Artem Anisimov had scored the shootout winner on Monday in Washington. Tonight, the Rangers’ Russian center sat at his locker and talked about his misfortune in a 4-3 loss to the Panthers in the final game before the All-Star break.
“Me? Two goals,” he said, holding up his fingers. “Two bad bounces…unlucky. The first one hit my stick; the fourth one hit my back, goes up in the air and Hank couldn’t see it. Sometimes it happens.”
After the Rangers staged another third period comeback, scoring twice in the first 3:03 to tie the game at 3, the Panthers' only shot of the period, by Mike Weaver, was a riser that was going past the net. But he puck hit Anisimov and bounced tantalizingly high, over and behind Henrik Lundqvist and rolled into the cage at 11:41 for the deciding goal.
“I don’t think they had any business winning this game,” said Lundqvist. “The luck they had is just bothering me a lot right now.”
In their fifth game in seven nights and the second game of their league-high 14th back-to-back set, the Rangers came up short. For a while, it appeared that the Blueshirts, who have lost 193 man-games to injuries and were dressing six rookies, had another rally in their bones, erasing a two goal lead with goals by Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle.
Prust deflected Michael Sauer’s shot from the right point between Tomas Vokoun and the near post at 1:14. It was his seventh of the season. Mats Zuccarello had retrieved the puck behind the net and found Sauer open. Then, when Mike Santorelli, who had scored in the second, was sent off for holding at 1:58, the Rangers scored their first power play goal in the last nine tries. Boyle, put on the power play in recent games, jammed in a rebound of Marian Gaborik’s backhander at 3:05 to tie the game for the second time. Zuccarello assisted on all three goals.
“Even when we were down 4-3, I still thought we were going to overcome it,” said coach John Tortorella, who praised his team’s refusal to give in before a six-day hiatus. “That’s the way it works; we scored a couple of those along the way.”
The only goal in the first period came from high-glove side blast by a trailing Rostislav Olesz at 12:35 that hit Anisimov’ stick in front. Lundqvist, who is headed to Raleigh for the weekend festivities, faced just four shots.
In the second, a rebound of Wojtek Wolski’s shot after a rush down right wing, was flipped in by rookie All-Star Derek Stepan, who, skating to his left, flipped it past Vokoun on his second attempt at 2:17.
The Panthers shook that off and surged ahead 3-1 with two goals in 1:08. Keaton Ellerby’s shot from the left point deflected off Steve Eminger’s glove and past Lundqvist at 3:03. Santorelli slammed in a rebound of Bryan Allen’s bomb as Ryan McDonagh tried vainly to check him away.
“We wanted to win at least eight points in five games,” said Boyle, whose goal was his team-leading 18th, “so there’s a bad taste in my mouth.”
But the taste should be sweeter when play resumes against the Penguins on Feb. 1. Ryan Callahan (broken hand) and Vinny Prospal (knee surgery) were activated from injured reserve. Yes, the reinforcements are beginning to arrive. Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen should be heard from soon.