Seven-game winning streak: Over.
With six unanswered goals that erased an early 2-0 Rangers lead, the San Jose Sharks beat the Blueshirts, 7-3, at Madison Square Garden last night, sprinkling a dose of reality on the season-opening run of wins.
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Backup goaltender Steve Valiquette, tabbed by coach John Tortorella for the start as part of a plan to rest Henrik Lundqvist more this season, wasn't close to the form he displayed in a 3-0 blanking of the Ducks last week.
"I thought Vally fought it," Tortorella said. "Four goals on 18 shots, that's not good. I was hoping he would work through it a bit, he made a couple saves on some deflections, but I don't think he was sharp and that hurt us."
Lundqvist replaced Valiquette after the second period, when the Sharks had built a 5-2 lead on goals by Brad Staubitz, Dany Heatley, Jed Ortmeyer and two by Devin Setoguchi. In the previous eight games, the Rangers hadn't allowed more than three goals. It was the first loss in five games at home this season.
The Sharks started their comeback when Staubitz stripped the puck at center ice from Donald Brashear, starting a 2-on-1 break and beating Valiquette at 12:49 of the first.
"The first goal was my responsibility," Valiquette said. "The goalie has the shooter. I can't say I felt sharp given the result. I really don't understand why it went south. The first and last goal I wasn't happy with. I'm definitely angry and upset that I was part of the team not winning the hockey game and keep our streak going. At the end of the night, I feel responsible, certainly."
As was the case in the past two games, the Rangers were hurt by penalties. They took six, including consecutive penalties by Sean Avery in the second, and the Sharks converted on two of the first four opportunities to forge a 4-2 lead at 6:05 of the period.
"I guess if guys don't stop taking them, they're going to lose some ice time along the way here," Tortorella said. "That was my biggest frustration tonight . . . it just wrecks the flow of the game.
The downhill slide began after Michael Del Zotto's backhander beat Nabokov 77 seconds after Drury's goal. All of a sudden, the Sharks turned physical (33 hits to 22) and controlled the puck much more.
With the power-play goals, the Sharks grabbed the momentum, and "we just weren't able to get it back," Brandon Dubinsky said. "I think that's something we need to learn how to do."
Enver Lisin scored his second of the season and second in two games for the Rangers with 2:48 left in regulation to make it 6-3, and Matt Gilroy registered his first NHL assist on the score.
"In the first two periods, we weren't as bad as the score was," said a surprisingly composed Tortorella. "I don't think we were terrible. They score some goals and we don't . . . but we have some things to work on."