It would be impossible not to start what was a bizarre night at The Garden featuring 11 goals including the latest Alex Ovechkin magic trick without mentioning the Ilya Kovalchuk madness that took place during the first period. While the high flying Caps and new look Rangers were keeping fans out of their seats in one of the most unpredictable games ever, there was the much discussed Kovalchuk about to be traded out of Hotlanta to the sweepstakes/madness winner Devils. Something I was keeping track of over on Twitter while trying to pay attention to a game Washington came back to take 6-5 for their 12th straight win.
While the big Devil acquisition played out as had been widely speculated, the game on the ice was as much an enigma. Olli Jokinen's Ranger home debut had a bit of everything ranging from his first point 8:58 in on Ryan Callahan's power play redirect to his first goal as a Blueshirt in a roller coaster second period that saw each club score three times while also earning a hat trick of minor penalties with the potent Caps burning the Jokester twice. While the loss of discipline put a damper on things, the 31 year-old big pivot acquired from Calgary still had a good home debut that saw him pace everyone with seven shots plus the goal and helper.
In his first game- a 2-1 loss to the original team that drafted him LA- Jokinen centered the top line with Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal. Last night, he played on the second line with Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky, who had success together. Perhaps the keystone coach will even use common sense and keep them in synch. Don't count on it.
“It’s disappointing,” the new Ranger said while donning his trademark No.12. “We’ve got to find a way to stay out of the penalty box. That was the difference. Our power play was good. We scored five goals at home. We should be able to win.
“Everybody knows where we’re at in the standings. We’ve got to treat every game like a playoff game.”
The Rangers came out strong getting 10 of the first 11 shots, testing a shaky Jose Theodore who still made a couple of nice saves from in tight keeping it scoreless. For some reason, his team looked discombulated getting outplayed severely and outshot 18-6. Normally, a power play means nothing for our team. But on this night, they made it count connecting on four-of-six. As I tweeted, it wasn't a misprint. It didn't take long for Callahan to get position in front and steer home a Jokinen drive for his 14th, giving the Blueshirts a rare lead. Dubinsky netted the secondary. Despite getting just six shots, the Caps put one by Henrik Lundqvist when Boyd Gordon finished off a mad scramble to tie it. But before the goal was announced, 10 seconds later Gaborik set up Prospal for the first of two, restoring the lead. Marc Staal added a helper padding his career best total to 22 points in Year Three.
Meanwhile, Twitter was nuts with everyone confirming that Kovalchuk was going to New Jersey. By 7:30, I'd pretty much told our whole section with of course some expected cynicism of whether it was really true. Who would the players be going back? All we knew was Johnny Oduya and Nicklas Bergfors were definites with the other half centering around a prospect and a first round pick. The original rumor started by of all people Denis Potvin produced quite a thread on NJDevs. For a while, the prospect seemed to be Nick Palmieri but when a deal of this magnitude gets completed, you had to figure that aspect could change. Hasan's completely right about all the different scenarios tossed out about who it was, ranging from Swedish tandem Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby to even David Clarkson's name being mentioned as part of the trade. By the second period, it turned out to be troubled center Patrice Cormier, who if he overcomes his discipline issues could evolve into a good two-way player.
As a Ranger fan, I couldn't help thinking how Lou had done it again. Holding onto his best two prospects with last year's first rounder Josefson making Cormier expendable. It's a great deal for the Devils but a little odd in that for as lethal a finisher as Kovalchuk is, he's also known to take shifts off and forger the defensive side. Vital components under Jacques Lemaire. Will it work? Only time will tell. It sure bolsters the Devs' offense and power play. Imagine a series against the Caps. Yowser.
While a wild second ensued with the teams combining for six goals, so much of the discussion centered around Kovalchuk winding up on our hated rival. What did the Devils give up to could Kovalchuk fit in and is it enough to vault them over the Caps, Pens and Sabres. Hell. Ottawa won again. So, they won't be any picnic either. Don't discount the Flyers but it's extremely odd that they weren't in on Kovy. It was almost like the stars were aligned for the Devils to swoop in and get the Atlanta superstar because the Bruins, Kings and Rangers all dropped out. As those thoughts were floating around, a flying Ovechkin got the scoring fest started by skating around the net to groans at Michal Rozsival for not hitting him (seri---ous---ly) with the electrifying Russian helping set up Mike Knuble's 20th with Nicklas Backstrom also assisting for one of his five points. For as much as we talk about Ovie, man is Backstrom impressive. He absolutely owned in this game, eventually netting the power play winner.
The first of three Jokinen minors (a slash) resulted in Ovechkin releasing a halitzer over Lundqvist's frozen left glove for his 37th tying Sidney Crosby for second. Backstrom got the lone helper for the Caps' first lead. A loss of discipline though nearly derailed them handing the Rangers three straight power plays including a near full two-man advantage. First, Jokinen connected for his first in our colors rifling one by Theodore to tie it. Prospal and Mike Del Zotto assisted. A delay of game and trip three seconds apart led to Prospal slamming home his second of the game from Callahan and Gaborik 40 seconds after they'd tied it. Things got worse for the Caps when Alex Semin went to the box for a trip. Astonishingly, the Blueshirts made them pay again when Dubinsky backhanded a Matt Gilroy rebound past Theodore for a 5-3 lead with 72 seconds left in the period. Even the MSG personnel downstairs couldn't believe they scored three in a row to surge in front by two.
Perhaps it also left John Tortorella in shock because he foolishly stuck out Rozsival and Wade Redden for the period's final shift against Ovechkin. How clueless can you be? Of all the baffling decisions including the ridiculous five forwards on a power play in a scoreles game that allowed LA to tally shorthanded two nights prior, this was the most illogical move he's ever made. And then he has the gall afterwards to talk discipline and how what resulted turned the game around. Get the hell out already! Can't we just have a normal coach? What transpired was one of the most amazing plays by such a physically gifted player. Taking a pass just outside the blueline from Backstrom, here came Ovechkin spinning around Rozsival who was just abused and then seemingly off balance while falling to the ice, he onehanded a shot off Lundqvist's pads and over his shoulder for a stunning goal that made it 5-4 with 8.5 ticks left. They'll be showing it on highlight reels for quite a while. In a nutshell, it demonstrated how pathetic our D is and also again sadly showed Henrik allowing a backbreaking goal. I like our goalie and he is good but read the difference between what he said and Bruce Boudreau concluded:
“It’s easy to start questioning your game when you let in six goals, but I don’t think I played that bad. It was just a really tough game. They find ways to create big scoring chances. They don’t shoot that much, but they find openings.”
“Even though they took a lead, we knew we would score. Lundqvist didn’t look as sharp as he has against us in the past.”
If that isn't a ringing indictment, my name is Peter Pan. Was Lundqvist serious? He was awful. I get that he has no help in front of him but that is just weaaaaak. You have royally sucked lately and are killing my fantasy team. How about manning up. For the salary he gets which is sadly too much thanks to Savior, how about coming up with a momentum turning save to stem the tide for a change?
Following the second period six-goal bonanza that featured a combined 32 shots (Wsh-18, NYR-14) with four PPG, the better team finally won out scoring the only two goals in the third. Tom Poti, who absolutely sucked here, made like Bobby Orr, scoring the tying power play goal 59 seconds in even though I swear Tomas Fleischmann tipped it in. The period saw our team shorthanded five times, including a dopey penalty by Dubinsky that killed any hopes of a comeback. In between, a struggling Lundqvist flopped to the ice like a fish and never recovered allowing Backstrom to blast home the winner. Fleischmann and Knuble, who wasn't good enough to play here registered assists.
On a night where All-Star defenseman Mike Green served the final game of a three-game suspension, Poti shined even faking out out entire D with an Orr-esque end-to-end rush that he nearly completed. If not for a lunging Lundqvist with a helpless teammate forced to take a penalty, this would've been jaw dropping. The jokes I made about how he never could've pulled that off here or taken that open point shot were easy punchlines. Now, he's a world beater. Just wait till Rozsival leaves.
The Caps outshot the Rangers 8-6 with Theodore still making a nice lunging save in the last few minutes to preserve it. Our entire D stunk. Rozsival was dreadful but at least got a takeaway from Ovie before the predictable fall from grace. Redden was a turnover machine all night and almost got victimized by Matt Bradley again. But this time Lundqvist denied his backhand deke. Dan Girardi hardly competed. Can we please get rid of this guy? I know he is loved but god, he is so overrated. They should just trade him. Staal at least tried because he always does. Del Zotto was probably our best notching a helper and logging big minutes. But it's trial by fire for the teenager. And Matt Gilroy just sucks. Another Hobey jinx. Oh. He's a good skater with solid puckhandling skills who can jump in but he is really soft. What did they teach at BU? I know he used to be a forward but come on.
Aside from the abysmal night that badly exposed our blueline, I already trashed Lundqvist and the coach, who hardly used Sean Avery with Brandon Prust, Enver Lisin, Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle glued to the bench. Tort's coaching is so puzzling. He insists on starting Drury on the fourth line but then switches it up anyway while hardly giving the secondary guys enough ice. That can kill chemistry because those are your character guys who probably can't comprehend what their roles are. I'm past the point already.
Yes, Sather sucks. Dolan blows. But Tortorella is not the answer either. I like that he at least doesn't pull any punches. But if things don't change, he must go. Case closed. And what is there to look forward to? Kovalchuk and Parise scoring at will against us Saturday with Devil fans cheering in our building. From zero goals to probably 10.Can they just end the season already? You know the stuck up security guard who barked at us like children to sit in our seats prefers that. How screwed up can you get? Ever hear of fun?
Well, at least Saturday assuming it doesn't snow will be regardless.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Vinny Prospal, NYR (2 goals, 2 assists for season high 4 Pts)
2nd Star-Tom Poti, Wsh (PPG, 3 SOG in 26:36)
1st Star-Nicklas Backstrom, Wsh (PPG, 4 assists for matching season best 5 Pts)