Friday, March 25, 2011

Karlsson sinks win streak

Henrik Lundqvist wanted the streak to reach six. Erik Karlsson had other ideas. The fellow Swede beat his countryman in the fifth round of the shootout, giving the Senators a 2-1 win at MSG last night. The loss also snapped a four-game home winning streak. The Rangers still gained a valuable point in the playoff race on the Canadiens, who got demolished in Boston 7-zip in their first meeting since Zdeno Chara ended Max Pacioretty's season. At 85 points with seven left, the Blueshirts find themselves only two behind Montreal for sixth. They're four ahead of eighth Buffalo who holds two games at hand with one getting made up tonight against Florida.

The brownie point puts some distance between the club and ninth Carolina, who trails by seven. With a 4-3 win yesterday, the Leafs stayed alive tying the Canes with 78 points but only have seven games left. Carolina has nine including a crucial home-and-home versus Tampa Bay tonight and tomorrow. The Thrashers also earned a 2-1 win over the Islanders with former Isle Rob Schremp getting a measure of revenge with the winner to give Atlanta 74. They and the Devils need a ton of help to have any shot. New Jersey visits Pittsburgh, who notched a shootout win over the Flyers to climb within four of the division lead. So, there's plenty to play for on both sides.

As for the Blueshirts, the effort simply wasn't good enough against a pesky Ottawa club that's taken well to playing spoiler. When you only have nine shots through the first half of a scoreless contest, you're not getting it done. Following an offensive explosion, it was the second straight lowscoring contest John Tortorella's club played against a non-contender. Perhaps that's why after Ryan Shannon's tally off a nice set up from Bobby Butler that broke the scoreless tie late in the second, Tortorella adjusted all his lines by switching each center with the same sets of wings. Brian Boyle played with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan while Derek Stepan centered Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik. Artem Anisimov slided between Brandon Prust and Ruslan Fedotenko while Erik Christensen, Mats Zuccarello and Wojtek Wolski went long stretches without seeing the ice.

"We stole a point. We haven't played without energy many times this year. Tonight everybody did. Even in the shootout, we didn't look right. So we take the point, stuff it in our back pockets, and move by this," Tortorella accurately assessed.
It paid off when Prust notched his 12th off a Marc Staal feed. Taking a Fedotenko pass in his end, Staal skated through the neutral zone and was hooked by a falling Chris Phillips but still managed to get the puck to Prust, who went far side from the right circle to tie it at 2:45. The Rangers responded by swarming the Sens the rest of the way but couldn't find the next goal on Craig Anderson. The recently re-signed veteran matched Lundqvist save for save, denying our club of another point. Though the Blueshirts came close with Dubinsky set up but couldn't lift the puck.

The first half was about Lundqvist, who was outstanding in making several athletic stops that featured a reflex save with his left leg, keeping Ottawa at bay. It was one of those frustrating nights where his teammates couldn't score enough to get him the 'W.' Even a late power play that turned into a 4-on-3 in overtime produced zilch with the Sens' aggressiveness the story. There also was some edge with a few scrums as the game wound down in regulation. Perhaps Mike Sauer standing up for Zuccarello against tough customer Zach Smith explained why. There also was an instance where Callahan took two shots from behind with neither detected, which infuriated him. He was ready to go when Dubinsky and Smith got matching roughs along with Boyle and Jesse Winchester.

It may have lacked in the scoring department but the intensity was fun. Despite six shots in OT, the Rangers went to a shootout. Ironically, Tort's doghouse came out for the first three attempts and not surprisingly were cold. Anderson snuffed out Christensen, Zuccarello and Wolski with ease. But Spezza, Shannon and Marek Svatos couldn't beat Henrik, forcing sudden death. As fate had it, Callahan broke his stick in the fifth after Dubinsky missed high, setting the stage for Karlsson to outsmart Lundqvist. A nice deke and quick shot just underneath the glove made the Sens winners. That was enough for our goalie to do his patented temper tantrum as he skated off, slamming the stick against the glass in frustration. Every point counts. Even if they deserved none.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Brandon Prust, NYR (12th goal of season tied game w/17:15 remaining)
2nd Star-Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (29 saves incl. 4/5 in shootout)
1st Star-Craig Anderson, Ott (29 saves incl. 5/5 in shootout)

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