DETROIT ---Give the Rangers an “F” ----not for their effort by any means, but for “frustration.”
The Blueshirts, who were blanked by Montreal on Saturday, scored twice in the third period here tonight and fired 47 shots on goaltender Jimmy Howard but could not come away with a point in a 3-2 loss. They are winless (0-4-1) in their last five games, victimized last night by a couple breakdowns, and visit Atlanta, a competitor for a playoff spot, on Friday
Derek Stepan ended a scoreless streak of more than 120 minutes at 3:09 of the third period to tie the game at 1, but the Rangers let their smidgen of success slip away very quickly.
After a turnover by Michael Sauer along the right boards in the Rangers zone, the Red Wings strung together three passes, from a backhander between the legs of Jiri Hudler to Pavel Datsyuk, who fed Jonathan Ericsson on the left side. His cross-ice dart found Hudler going to the net and Hudler chipped the puck over the sliding Martin Biron at 5:04 to restore the one-goal lead.
Biron, who made 32 saves in his second consecutive start, surrendered a third when Justin Abdelkader's shot went off his left shoulder and dropped in front for Drew Miller, battling with Matt Gilroy, to extend the lead to 3-1 at 14:37.
“They’re the type of team, when we miss a coverage after we score a huge goal, they capitalize,” said coach John Tortorella. “I’m not worried about the team, as far as their work habits. I know we have a good team, this is our first really major bump in the road, every team goes through it, you just stay with it.”
Brandon Dubinsky, whom Tortorella said “fought with his reads all night” pulled the Rangers close again with his goal off a 2 on 1 with Sean Avery at 15:55. Avery, who had six shots and played a very strong game, was clipped in the face by Ericsson for their third power play with 3:40 left. When Justin Abdelkader caught Avery high as well, there was a 5 on 3 for 44 seconds and Tortorella pulled Biron with 1:13 left, giving the Rangers a fourth power play through the end of regulation. But the Rangers had only one shot wide and one blocked in the last 3:40.
“Fifty shots, whatever,” said Avery, who needed four stitches in his upper lip. “I think the frustration level should be on all of us.”
The game was scoreless in the second, but Datsyuk, in his first game back from a broken wrist suffered on Dec. 22, raced behind the net into the left corner and pickpocketed Boyle, who appeared to be playing through a sore back. Dan Cleary backhanded the puck in front to Hudler as Datsyuk cut to the net and popped in Hudler’s rebound at 2:52.
For Datsyuk, who had 39 points in 33 games before the injury, it was his 13th goal and later joined Hudler with two points on the scoresheet.
The veteran Biron, who has seen his share of slumps, said things can turn quickly. “You get a win and all of a sudden it feels like everything you’re doing is working. There’s not one thing. Everybody says the clichés, ‘you get an ugly goal, this, that’, but a great game, a win, and everything after that, every pass, every tip play works, every power play works…”
More from Tortorella:
"The first period was our best stretch and you come away empty."
If you recall, Howard was tested in the first half, as the Rangers forced some turnovers in the neutral zone, and prevented the Wings from firing a shot on Biron in an early power play when Sauer tripped Dan Cleary at 3:27. The Rangers led in shots 11-3 before the Wings mounted some pressure on Biron, who made two consecutive stops on Henrik Zetterberg. Midway through the period, Boyle skated gingerly to the bench, and looked uncomfortable, possibly from a stiff back. The Rangers had 1:16 left on their first power play going into the second with Nik Kronwall off for holding.
Could Michael Del Zotto be returned to the AHL before long?
The second-year defenseman, who played his fourth consecutive game as Steve Eminger sat, is “still a work in progress”,Tortorella said before last night's game. “We’ve been keeping our eye on all the D, and we’ll make decisions over the next few days. With Michael, it’s still part of a process. Is it best for him here, is it best for him there (in Hartford)?... We have to figure what’s best for him because eventually, that’s what’s going to be best for the organization."