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The Numbers Wrap: Rangers sink deeper in 5-2 loss to Sabres



                  It is, of course, still possible for the Rangers to finish eighth if the Bruins falter. The Sabres and red-hot Hurricanes visit Boston and the B's go to D.C. on Sunday in a game that could be meaningless to the Caps, who have a league-best 118 points. Should the Bs win just one of those, the Rangers could have the tie-breaker with two wins and another point. They would each have 87 points, but the Rangers would have one more win. To catch the Flyers, they now need points.  
                     The Flyers have 40 wins, Rangers 36, giving Philly the first tiebreaker. NYR would need a point tomorrow against Leafs and two regulation wins over Philly.


              As for last night's showing...

             Maybe John Tortorella thought yanking Henrik Lundqvist early in the second period was a way to give him some rest for tonight's game against the Leafs at the Garden. Maybe he wanted to send a message to his step-behind team that was being torched on odd-man rushes.

                But after the 5-2 loss to the Sabres, who clinched the Northeast Division, Tortorella blunty said he wouldn't "dissect" his decision to pull his No. 1 goaltender after allowing Jochen Hecht's goal at 5:17 of the second period to give the Sabres a 3-2 lead.

             “I felt he needed to come out,” said Tortorella, conceding that back-to-back games was a factor in his decision. "That is one of them but I’m not going to dissect it here. This is no time to be dissecting individual players. We didn’t play well enough to win. We have another game tomorrow. We need to be better, from our goaltending on out.”

               Of course, back in Florida, Tortorella dismissed my question of whether he considered playing backup Alex Auld in one of those two games by saying "No. Why would I?"

               Well, maybe because Lundqvist could've used a breather in a game against a lesser opponent that the swift Sabres, who came in four-man waves last night.  Instead, he was pulled for the fifth time and Alex Auld, who hadn't played in 13 games, allowed 2 goals on 14 shots in the 5-2 loss. Lundqvist was in the net for 3 goals on 16 shots.  Lundqvist didn;t have much of a chance on Derek Roy's PP rifle under the crossbar. But may have stopped Drew Stafford's wrister that snuck in five-hole and and Hecht's shot that went between arm and body. The shooters had numbers, time and space and the Rangers chased from behind.

             Lundqvist said they were forewarned about the speedy Sabres, whose defesne joins the rush. As for his evening short work (it was the fifth time he has been pulled): "I was surprised, but at same time,  it's up to John...I wanted to play, but it's his call."

                 At the other end, Ryan Miller was making the big saves when called upon. Miller had absolutely robbed Marian Gaborik, sliding to his right and deflecting Gaborik’s shot with his blocker at 9:20. A goal there would have tied the score and given the Rangers some wiggle room as the season winds down.

                Instead, as the Rangers continued to allow odd-man rushes to the speedy Sabres, Toni Lydman’s wrister beat Auld, who hadn’t played since March 10---13 games ago---and boosted the lead to 4-2 at 13:22 of the second period in a game that Buffalo would win 5-2. It snapped the Blueshirts’ six-game run in which they collected 11 points. Tortorella called the line change on that rush "awful" and the sequence "the turning point."
                So, with three games to play, the Rangers window of opportunity closed even more. Each team, except the Rangers and idle Bruins, has two games left.  But the sixth-place Canadiens have 87, the Flyers 86 and the Bruins 85. The ninth-place Rangers, who face a must-win game tonight at Madison Square Garden against the Leafs, are stuck on 82. The Rangers will need at least a point against the Leafs and then sweep the Flyers in the home and home to close the regular season on Friday and Sunday.
                 Lundqvist said the team “knew coming in that they were a really good skating team and their D step up and join the rush. I tried to play my best but they were making some good plays there, and we had some problems coming back. If you look at the difference, they came into the slot and could hold the puck and pick the corners.”
                The Rangers couldn’t cope.
                “It’s all about those rushes,” said Dubinsky. “We have to make sure we beat them back up the ice. We still control our way into the playoffs. We have to put this under the mat. It’s obviously a tough loss but we’ve got to come back and get excited to come home and play at the Garden.”
                  Ryan Callahan, seeing his first action since re-aggravating a left knee injury against the Devils on March 25 and missing the next four games, played just 12:54 and the Sabres bottled up the Gaborik-Erik Christensen-Brandon Dubinsky line, limiting them to five shots.
                 “We’re not in a position to give away points,” said Vinny Prospal. “We had opportunities, we just never followed up to the net.”
                  The Rangers actually had the early lead. Brandon Prust battled through a stick check by Chris Butler and beat Miller high glove side, his third goal in three games, at 6:57. Roy squared the game at 1. Then Drew Stafford, coming down the right side on a slow-developing 2-on-1 with Tyler Myers, held the puck and found an opening between Lundqvist’s pads at 14:56.
             With Tyler Ellis off for delay of game at 16:44, P.A. Parenteau hustled behind Miller to poke in Dan Girardi's slapper from the point that had trickled in the crease behind the Sabres goalie with 1:42 left in the period. But the 2-2 tie would fade, just like the Rangers.




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