The New York Rangers got good news hours before their Monday night clash with the Anaheim Ducks. Captain Ryan Callahan, who missed the last seven games due to a broken thumb, returned ahead of schedule to take the ice with the rest of the Blueshirts. And it's just in time as the Rangers faced one of the best teams in the league for the second time this season.
The last time the Rangers faced the Ducks, Anaheim obliterated them 6-0 on October 10 during the Rangers' long nine-game road trip. Now, weeks later, the Ducks finished up an eight-game road trip with this game tonight, a trip where they've earned a 4-2-1 record so far. The Ducks entered the game tied for second with San Jose in points in the Western Conference standings. Meanwhile, the Rangers hoped to extend their season-high three game win streak even further and bring their record to .500 for the first time this season.
The Rangers (6-8-0) would not get the revenge they were looking for as the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Blueshirts at MSG by a score of 2-1. The Ducks (12-3-1) finish their road trip with a 5-2-1 record and they end the Rangers' win streak at three games.
The Blueshirts came out hitting, for sure buoyed by Callahan's presence in the lineup once again. Callahan played on the third line with Brian Boyle on the other wing and Derick Brassard centering. (With Callahan's return to the lineup, J.T. Miller was surprisingly scratched from the lineup.) But, it didn't take long for Anaheim to score. The Ducks took advantage of a bad zone clearing attempt Sloppy defensive coverage by the Rangers led to star forward Corey Perry having two chances to get the puck past starter Henrik Lundqvist. His second chance, just shy of two and a half minutes into the game, would become his ninth goal on the season. Perry is one of the more talented players in the league. To leave him uncovered near the front of the net is just asking for disaster. But, it all started with a poor choice trying to clear the puck out of the zone with an attempt that went from the corner boards across the slot towards the benches. Anaheim is just too good a team to not capitalize on that.
The Rangers looked to get the puck back on Anaheim's end of the ice and apply pressure, but the Ducks had other ideas. Not long before the midpoint of the first period, a Ranger turnover led to an early two goal lead for the Ducks. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin intercepted a Ranger clearing and passed the puck to Kyle Palmieri, who scored his fourth of the year with a quick shot that hit the post, then Lundqvist's back, before surpassing the goal line and lighting the lamp. With this goal, the Ducks had now scored eight unanswered goals on the Rangers so far this season.
Even after tonight's second goal, despite the Rangers continued physical presence and outshooting the Ducks 10-6 in the period, the Ducks were more effective with their puck possession. The majority of the Blueshirts' shots did not represent a true test for rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen, who came into the game with after three solid performances to start his career. Andersen is 2-0-0 in those first three games (two starts) and has only allowed four goals in those games.
Both teams started the second period with sloppy play, but the Ducks still seem to be the more organized team on defense. The Rangers had a tough time getting the puck through the neutral zone. And even when they did, they had issues getting past Anaheim's defense at the blue line. About seven minutes in, the Brassard line was finally able to sustain some solid pressure on the Ducks, forcing them to take an icing and a timeout. The Rangers were a bit more aggressive on the offensive side but although, they were getting a few odd man rushes, none yielded a quality scoring chance. They were also still giving up a few odd man rushes themselves.
As the period progressed, it was clear Anaheim was playing to protect the 2-0 lead, only looking to rush to the net on those odd man situations. The Ducks clogged up the slot, tied up any Rangers there, and kept the action to the boards.
Anaheim could have gone for the jugular and repeated what happened on October 10, but this time, the Ducks were feeling the fatigue of playing several days on the road and of playing without some of their top stars - the position the Rangers were in not too long ago. Anaheim played tonight's game without Jakob Silfverberg, Sheldon Souray, Matt Beleskey, Viktor Fasth, Saku Koivu, and Teemu Selanne - all of which are injured. If the Rangers could just keep pouring it on and keep the puck on the Anaheim end of the ice, they could work their way to the net and get the goal they needed to get their confidence back.
Late in the second period, Anaheim's strategy and fatigue, coupled with the constant effort from the Rangers, finally paid off. John Moore pinched in to keep the puck in the zone. Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan were able to get chances in close on Andersen. But, it took the speed and alertness of defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who skated in to get the loose puck and lifted it past a sprawled Andersen. For Del Zotto, who has been recently been the subject of trade rumors, it was his first goal in 31 games - something that would seem to be an impossibility for such an offensively talented and speedy defenseman.
The Blueshirts would close out the second period with brute force as defenseman Ryan McDonagh checked Anaheim forward Corey Perry into the Rangers bench not once, but twice - resulting in some angry Ducks as the horn sounded. The Rangers outshot Anaheim 15-6 in the second period and finally, after five periods of hockey, they had their first goal against the Ducks this season. What should also be noted is that at this point in the game, the Rangers had yet to take a penalty - something that plagued the Rangers in earlier games this year.
Anaheim started the third period strong, seemingly finding another gear to go to. Six minutes into the third, the Garden was silent. Seven minutes into the period, a smattering of boos could be heard as the Rangers had extreme difficultly getting the puck out of their zone. During those seven minutes, the Ducks earned seven shots (Anaheim had six shots in each of the first two periods). Once again, the Rangers looked like they did in the first. The Ducks kept the Rangers from getting any real opportunities in the offensive zone for several minutes. The Blueshirts weren't able to pressure the Anaheim defense until the midpoint of the third.
The Rangers were finally able to put together a minute of solid forechecking pressure with Pouliot, Brassard, and John Moore getting chances on one shift, then Krieder getting a great chance on the following shift. Then, McDonagh was able to get two big chances on Andersen, who was able to stop both with great saves. Later in the shift, Pouliot was set up on the rush for another great scoring chance and Andersen robbed him, but the Rangers were able to draw only the second penalty of the game.
On the ensuing power play, the Rangers got their chances and Andersen showed he can meet the challenge when tested. Then, the Rangers had problems getting set up in the zone. But, then with ten seconds left in defenseman's Bryan Allen hooking penalty, Ryan Getzlaf was called for slashing Derek Stepan, Unfortunately, it took the Rangers' first penalty of the night to end their power play. Just as the Rangers pulled Lundqvist from the net, to try to make it a 6-4 power play, Pouliot took a slashing penalty. The Ducks applied the pressure, preventing the Rangers from pulling Lundqvist again for the extra skater. Then, Anaheim got further help when the Rangers bench was called for a too many men on the ice penalty, making it a five-on-three for the Ducks.
Andersen made 32 saves for the Ducks to earn his third win of the season and was especially solid for them in the last few minutes of the third period - when the Rangers put the most pressure on him.
Lundqvist made 23 saves, but dropped to 4-6-0 on the year. The Ducks entered the game with the 29th penalty kill in the NHL, but they were able to kill off all three Ranger power plays.
Brad Richards had the most shots for the Rangers with five. Ryan McDonagh had four shots, while Derek Dorsett, Anton Stralman, and Derek Stepan - fresh off his hat trick against Carolina - had three shots apiece. Meanwhile, the Rangers as a whole missed 15 shots, while the Ducks blocked 20 of their shots - including Cam Fowler's six blocked shots in the game.
The Rangers' next game will be on Wednesday when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in what will be another tough test for the team. Then, on Thursday, the Blueshirts will hit the road and head to Ohio to face the Columbus Blue Jackets and a number of former Rangers - including Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky.