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Rangers come up just short of points

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Veteran defenseman Bryan McCabe, who joined the Rangers one day earlier in a trade with Florida, made his Blueshirts debut against the Lightning and saw plenty of time on the top power-play unit.

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By Jim Cerny,

The Rangers did an outstanding job on the penalty kill in their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, killing off all five 5-on-4 disadvantages they faced while also scoring a shorthanded goal.

However, in an ironic twist of fate, the Rangers still dropped a 2-1 decision to the Lighting when Tampa Bay scored a 5-on-3 power play goal early in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie.

“Obviously you want to stay out of the box playing such a good team, but there were some tough breaks and tough calls,” said defenseman Bryan McCabe, who made his Rangers debut on Sunday after being acquired in a trade with Florida the day before. “Our penalty killing did a great job. But we took a couple more there in the third period to start, and most teams in this league when you give them a 5-on-3 are going to put one in.”

Rangers’ defenseman Dan Girardi was penalized for boarding at 1:11 of the third period -- a call which infuriated the team’s head coach John Tortorella -- and 53 seconds later Brian Boyle accidentally sailed the puck over the glass to receive a delay-of-game penalty, handing the skilled Lightning a two-man advantage that would ultimately decide the game.

Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier rocketed a right-wing shot past Henrik Lundqvist at 2:40 off a pretty Martin St. Louis pass for what turned out to be the game-winning goal with Tampa Bay skating two men up.

“We gave them nothing 5-on-4, nothing,” said Tortorella following the game. “But we get beat 5-on-3 that starts with a bad call. And we lose important points. That’s a tough loss.”

Rangers forward Brandon Prust beats Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson for his 10th goal of the season on a shorthanded breakaway at 9:42 of the second period. Prust's goal tied the score at 1-1.
From the 4:42 mark of the second period through 4:22 of the third, the Rangers were called for six consecutive penalties, killing off all but the 5-on-3. So confident and aggressive were the Rangers on the penalty kill that they spent stretches in the offensive zone, more resembling the team on the power play than the team defending against one.

“Our penalty killing is good when you only have to kill off two or three or whatever,” said Brandon Prust, who scored a shorthanded goal in the second period. “But when you have to kill off six or seven, and a 5-on-3, teams in this league -- especially a team like that -- are going to kill you.”

After a sleepy first period in which they managed just one shot on goal over the first 19 minutes of play and fell behind by a 1-0 score, the Rangers found their legs in the middle stanza and thus were even on the scoreboard after 40 minutes.

With Erik Christensen in the penalty box for interfering with Tampa Bay’s Eric Brewer, the Rangers moved into a tie for the league lead with their 10th shorthanded goal of the season midway through the second period to tie the game 1-1.

On the scoring play, rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh pushed the puck out of the defensive zone and up to a streaking Prust, who blew past Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron on the way to the net. Prust carried the puck in-close, collided with goaltender Dwayne Roloson, and then celebrated when the puck rolled over the goal line at 9:42.

The goal was not official until a video review upheld the on-ice ruling, and Prust was credited with his career-high 10th goal -- fourth shorthanded -- this season.

Prust’s score offset one by St. Louis which had given Tampa Bay an early 1-0 advantage on its first shot of the game. Bursting up right wing, St. Louis one-timed a Steve Downie pass off a 3-on-2 Lightning rush past Lundqvist for his 24th goal just 5:04 into the contest.

“That was a tough first shot to face, though there are no excuses,” said Lundqvist who made 17 saves. “They made two great plays on their goals, which they can do because they have a lot of skilled guys on that team.”

Rangers linemates Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan fight for control of the puck along the boards against Tampa defenseman Pavel Kubina.
The first two periods could not have been any more different for the Rangers. Outshot 7-4 in the opening stanza, the Rangers were out of sync and seemed unable to figure out Tampa Bay’s counter-attacking style of play. However in the second period, the Rangers controlled much of the play with a tenacious forecheck, a physically punishing style of play along the boards, and an excellent penalty kill that denied all three Lightning power plays in the middle 20 minutes.

“We weren’t very happy with the way we started, but I think we picked it up as the game went on, just came up a little short,” said Derek Stepan. “We’re not very happy with the way this went down, though.”

The Rangers had a string of great chances to tie the game in the final minute of play after Lundqvist had been pulled for a sixth attacker. Stepan and Wojtek Wolski were denied at the doorstep by Roloson, and McCabe created a wild scramble with 25 seconds remaining when his booming slap shot was stopped by Roloson and the rebound bounced into the crease where Ryan Callahan could not convert.

“We had some chances there in the end,” said McCabe. “(Brandon Dubinsky) did a great job on the faceoffs there and we had some chances to get the puck to the net, but we just couldn’t find (a goal).”

McCabe logged 17:35 worth of ice-time and fired a pair of shots on goal in his debut with the Rangers. He was paired most often at even strength with Steve Eminger, and he played extensively on the power play, paired at the point with Stepan.

“I was nervous, for sure, and pretty excited, too,” said McCabe. “I had some butterflies before the game, but it will get better as it goes on. I will feel better the more comfortable I get with the guys, and it all will be good.”

Their two-game winning streak snapped, the Rangers look to get back on the winning track on Tuesday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres at MSG.
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