NEW YORK, N.Y. (Jan. 11, 2011) – Returning home from a two-game sweep of perennial Western Conference powerhouses, the New York Rangers had their long-time nemesis, the Montreal Canadiens, on their doorstep. Up by a score of 1-0 after one period, the Blueshirts allowed a goal late in the second, and again in the third, to lose a 2-1 decision on Tuesday evening at Madison Square Garden. With the defeat, New York dropped to 25-16-3 overall, and had a three-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.
In the first period, Montreal got off to a good start as it put a pair of shots on Henrik Lundqvist off turnovers in the defensive zone by New York. However, the hosts answered just three minutes in as Brandon Dubinsky gave the Rangers an early lead with his 17th goal of the season. With the tally, he has accumulated 10 points (3 g, 7 a) in his last nine games, and 17 points (5 g, 12 a) in his previous 18 contests. On the play, Matt Gilroy sent a long pass for Dubinsky, who beat a defender, and powered a shot over the shoulder of Habs’ goalie Alex Auld.
Dubinsky had this to say about the first tally of the game: “I wanted to give it a head of steam, and skate to the puck as quickly as I could. The (Montreal) defense looked flatfooted, which helped as well.” Despite the loss, the Blueshirts are nine games over .500, and continue to show great chemistry. “We have a good team and I like the spot that the team is at right now,” added Dubinsky. “We aren’t going to win every night, but will always work as hard as we can to get a win and the two points.”
From that point, the Rangers and Canadiens, who sported a 14-9 advantage in shots during the stanza, hit a standstill as neither team was unable to muster off a quality chance. New York had two man-advantages, while Montreal had one towards the conclusion of the period with no shots coming from either bench. Eventually, the Rangers headed into the break with applause from the Garden crowd, and the 1-0 edge. In the faceoff circle, the Canadiens held the advantage as they won 13 of 23 opportunities – a .565 success rate.
It was momentum for both teams that swung back and forth in the second clip. New York had the first chance during the stanza though. Just 2:55 into the period, Mats Zuccarello ripped a shot from the far circle, which was gloved by Auld. One minute later, Montreal picked up a power-play opportunity as Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi held Canadiens left winger Max Pacioretty. Both shots in the man-up chance though were saved by the all-star goalie though. Brian Boyle had a short-handed shot for New York, but it was stopped with a right pad.
Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek broke through just before the end of the stanza to tie up the game at one goal each. Spacek sent a shot towards the net, which squeaked through Lundqvist’s pads and over the goal line before a whistle of goaltender interference could be made. The play went under review to confirm the tally for the Canadiens. But, too much of the chagrin of John Tortorella and the Blueshirts, the referee pointed to center ice and upheld the goal. Statistically, the hosts held a 16-6 advantage in shots in the period.
During the third period, it was all Canadiens from the get-go. Just 10 seconds in, Hal Gill one-timed a shot off a Rangers turnover, but Lundqvist sent it aside with his stick. Five minutes later, the New York netminder made a save on a shot from point-blank range by former Devils’ rival winger Brian Gionta. Benoit Pouliot proved to be the hero for the Habs’ though at the 13:57 mark when he put his ninth goal of the 2010-11 season over Lundqvist’s right shoulder. Former Islander James Wisniewski sent the long pass to Pouliot for the tally.
Lundqvist had this to say about giving up the go-ahead tally: “I should have had that goal, but kept my chest and shoulder up more. Everyone is focused on my mistake, and that is my world every night…The guys have been playing well in front of me, and I am happy with the way I have been playing the past few months. There were changes both ways, but you have to be disappointed. It felt like it wasn’t our night.”
Brandon Prust and recently acquired Wojtek Wolski from the Phoenix Coyotes had chances in the final five-plus minutes to tie the game. Neither shot was able to find its way past the goal line though. Prust missed wide, while newcomer, Wolski, had his attempt slide through the crease. “I tried to put the puck on net, and thought it hit the post and banked in,” said Wolski, who had this to say about his first game on Broadway. “I thought it was a good effort, but we needed the two points…We complement each other very well, and I am enjoying myself here.”
In net, Lundqvist stopped 32 shots for New York, while Auld made 25 saves for Montreal, which owned a 38-26 margin in shots on goal. Both squads were 0-for-2 on the power play, and a combined 3-of-14 at even strength. In the faceoff department, the Rangers won 22-of-48 (45.8 percent). The Habs won 58.3 percent (28-of-48) of the pucks dropped between the hash marks. Zuccarello and Gilroy led the way for the Rangers with four shots each. Plekanec and Pouliot finished with a game-high six shots apiece for the Canadiens.
Head Coach John Tortorella and the Blueshirts return to the ice on Thursday (Jan. 13) when they take on the NHL-leading Vancouver Canucks. The puck drops at 7 p.m.