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Jokinen?s MSG debut full of highs, lows

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- Olli Jokinen had so many ups and downs during his first game at Madison Square Garden as a New York Ranger that he might as well have played it on a trampoline.
His new club came out on the wrong end of a 6-5 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, a game that saw the Rangers blow a 5-3 lead. It was the seventh loss in eight games for the Rangers, who now sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

For Jokinen, there were just as many moments worth remembering as there were worth forgetting.

The 31-year-old Finnish center picked up his first points as a Ranger, contributing a goal and an assist while patrolling the point on the power play. He was credited with the primary assist on the game's first goal, a splendid deflection by Ryan Callahan that put the Rangers ahead 1-0 at 8:58 of the first period.

Once again with the man-advantage in the second period, Jokinen brought the MSG fans to their feet with his first goal in Ranger blue. Vinny Prospal's shot from the point bounced crazily and right to Jokinen, who pushed the puck into a vacated net to tie the score at 3-3 with 7:41 remaining in the second period.

"It's a good feeling," he said of his first game at MSG, but the highest highs couldn't outweigh the lowest lows.

"Obviously we didn't get the result that we wanted. We got to find a way to stay out of the penalty box. That was the difference. You score five goals at home, you should be able to win."

The Rangers took nine penalties on Thursday. Two of Jokinen's three minor penalties led to power-play goals for the Capitals. He was called for slashing Alexander Semin to break up a 2-on-1 on the second period, and that led to Alex Ovechkin's goal that put the Capitals ahead 3-2.

But Jokinen's most critical penalty came in the third period when he was forced to hook Caps defenseman Tom Poti, who cut through the Rangers' defense as if it was construction paper.

Nicklas Backstrom scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play with Jokinen sitting in the penalty box.

"We turned the puck over both times," said Jokinen, who had no choice but to take a penalty in both instances. "The last one the guy had a breakaway so I had to hook him. The second one was a 2-on-1. I thought I slashed (Semin) on the stick. He looked like he broke his arm, the way he was skating to the bench."

To his credit, Jokinen looked comfortable playing in between Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. The trio combined for 3 goals and 2 assists and was a big part of the Rangers breaking out of a seven-game slump that saw them go 0-for-25 with the man advantage.

"I think there was some chemistry with those guys," Jokinen said. "They're both good players. It was easy to play with them."

Callahan sung the praises of his 6-foot-3, 215-pound center.

"Like I said earlier today, he is a big guy," Callahan said. "He can get on the forecheck and he protects the puck well. You saw him on the point there, he got shots through. He is a good player. He has size, he can skate, he can pass, he can shoot. He does it all."

But Jokinen knows two-point games in losses isn't why the Rangers brought him here from Calgary along with Brandon Prust in exchange for Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins on Monday.

"The bottom line is I have to help this team win hockey games," Jokinen said. "We got to find a win because everyone knows where we are in the standings, it's so tight. We have to treat every game like a playoff game."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL

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