On the calendar following a less than impressive sweep of the dismal Islanders, Ottawa at home was a classic trap game. Thanks to Pascal Leclaire and Chris Kelly, they proved to be just that in a 3-1 win over the Rangers at MSG.
A flat start didn't cost the Blueshirts on the scoreboard but it gave a struggling Senator club (losers of 8 of 10) confidence. Henrik Lundqvist held them in check after the guests fired nine of the first 11 shots. Even an early timeout from John Tortorella didn't wake up his club. Something he later indicated while having no idea why they didn't come out ready. They eventually settled down and played better the final 40 minutes but this was a game they should've won. No excuses. Ottawa isn't better than us but they were hungrier and got just reward.
They can thank both Leclaire and Kelly, who carried them to victory in the odd home-and-home with the rematch not till Thursday. While our guys rest, I'm pretty sure the Sens play. Regardless, anything less than two points would be an epic fail. These are the teams they have to beat. I could care less that the home blues continued, falling again with the fancy third jerseys across their chests. Enough's enough. This was a chance to go six over and get even more separation in the standings.
Kelly notched a hat trick, scoring shorthanded and breaking our backs with 2:24 left before completing it by chipping a puck in with less than a second left. How he managed to get it with Michal Rozsival checking him, I'll never know. At that point, the damage was done. His effort along with Leclaire's 25 saves made our team 6-8-1 at home. By comparison, they're 10-4-0 on the road. You figure it out. One of these days, our boys are going to have to solve this epidemic, which cost them a playoff spot last year. The Garden should be a tough place to play for opponents, not us. No wonder you can find empties on any given night. Look at what Dolan charges.
Kelly and Brandon Prust exchanged shorties in the second. For those complaining about the unpenalized Jarkko Ruutu trip on Marian Gaborik that led to Kelly's first, it is what it is. At the end of the day, Tortorella is justified in blaming Gabby for it rather than Derek Stepan after his pass handcuffed our new point man, allowing Kelly to skate in on a breakaway and beat Lundqvist short side. Besides, D-Step did a lot of positive things with three of our four power plays generating quality chances. The problem was everything except Prust's high laser were low, which Leclaire repelled with ease. Even Joe Micheletti caught on.
Rather than claiming they didn't show up, let's pin this one on the top line, who got zilch done and were guilty on Kelly's winner. Sean Avery got outworked along the boards and then Ruutu of all people set up a trailing Kelly, who was left alone thanks to the napping Erik Christensen. For the skill set he possesses, you can see why he's been through the league. He's just not very smart, often spacing out. It was his responsibility because Steve Eminger was coming from the other side. A simple coverage as Tort termed it turned into a nightmare. It's that kind of inconsistency that makes him an easy candidate to be replaced whenever Chris Drury returns. I just can't justify playing Christy top line. Give Artem Anisimov, who showed a pulse- another shot. Or put Stepan, who always brings a work ethic back.
As for Gaborik, he finished an ugly minus-three with only one shot. Simply can't happen. He wasn't good in the yuck fest the other day either. Hat tricks are nice but we need our best scorer to be more consistent. Especially since Alex Frolov is a colossal bust. When does Vinny Prospal return again? When Brian Boyle's line outplays you severely, it's not a good sign. Ruslan Fedotenko had seven shots and Prust was the only one who solved Leclaire. Gabby's line better be ready for the rematch.