"You can't win a game in the first period, but you certainly can lose a game in the first period."
I don't know who said that famous hockey adage, but the Rangers certainly proved it true with last night's debacle against the Kings. The Rangers didn't show up for the first 20 minutes, got completely outworked by the last place team in the league and trailed 2-1 after one. The Kings' persistent play continued throughout the remaining 40 minutes of play, and even though the Rangers were the better team for the final two periods, they came out on the short end of a 4-2 score.
Chris Drury and Sean Avery scored the Rangers' goals, as Derek has summed up nicely below. Jason Strudwick isn't the most solid defender, but he has helped the Rangers to this point. He made an unfortunate fumble along the boards, and Dane Byers blew his coverage which led to the first goal. Avery didn't get the puck out of the zone, leading to another Kings goal. Take away those gaffes, and some of the great saves that Jason LaBarbera made, and the Rangers win the game. If the Rangers show up in the first period, they also have a much better chance of taking home the two points. Fact is, they didn't capitalize on this opportunity. A tough Anaheim team waits for them tomorrow, and then it's on to the feisty Flyers and underrated Capitals.
The Rangers will take on the Ducks tomorrow without Byers, who was sent down immediately following last night's game. Blair Betts looks to be out tomorrow night as well, after being injured in last night's game. Greg Moore is up to take his place. Don't expect Brendan Shanahan back tomorrow either, as there are rumors he may take the next week off.
In a weird note, Marek Malik and Avery exchanged punches in practice this morning. The fight lasted about 30 seconds, according to Sam Weinman, before Malik took down Avery. Avery jabbed at Malik afterwards, but then settled down and the two were said to be on the same page.
Tom Renney said after that he had no problem with what happened and that it was all within the rules of the game, so there would be no extra repercussions. Maybe this incident will fire both Avery and Malik up, in turn waking the rest of the team up.
The Rangers are winless against the Western Conference so far this year, and the Ducks are a talented, physical team so they'll need to come out playing hard. If that means Sean Avery has to call someone's mom a naughty name during pregame drills, or Colton Orr challenging anything and everything with skates, or someone spraying J.S.Gigure with snow, then so be it. This team needs sparks, and needs them fast.