Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
The Wrap: Rangers fall 4-3 in Calgary to start road trip
Hands up if you saw this coming.
If you read my blogs and early story Friday, the warning signs were there. Calgary was playing well, winning six of their last 10 at home, and the Rangers, who have had their stumbles in winnable games this season, had to play their A-game, as they had during the five-game winning streak.
Didn’t happen, from the goal out.
After Friday’s morning skate, the Rangers were unanimous in their message, as if it was embedded in their psyche: We can’t look past anyone.
Turns out they did, losing the first game of a four-city road trip to the Flames, who are in 13th place in the West and out of the playoffs, 4-3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
After coming back from a 2-0 first period deficit with three goals in 5:37 of the third, "we got a little too confident and got a little loose, said Brad Richards, who had a goal and assist. “They just got a little momentum and they get a couple bounces and boom, we're behind again. We've got to tighten it up again right away."
The loss damaged the Rangers’ chances of getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers, who defeated the Maple Leafs 4-2, are just one point out of second place in the Metropolitan Division and have nine games left; the Rangers, who visit Edmonton Sunday, have seven.
“It hurts,” said Marc Staal. “It’s points we need against a team that tonight we should have beaten, so it's not the way you want to start the road trip."
With two goals on their first nine shots, the Flames took a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. The Rangers struck back with a Brian Boyle tap-in at the left post at 2:12 of the second period and a long shot by Raphael Diaz 39 seconds later. Richards followed with his 18th goal, beating Karri Ramo at 5:39.
But the Flames did not fold. Henrik Lundqvist made four saves in a flurry and minutes later, at 13:49, Kevin Westgarth outmuscled Diaz in the crease to tie the score at 3. Lundqvist, angry because he thought the puck was under him and was shoved into the net by Westgarth---and probably also at the sloppy defense---slammed his stick and began yelling.
"We knew coming into this game that Calgary was a very good team with a four-man rush,” said coach Alain Vigneault. "We didn’t do a good enough job coming back in our zone, picking up the rush, and after the rush, protecting the front of our net."
After some more loose play, Mike Cammallieri skated free into the right circle and his wrister eluded Lundqvist, starting his ninth consecutive game, with 7.8 seconds left and the Blueshirts (41-30-4, 86 points) trailed again, 4-3.
"It's just a weak goal,” said Lundqvist. “I think it's under control...It's just a tough goal to give up and it's on me. I have to play it better. "
Ramo, who made 38 saves, stopped everything in the third and won his third game in four starts.
For an important game, the Blueshirts didn’t have a good start. Derek Dorsett’s crosschecking penalty just 3:03 in opened the door. Curtis Glencross’ shot from the left rang the far post, and no Ranger could clear the rebound. Rookie Joe Colborne found it and backhanded it over Lundqvist, who has down, for a 1-0 lead at 4:51.
When Rick Nash’s pass deflected in off Martin St. Louis’s skate in the crease, officials ruled it a goal at 6:49. But a video review waved it off, ruling that St. Louis redirected the puck. St. Louis, acquired from Tampa on March 5 for Ryan Callahan, continued to be snakebit. He has just three assists in 13 games and no points in the last five and was called for holding with 2:08 left in regulation.
Ten minutes later, the Rangers backcheck was slow to react in transition and the defense parted. Trailer Mark Giordano walked in and banged one in off the post on Lundqvist’s glove side for a 2-0 lead.
"We made a couple mistakes where we were trying to create something that wasn't there,” said Staal, “and they come down and hurt us a couple times. We started cheating a little bit."
With 26.2 left, Ramo made his best save of the period, just getting a piece of Derek Stepan’s point-blank backhander with his glove and after 20 minutes, the Rangers had 18 of their 41 shots, but trailed by two.
NOTES, QUOTES, STATS
Rick Nash was ineffective. One shot in 20:01, no other shot attempts…Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were each minus 2, along with Derick Brassard, who was 2 of 9 on faceoffs…Kevin Klein was the only Ranger without a shot on goal…Vigneault on Ramo: “I thought in the third period we had a good push, he had a couple good save he made for them…We gave them 20-some-odd shots (28), so it was not like it was wide open on our end. The rush chances and the chances we gave them in front of our net were too high quality.”
J.T. Miller, who played 9:27 overall, was benched in the third period. “I thought in the second period there were a couple of offensive opportunities that he could have executed better and defensive opportunities that he could have executed better and I just wanted to cut my bench a little bit,” Vigneault said.
The Rangers were 0-1 on the power play…Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore, Carl Hagelin and Benoit Pouliot had assists.