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Power outage hurts Rangers at Montreal

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers forward Artem Anisimov is stopped on a prime scoring chance by Montreal goalie Carey Price on Saturday at Bell Centre. Price finished the day with 35 saves, including 19 in the third period.

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By Jim Cerny,

On Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Rangers played an extremely strong road game. Yet their inability to take advantage of four consecutive power plays in the second period -- as well not being able to capitalize on any of their 35 overall shots --  ultimately led to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Canadiens.

The loss extended the Rangers’ winless skid to a season-high four games (0-3-1), asd they now trail sixth-place Montreal by three points in the Eastern Conference standings. It was only the third time all season that the Rangers have been shut out.

“I was happy with the team’s effort, and there aren’t too many nights with this hockey club that I need to worry about their effort,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “But these past four games, as much as we can say we did this well, we did that well, we haven’t won. And we have to find a way to make a big play at a key time to change the momentum or to score a goal in order to win a hockey game.”

The turning point of the game came during the second period when the Rangers were awarded four straight power plays and did not convert on any of them. In fact, they struggled so mightily on the man-advantage that they managed only one shot in eight minutes of power-play time while surrendering three shorthanded shots to the Canadiens.

“They have a good penalty kill no question, but at the same time we have to start shooting the puck more and getting our shots through,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan. “In order to do that we have to make one or two passes tape-to-tape and have the puck settle down for us in order to find those lanes. Right now we are not getting the job done (on the power play), and there’s no excuse for it.”

The Rangers have converted just three of their last 26 power-play opportunities over the past seven games. Tortorella tried numerous combinations of players on the power play Saturday to no avail, as the man-advantage actually seemed to take away from the team’s momentum.

On an afternoon when goaltending was golden at both ends of the ice, Blueshirts netminder Martin Biron was outstanding as he registered 27 saves. Only a perfectly placed shot was able to beat him.
“I am really frustrated with a few of our guys on that power play,” said Tortorella. “We just have to find a way to get that figured out. We struggle at the point. We just don’t have a legitimate quarterback on the power play. Tonight we couldn’t even make two passes (on the power play), and we’re a better team than that.”

To make matters worse, the Canadiens scored the first goal of the game less than a minute after the Rangers failed on their fourth power play of the second period. Camped out at the far post, former Ranger Scott Gomez converted a neat pass off the back boards by defenseman Alexandre Picard, roofing the puck over a lunging Martin Biron.

That goal, which came with 1:26 remaining in the middle stanza, was hugely important and well-timed, and proved to be all that Canadiens’ netminder Carey Price would need to win on this Saturday afternoon.

“As soon as (Picard) took that shot and he was going wide with it on purpose, I knew that puck was going to the other side,” said Biron, who turned in a terrific 27-save effort. “That’s why when I realized, I got my edges and shot right over there, but was too late. They have some smart players over there that shoot with a purpose.”

Trailing 1-0, the Rangers dominated play in the third period, but were unable to get a single puck behind Price, who earned his fifth shutout of the season. The Rangers fired 19 shots on goal in the final period with Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle, Artem Anisimov, and Wojtek Wolski having some of the team’s best scoring chances turned away by Price.

With 8:20 remaining in the third period, Callahan fooled Price with an excellent deflection in front. The puck went off Price and rolled towards the goal line, but defenseman Yannick Weber swept the puck away before it could cross the line.

“It seems like we’ve been showing up pretty good here in the third lately, and same thing tonight because we had some great chances there and seemed like we were in their end the whole period,” said Callahan, who finished with three shots on goal. “We’ve got to start burying some of those or do that the whole game.”

Montreal put the game away -- and improved its record to 10-2-2 over the last 14 games -- when Tomas Plekanec scored his 18th goal into an empty net with 37.4 seconds left to play.

“It was a big four-point night, and it was a tough loss,” said Biron. “But our goal is still there and we keep our eyes on it. We have to keep focused and get ourselves going.”

The Rangers will look to snap their four-game skid when they visit the Red Wings in Detroit on Monday night.
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