't really have much to say about their latest win- a 1-0 shutout over the Flames in which they somehow managed to get to OT despite being outplayed badly for large stretches (outshot 23-10 in 2nd and 3rd).
Patrik Elias converted a Brian Gionta pass off a two-on-one 25 seconds in for the only goal.
Why can they win without even top scorer Zach Parise or defenseman Karel Rachunek? Because they are scared of their coach and know he won't pull any punches if they dog it? He'll also make examples and bench players.
When journeymen Sheldon Brookbank and Mike Mottau are playing respectable hockey on their blueline, it speaks to the kind of job the first-year NHL coach is doing.
This team is winning with smoke and mirrors. They don't score much like the Rangers but somehow they squeeze every ounce they have and hang in games they have no business winning.
It has everything to do with the coach. When Travis Zajac is still stuck on five goals and Dainius Zubrus is basically a support player who Lou Lamoriello invested a ridiculous amount of years in, you have to look at the guy who's in charge.
He's getting results the same way his other brothers have. With tough love.
Maybe that's what the Rangers need. But hey. Everything's all rosy on Broadway.
Congrats to Martin Brodeur on career shutout No.95, moving ahead of George Hainesworth into second place all-time trailing just Terry Sawchuk (103).
He certainly earned it in making 30 saves for his third blanking this season.
I'm really happy for the Christmas break. Can't you tell? ;)
In any event, we want to wish everyone out there a very Happy and safe holidays!