If there was one thing missing for the Rangers in the St. Patrick’s day game, it was luck. It is the one thing that seems to have been eluding them for a few weeks now.
There was no evidence of Thursday’s loss or fatigue from playing ten games over the span of seventeen days in the Rangers. Welcoming back three of their key players – winger Ryan Callahan, blueliner Michael Del Zotto, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist – the Rangers jumped right into action. Halfway through the first period, their efforts paid off. Mats Zuccarello redirected Dan Girardi’s shot between the pads of Semyon Varlamov, giving the Rangers a one goal lead. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that was the only puck that got past the Avalanche goaltender.
It was Varlamov who stole the show, turning away 41 of 42 shots, and winning praise from our very own Henrik Lundqvist. After missing two games with the flu, Lundqvist was eager to get back into action. “I feel pretty good,” he said after the game. “The last few games I haven’t seen that much action, so the toughest part is to stay sharp. Two goals tonight. I feel pretty good, but still I would have liked to come up with two more saves and have a one-nothing game. We just have to keep working hard. I think we did a lot of good things personally, I felt pretty good. We still have a few things to improve, including myself.”
Despite the outcome, there are some things that are coming together for the Rangers. Mats Zuccarello, one of the latest additions to the squad, makes his time on the ice count. He had a great chance to tie the game in the third, only to have the puck hit the post. Brandon Dubinsky had some chances as well, and the Rangers generated offense on all of their four lines. “That’s just the way it went,” said coach John Tortorella. “I’m encouraged. We were stiffer. I thought we made some really good defensive plays and our chances were really good chances, so we can’t get discouraged.”
Rangers top line did not generate any points and only took seven shots on goal during the game. “It’s frustrating, coming out and losing that game, just the way we played,” said Carl Hagelin. “We had some good intensity. We had some good shifts. We created a lot. We are not too negative now, but we have to score on our chances. It’s tough to win games when you only score one goal. It doesn’t matter who the other team’s goalie is, we have to make sure to bury.”
The Rangers are 2-2 in their seven-game homestand, and it’s not going to get any easier. Over the next six days, they are scheduled to play four games, and none of those will be easy. “I think all of our games coming up are important, if we want to stay in first,” said Carl Hagelin. “We have to win pretty much every game that’s left because we know Pittsburgh’s coming from behind, and they’re not going to lose many games. We should just take how aggressive we were, and how many chances we created, and continue on from that.”
On Monday night, the Devils are coming to Broadway, looking to close the gap between them and the Rangers in the standings. This is the Rangers’ final game of the season against the Devils, and the Blueshirts are trailing one in this contest. First place in the Atlantic, however, still belongs to the Rangers, and there is a good reason for it. As Ryan Callahan said, “Monday won’t be hard to get up for.”