Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rangers drop opener, look to rebound today

It wasn't exactly the script they had in mind. When Marian Gaborik cashed in on a goal mouth scramble to steer the Rangers ahead 2-1 in yesterday's big Euro opener at The Globe, it looked like Henrik Lundqvist would win in his return home. Instead, Mike Richards had other ideas, netting the equalizer and setting up Jack Johnson's power play winner for a Kings' 3-2 overtime win.

For a first game, it was pretty good. Once the Blueshirts got the rust out and probably screamed at by John Tortorella following a pedestrian opening stanza, they were on even ground with a superb skating LA club that could be in contention in '11-12. The addition of Richards paid dividends with the ex-Flyer burning his former Patrick foe late- helping the Kings steal a point. His chemistry with LA captain Dustin Brown was evident as their aggressive cycle gave the Rangers problems early on. That along with only four shots was hardly the recipe for success. Still, following the only miscue from the 26th captain in Rangers history that led to Anze Kopitar's first, Ryan Callahan atoned when he snuck a shot from a bad angle through Jon Quick. It was just the beginning for the do everything Blueshirt who finished with a game high 11 shots. He was a one man wrecking crew, nearly setting up Mike Sauer in a better second for a potential go-ahead if the sophomore didn't shank it.

How dominant was Callahan? Perhaps he should be renamed SuperCally because on every shift with linemates Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko, who supplanted the moved up Brandon Dubinsky, they created something. If Dubinsky is staying with Gaborik and freshly minted No.1 center Brad Richards, who came on late, then the pseudo second line must continue to have chemistry. Fortunately, they have SuperCally, who never takes a shift off. Even if his turnover on a shaky ice led to Justin Williams dishing across for Kopitar who easily beat Lundqvist. But there was Callahan responding less than five minutes later thanks to splendid work from Anisimov and Fedotenko along with a little luck.

Envigorated, the Rangers took the play to the Kings in the second, outshooting them 8-6. Callahan had nine of his club's dozen shots thru 40. The man just doesn't know the word quit. Tortorella also had to be pleased with a penalty killing unit that killed off the first four, including a pressure packed last two minutes to get to OT, following an iffy call on Brian Boyle. Callahan and Dubinsky did most of the work along with rock solid Dan Girardi, who was outstanding working with super soph Ryan McDonagh, who made several big defensive plays.

Earlier in the third, it looked like the Rangers would earn their first win of the new season when Gaborik cashed in thanks to a persistent Dubinsky, who took two hacks at a loose puck before it went to the open Slovak for a gimme. Speaking of Gaborik, he was good, also using his speed to generate quality chances- forcing Quick to make tough saves from in tight. Richards was a bit quiet but his play on the goal was instrumental, finding Dubinsky in the slot that steered the Rangers in front.

However, Mike Richards replied with 4:59 left in regulation when he beat Mike Del Zotto to the spot and neatly deflected home a Brad Richardson feed past Lundqvist. If Thursday was about a couple of former Kings sparking the his ex-team to a win over defending champ Boston, yesterday was all about Richards, who wasn't done, finding Jack Johnson on the doorstep for a power play decider with 52 seconds remaining in OT. McDonagh was off for a trip in the offensive zone. A marginal call at best but had to be made nonetheless cause he could've gotten a scoring chance.

Lundqvist finished with 27 saves in defeat while Quick turned aside 24 of 26. Today, the teams switch up with the Rangers battling the Ducks, who fell 4-1 to an improved Sabre squad, who will take on LA. All part of the NHL's showcase opening weekend. They do it again in less than an hour.

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