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Rangers pay the penalty for late calls

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers center Brian Boyle remains focused on the play after breaking his stick in the second period of Monday afternoon's game at the Nassau Coliseum.

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By Jim Cerny,

Swings of momentum during the course of a hockey game are a given, and how a team handles those momentum changes usually helps determine the outcome of a given contest.

And as was the case during the Rangers’ 6-4 loss to the Islanders on Monday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum, a change in the game’s momentum quite often is just a penalty away.

The Rangers directly used penalty calls against the Islanders to their advantage in rallying from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits on Monday, but then saw their own 4-3 lead dissipate quickly late in the third period when the calls went against them.

“There were a lot of momentum shifts in this game and for the most part I think we handled them well,” said alternate captain Ryan Callahan. “Unfortunately we took a couple of penalties there at the end that just killed us.”

A questionable tripping penalty called against Callahan with 5:45 remaining in the game started the Rangers’ downfall less than two minutes after Artem Anisimov’s goal had given the visitors a 4-3 lead. Rangers head coach John Tortorella disagreed with the call, and noted that it clearly was the turning point of the game.

“It’s assuming you trip a guy when he didn’t trip him, and that started the wall falling for us, and we lose a hockey game,” said Tortorella.

Callahan had chased a loose puck down the ice with Islanders’ defenseman Mike Mottau, and when the two came together with Mottau falling to the ice, a penalty was called on Callahan.

“It’s tough,” said Callahan. “I felt like I went in there and didn’t have my stick in the skates at all. When a guy tries to stop like that sometimes (he) falls. But I guess from (the referee’s) angle he thought my stick was in there”

To make matters worse for the Rangers, Marc Staal was penalized 46 seconds into the penalty kill for high-sticking Islanders’ forward Blake Comeau -- putting the Rangers at a two-man disadvantage.

In a span of less than one minute, the Islanders not only tied the game, but had taken the lead by scoring on both the 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 power plays. Former Ranger P.A. Parenteau potted a rebound of a shot that was blocked by Dan Girardi at 15:36. And then with Callahan back on the ice, Comeau scored his second goal of the game at 16:34 with Staal still in the penalty box.

In a blink of an eye, the Rangers had gone from a second-straight feel-good road victory to being on their way to their first loss of the season, which was cemented when Frans Nielsen hit the empty net with 18.2 seconds left to play.

“I don’t think they really had to work that hard to get those two goals, but it happens,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said of the Islanders’ two late power-play scores.

Earlier in the game, it was the Rangers who capitalized on a pair of Islanders penalties to swing the momentum back to their side.

Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto unleashes a shot on a power play at 8:28 of the second period. The puck found the net, tying the score at 2-2.
After Comeau took advantage of a Michael Del Zotto giveaway in front of the Rangers’ net to give the Isles a 1-0 lead 12:49 into the opening period, the Blueshirts were handed a power play 35 seconds later when Mark Eaton received a delay of game penalty. Brandon Dubinsky made the home team pay for that miscue, and negated any momentum the Islanders had built on Comeau’s goal, by scoring his third of the season at 13:57.

Then in the second period, trailing 2-1 at the time, Del Zotto cashed in a power play goal to pull the Rangers even at 8:28 following a too-many-men-on-the-ice call against the Islanders.

“It seemed like the game went back and forth because of the power plays and penalties,” said Del Zotto, who notched his first goal and added an assist on Monday. “There were some bad breaks, too. On that 5-on-3 Girardi goes down and makes a great block and then just a horrible bounce goes right to them. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Girardi and Matt Moulson exchanged goals before the second period was over -- setting the stage for Anisimov’s go-ahead score and the Islanders’ late comeback.

“It’s something we have to learn from,” stated Tortorella. “I saw a lot of good things from within the club in (Monday’s) game, but we come away empty. I’m not unhappy with the club. There are some good things there.”

Tortorella had to juggle his center-ice position during the third period when Erik Christensen was forced out of the game with an unspecified injury. Derek Stepan moved up to fill Christensen’s spot on the top line with Brian Boyle moving up a notch in Stepan’s place on the third line.

“I know he couldn’t play because that’s what (the trainer) told me,” Tortorella said of Christensen. “I’m not sure what it is right now.”

Before the game, Tortorella said that team captain Chris Drury was progressing well from his broken left index finger and that he could return to the lineup shortly.

“Friday is in sight,” Tortorella said of Drury’s possible return for the home opener on Friday night. “I know he’s dying on the vine to get back in there.”

The Rangers will have three days off before hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2010-11 home opener at Madison Square Garden.
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