The home opener. Fans are pumped. Players are pumped. “Good Feeling” is blaring in the arena as the 2013 New York Rangers are brought to the ice. Unfortunately the good feelings wouldn’t last long for anyone in the building or watching at home.
After player introductions, the teams kept the fans going with a fight between Asham and Glass right off the opening face-off. I would say the outcome was a draw.
Thirty seconds later, Richards headed to the box for interference and of course the Penguins scored on the ensuing power play. I’ll be honest, I missed the penalty so I’m not sure if it was a legit one or not. The following five to seven minutes weren’t good for the Rangers as they still looked like they were getting their legs under them.
Then at 9:23, a miracle happened. First, Despres was called for holding Hagelin. Then, on the ensuing face-off, Sutter pushed the puck back with his hand. Starting this year, that’s no longer allowed and the Rangers found themselves with two full minutes of 5-on-3. Yes, I was shocked too. I was even more shocked when Callahan found the back of the net 30 seconds later to tie the game. Assists went to Richards and Stepan. (Side note: Even though they scored, I still don’t like five forwards on a 5-on-3 especially against Pittsburgh.)
They weren’t able to do anything else on the power play but the Garden was back in it. Then five minutes later, Bickel got caught flat-footed as Vitale blew by him to get a shot on Lundqvist. His shot missed but Kennedy buried the rebound to take the lead. There was only five minutes left in the period so not surprisingly, Bickel didn’t play the rest of the period. He did, however, get a shift early in the second and wound up playing what might be a career-best 14:15.
That gave Pittsburgh back the momentum and with a little over a minute to go, Crosby cleanly won a face-off back to his defenseman who buried one behind Lundqvist that he probably should’ve had. Replay showed it hit Girardi’s foot before going in. The worst part of that goal? That was the only face-off Crosby won all period as he was 1-for-7 in the circle during the first.
The Rangers started the second period on the power play after Cooke took a stupid tripping penalty with 20 seconds to go in the first. I thought he had changed. That penalty didn’t look like he had. Of course the Rangers couldn’t do anything with the power play.
Eight minutes into the period, Del Zotto decided he wanted a penalty so the referees obliged. I honestly have no other explanation as to why he slashed Kennedy as many times as he did. The refs let him get away with a few but after four or five they had to call it. Of course the Pens scored on it and in the most shocking move of the night, Torts pulled Lundqvist. It was the first time Lundqvist had been pulled since March 31, 2011 against the Islanders. I’m sure he didn’t blame Henrik for the goals (at least he better not have) but was just looking for change in momentum.
It didn’t work as the next shift, the Rangers were pinned in their end for an extended period of time and honestly…there’s no other way to say this other than they looked horrible. They were lucky not to be scored on. The next play, things didn’t get better and Torts was forced to call his timeout after the Rangers iced the puck.
That didn’t help either as the Penguins continued to dominate play. Then with a minute remaining, things went from bad to worse as Richards was called for another new penalty this season – putting his hand over the puck in the defensive zone. You can push the puck along but cannot close your hand over it. He did and to the box he went. Five seconds later, Staal put the puck in the crowd and the Penguins got their extended 5-on-3.
The good news is it was split over two periods and the Rangers managed to kill the first half of it as their captain put up “The Wall of Callahan” per Sam Rosen, making sure nothing got to Biron. (Heads up, I plan to use that phrase from now on.) Better news? The Wall of Girardi helped kill the rest of it as the boys got out of their mess unscathed.
Their luck didn’t last as Neal got his second of the game just five minutes into the third after another breakdown by the Rangers. Just a minute later, though, the Rangers started their comeback as Pyatt got his first in a blueshirt from Del Zotto and Richards.
With less than seven minutes to go, after a scrum in front of Biron, Bickel was called for roughing. Honestly no idea how or why he was the only one to go but at that point, it was what it was. A minute later, Stepan got the puck and rushed up the ice with three Penguins surrounding him. Didn’t matter as he got the puck to Nash who buried it for the shortie and his first as a Ranger.
Unfortunately that was all for the comeback as with a little over three minutes to go, Adams and McDonagh went off for slashing and roughing and while the Rangers pulled Biron, Callahan made a boneheaded play to give Letang the puck who buried it in the open net and take the game 6-3. (Look, Callahan had a good game. But there is no excuse for throwing a blind pass into the middle of the ice when you know your net is empty.)
On top of the score, the Rangers had another scare with less than a minute to go when Kreider put his head down and Orpik slammed his shoulder into his jaw. I need to see some more replays before saying for sure but it looked like a legal check. That said, Kreider took a while getting up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Segal back in New York tomorrow. There was no update on him but I think Torts had an early quote of the season when he said “maybe we need to get whacked around a little more to wake us up.” Couldn’t agree more although would like the hits to be non-concussion inducing.
As for my thoughts on the game – yes the score doesn’t show it, but the Rangers played better than they did last night. A couple more guys got into the play and the team did look like they were trying tonight. That said, it just isn’t there yet. It sucks but the truth is the boys needed training camp and preseason and just didn’t have it this season. I’m still not giving up hope.
I know everyone is saying in a shortened season, no one can have an extended losing streak. I don’t believe that. Every team will lose games. The Rangers just need to get it together sooner rather than later. I think they will. Bring on a rematch with the Bruins!