It’s fitting that the last Rangers home game before Halloween ended the way it did. The team that made it their mantra to improve home ice play this season now falls to 1-3-1 on Madison Square Garden ice. But once again, the Rangers got a good showing from their offense, only to have their defense act out a script written by Wes Craven.
In a game where Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head, the Rangers defenseman in front of him could not help but stand by like spectators as Erik Cole plopped one into the net on the powerplay for the game winning goal with just under four minutes remaining in the third period. Tonight’s game was a microcosm of an already young season—the team that was supposed to have all defense and goaltending is showing all offense and no defense, while leaving their abused star goaltender hung out to dry. Lundqvist was run repeatedly, with no toughness to derail any of it. He also made save after save, some making me feel pains in my groin after watching him stretch. Where there was a rebound, there was a Hurricane to collect it, not a Blueshirt to swipe it away.
The Hurricanes got on the board first in the opening frame, when Tuomo Ruutu lifted the puck over the pad of an outstretched Lundqvist off a brilliant pass by Anton Babchuk. This came after Lundqvist made multiple marquee stops, including one on that very play whose rebound was allowed to be shot in. On the other end of the rink, Cam Ward himself was excellent in goal. The final score would not be indicative to how these goaltenders played.
Carolina would score their second of the game less that a minute into the second period, by Jeff Skinner. Trailing 2-0, the Rangers would then hunker down and respond to tie the score. Ryan Callahan scored a little more than three minutes later on assists from Anisimov and Rozsival on the powerplay. With eight minutes remaining, Marc Staal would tie the game after he was hit with a great pass from Christensen. Frolov would get a secondary on the play, the only few seconds he bothered to show up tonight, except when he was robbed blind by Ward midway through the first.
But less than a minute after the Rangers tied the score, Skinner would strike again on a mini breakaway. The Rangers would show some resilience, though, as two minutes later Brandon Dubinsky added his fifth of the year. He now leads the team in goals and points and has been the team’s best forward in Gaborik’s absence. The Rangers also hit two posts, one in the first and one in the second.
With the game tied at three heading into the third, the sloppy defense continued. With less than six minutes to go, a penalty would cost the Rangers a goal again. With Boyle off for boarding, Erik Cole would park himself in the crease and net the game winner, sending the Rangers home with another disappointing loss.
On a good note, Henrik Lundqvist had a stellar night in net and the line of Fedotenko, Avery, and Boyle, “The FAB Three” continued to be very rugged and created chances. Michal Rozsival also had a strong game and Erik Christensen finally looked comfortable in the lineup. But all of this is small consolation for a team that has so many little things wrong with it, that it is hard to pin-point—every night it appears to be something new.
Steve Eminger also took another bad penalty tonight , giving reason after reason as to why he should not be on this team, or at least having priority playing time while the youngster Sauer sits.
The Rangers will now head up to Toronto tomorrow night where they will face the Maple Leafs for a third time this season. Tortorella may have been considering playing Biron in that game, but with the way this defense has been, if the Rangers want to have any chance at all to win, they will have to play Lundqvist.