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Offense not the problem in 3-2 road loss

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

By Jim Cerny,

Martin Biron made his second straight start in goal Monday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and he turned in his second consecutive stellar performance. Unfortunately, just like Saturday night in Montreal, the Rangers could not find a way to win -- even with Biron’s strong play --  and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Red Wings.

Biron stopped 32 of 35 shots on Monday night, but he was outdone by Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, who earned his 26th victory of the season with a 45-save performance.

The loss marked the first time the Rangers have dropped three straight games in regulation time – and each of the defeats came in one-goal games.

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard stops Rangers forward Sean Avery for one of his 45 saves against the Blueshirts on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena. Howard was the difference in the Wings' 3-2 win.
“Our problems are not on the offensive end, they’re the mistakes we are making from the blueline in,” said Sean Avery, who tied for the team lead with six shots on goal. “We outshoot teams and they beat us, it’s because of breakdowns we’ve had. Tonight we have two breakdowns on the last two goals of the game, and that’s the difference.”

The Rangers entered the third period trailing 1-0, and within a quick span they scored to tie the game before once again falling behind by one goal.

Derek Stepan converted a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Matt Gilroy for his 15th goal at 3:09 to tie it up at 1-1. Gilroy zipped his pass from the right wing wall to a cutting Stepan at the left-wing goalmouth for the pretty score.

However, less than two minutes, later Detroit regained the lead when Jiri Hudler finished a pretty passing sequence with Jonathan Ericsson and Pavel Datsyuk for his fifth goal at 5:04 of the third. Hudler started the play by intercepting an attempted clear by Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer, and then finished it by roofing a right-wing shot over the sprawling Biron.

Detroit’s Drew Miller cashed in on a rebound of Justin Abdelkader’s shot with 5:23 left to play to seemingly put the game out of reach. But the Rangers answered right back with 4:05 remaining in regulation when Brandon Dubinsky converted a 2-on-1 feed from Avery for his 18th goal of the season, tying him with Brian Boyle for the team lead.

The Rangers had a huge opportunity to pull even when Avery drew consecutive high-sticking penalties -- on Ericsson at 16:20 and a double-minor on Abdelkader at 17:36 -- but they could not convert even though they spent the final 3:40 of the game with the man-advantage.

“We get to finish the game on the power play so you feel confident, especially the way we played in the third,” said Biron. “We thought we would get something going. We’ve done it for the most part of the year, being able to come back in these situations, and we felt like this was going to be like that. It’s frustrating.”

Through two periods of play, the Rangers trailed the Red Wings 1-0 as Biron and Howard traded impressive save after impressive save. Biron had stopped 29 of 30 shots though 40 minutes -- with 20 of those saves coming in the second period -- while Howard had denied all 29 Rangers’ shots.

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi plays the puck along the boards away from Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena, Datsyuk, returning to the Wings lineup from an injury, scored the game's first goal at 2:52 of the second period.
The only goal was scored by Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk 2:52 into the middle period. Datsyuk, who returned to the Red Wings lineup on Monday after missing the previous 19 games due to a wrist injury, netted his 13th goal by scoring off his own rebound in front of Biron.

Not only did Datsyuk convert a rebound of his own shot, he started the scoring play, as well, by stealing the puck from Boyle in the left-wing corner for an outstanding one-man show on the goal.

“They were more opportunistic than us, they got chances and buried them,” said Boyle. “It’s not so much being frustrated right now, I am more angry. We did a lot of good things in the game. I thought we would tie it and then win it. But the way things are going now we have to find a way to get the result we want.”

Detroit had a string of other prime scoring chances, but an extremely sharp Biron held them at bay and allowed only the one goal through two periods of play. He calmly denied shot after shot, positioning himself well and allowing few rebound opportunities for the Red Wings.

When Biron did kick out one rebound right on to the stick of Johan Franzen -- who record a five-goal game just a week ago -- midway through the second, he glided quickly across the crease to smother Franzen’s snap shot from the right faceoff circle.

Biron even started one of the Rangers’ best scoring chances of the second period when he collected a puck and whipped a long pass to Mats Zuccarello at the Red Wings’ blueline, catching Detroit on a line change. Zuccarello chipped a pass to the onrushing Avery, sending in Avery all alone on Howard. However, Howard made an excellent stick save, and Avery was left shaking his head and staring at the ceiling of Joe Louis Arena.

“Aves played a great game, worked extremely hard,” Biron said of Avery, who was force all night long. “He made a great play to Dubi on our second goal and did so many other great things. And he worked extremely hard to get us that last (power-play) opportunity. It would have been great to come through for his hard work.”

The Rangers’ futility on offense, which began on Saturday when they were shut out by Carey Price in Montreal, carried over into the first two periods of Monday’s game as they created a series of excellent scoring chances, but consistently were either denied by Howard or found pucks tantalizingly just out of reach in the slot or the crease.

One of those frustrating moments came late in the second when Wojtek Wolski lunged as far as he could reach for a puck that had rolled out of a scrum no more than a foot from the goal line with Howard out of the play. Wolski could not quite get to the puck, and Detroit then swept it out of danger.

“We can still elevate other parts of our game, but it’s obvious we need to score more goals,” said Boyle. “Jimmy Howard played great, but we have 47 shots, we have to score more goals, maybe show more determination to get them.”

The Rangers will look to snap out of their five-game winless skid when they close out their three-game road trip in Atlanta on Friday night.
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