The officiating picked up right where it left off the last time the New York Rangers squared off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was just weeks ago at the Consol Energy Center in Steel Town where the Penguins were handed six powerplays to the Rangers’ zero, all while the referees missed several offenses against the Blueshirts that almost caused the Rangers to lose the game. Luckily, they responded and defeated the Penguins 3-2 in overtime.
Tonight, though, the Rangers would not be so lucky. Even though the officiating did not directly result in the Rangers losing this game, 3-1, it is worthy to note of a horrendous call made against Ryan Callahan in the first period, to be explained below. The Rangers looked very tired tonight, on the heels of a 17 games in 30 days stretch. But that is no excuse, and the Rangers could not generate even the slightest hint of offense.
- First period: Maxime Talbot would open the scoring a little more than five minutes in on a very odd play. The puck had deflected up into the air and was temporarily gloved by Ruslan Fedotenko. The puck would then fall out of his glove and roll right to Talbot, who quickly shot it past Lundqvist. Aside from that goal, the period was offensively stagnant and shots were only 8-6 in favor of the Rangers. However, this period would also see one of the most ridiculous and hysterically bad calls of the season, if not since the Crosby era began in Pittsburgh. This was a call so bad that it made the last time these two teams played against each other look like child’s play. With five minutes remaining, Crosby became entangled with Ryan Callahan, who he then slew-footed to the ice. Rather than call Crosby for a dangerously bad penalty, the officials decide to call Callahan for interference. Brandon Dubinsky, in his intermission interview would tell John Giannone, “That’s the type of player he is.” and “Yeah, I mean that’s just a dirty play.…he tries to get away with all that kind of nonsense and complains a lot.” Truer words have never been spoken to laughably bad interviewer John Gianonne.
- Second period: If the Rangers play looked bad in the first, it would get even worse in the second. Still, neither team would look too hot on offense, though around the midway point, the teams traded chances with the Penguins getting several odd-man rushes. With eight minutes remaining, Kris Letang would put the Penguins up by a deuce, and just over a minute later, Chris Conner would score their third goal of the game. Conner now has three goals on five shots in his career against Henrik Lundqvist. Three seconds after the third goal, Sean Avery would drop the gloves with Tyler Kennedy, handily defeating him and knocking him to the ice. Late in the period, the Rangers would finally break through, when Michal Rozsival hit Marian Gaborik (5) with a pass mid-stride, who then skated in and flicked his deadly wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury.
- Third period: Tonight’s game would end with the same score that was on the board heading into the period. The Rangers would have plenty of chances, including two powerplays, but they failed on both and did not even garner a good scoring chance. They would record a game-high 12 shots in the third period, but way too many missed the net, including some with the man advantage. This would lead to their downfall tonight, as Fleury was having problems with rebound control all game long, and the Rangers could only muster up 26 shots on goal. It seems that has been the theme of late—don’t shoot if it looks like the opposing goalie is having an off-night.
The Rangers showed tonight that they desperately need to practice two things: the powerplay and taking faceoffs. Watching the Rangers a man up is like watching the Keystone Cops on ice. They do not generate any chances, they pass until they’re blue in the face, and when they get an opportunity, they shoot it wide. As for faceoffs, they rank 29th in the league; nothing else needs to be said in that regard.
The Messiah was also finally called for a penalty in the third period. Of course, the referees had to send Brandon Prust to the box at the same time for elbowing, making the penalties coincidental.
Consistency still seems to be this season’s quest, as they have yet to find any. There really is not anything else to say—the Rangers play games like night and say. Some are good, others are like tonight.