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Strange goal too much to overcome

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Alternate captain Ryan Callahan and the Rangers were frustrated all night by Columbus goaltender Steve Mason despite outshooting the Jackets 33-23.

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By Jim Cerny,

On Thursday night in Ottawa, the Rangers benefitted from a bad-angle goal in the third period en-route to a 5-3 victory over the Senators.

On Saturday evening in Columbus the Rangers were on the other end of a bad-angle score late in the game, as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Blue Jackets, which snapped their four-game road winning streak.

“I thought we played well and it was probably one of our better games the past few weeks,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We played our (butts) off, but came up empty. It’s frustrating.”

Rick Nash, playing in his franchise-record 544th game with the Blue Jackets, scored the game-winning goal from below the goal line at 14:51 of the third period to snap a 1-1 tie. From near the right wing corner Nash fired the puck towards the front of the net and somehow it caromed off Henrik Lundqvist’s skate and into the net for his 15th goal, giving Columbus its first lead of the game.

“I hugged the post as hard as I could, but there will always be a little hole there and he managed to find it,” Lundqvist said. “It’s just a tough way to lose the game. It’s a really frustrating loss.”

To that point Lundqvist had been locked in a goaltenders’ duel with Steve Mason. Both netminders had been very sharp all night long. As it was, Lundqvist still finished with 20 saves, while Mason stopped 32 shots.

“It happens and it’s a strange game that way,” alternate captain Ryan Callahan said of Nash’s fluky game-winner. “But I thought we played a good game and it was one of our better games in a while. Unfortunately we gave one up late. But that happens sometimes, there are bad bounces.”

Nash scored again, as Lundqvist was caught trying to get off the ice for an extra attacker, with 1:12 remaining in the game. On a breakaway, with Lundqvist scrambling back into the net, Nash made a great deke before using his long reach to slide his 16th goal into the cage.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made this tough stop on Columbus star Rick Nash early in the game, but was later burned by Nash in the final period.
The teams reached the second intermission tied 1-1 after having exchanged power-play goals in the second period.

Marc Staal put the Rangers up 1-0 when he scored his fifth goal 9:53 into the middle period. Staal broke towards the slot from his spot on the left point as Ruslan Fedotenko calmly held the puck to the right of the Blue Jackets net. Fedotenko then zipped a pass onto Staal’s stick for a quick one-timer that flew past Mason and gave the Rangers a 1-0 advantage -- the club’s eighth power play goal in the past 11 games.

“I thought everyone contributed for us (Saturday) night,” said Tortorella. “It was a good team effort. They tried hard and competed. It was just a tough way to lose.”

Although they came close to adding to their lead -- including a glorious scoring chance by a seemingly wide-open Derek Stepan that was turned aside by Mason at 14:13 -- the Rangers instead surrendered a game-tying power play goal to Antoine Vermette with 4:17 to play in the second.

Vermette skated through the low slot just as R.J. Umberger’s right-wing shot was about to reach Lundqvist. Vermette neatly deflected the puck between Lundqvist’s pads for his eighth goal of the season, tying the game 1-1.

That the Rangers held a fairly distinct advantage in shots, as well as in territorial play, through two periods, yet were stuck in a tie game was due in large part to Mason, who was extremely sharp between the pipes for Columbus.

Mason denied 22 of 23 Rangers shots through 40 minutes as the visitors outshot the home team 23-15 in that span. Mason’s sprawling pad save on Brandon Dubinsky’s left wing rebound attempt 38 seconds into the middle period was his most spectacular save, though he was tested many other times by the Rangers.

After being a healthy scratch two nights earlier,  Michael Del Zotto was back in the Rangers' lineup at Columbus and wasted little time introducing himself to players like the Jackets' Andrew Murray.
Michael Del Zotto -- returning to the lineup in the place of Steve Eminger, who sat out due to a back strain, after being a healthy scratch Thursday night in Ottawa -- returned to his spot on the top power-play unit and hammered a left-wing shot off the post behind Mason 2:46 into the middle period, as Mason was as lucky as he was good.

Already playing without four injured players -- Eminger, Derek Boogaard, Chris Drury, and Vinny Prospal -- the Rangers received a pair of brief injury scares late in the first period when both Dubinsky and Staal were shaken up by big hits.

With around three minutes to go in the opening period Dubinsky skated to the bench hunched over at the waist following a hard hit by the penalty box. Though he seemed to be in pain, Dubinsky did not miss a shift and played the remainder of the game.

Nearly a minute after Dubinsky was shaken up, Staal was plastered into the boards back in the Rangers’ end by Columbus’ Tom Sestito, who was just recalled from the minor leagues on Friday. Staal stayed down on the ice for a moment, collected himself, and then skated off the ice. Like Dubinsky, Staal did not miss a shift after absorbing the crunching blow.

Immediately after the game the Rangers returned to New York where they will host the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

“To come up empty after an effort like that, we’ve just got to move by it and bring the good things into the Washington game because that’s a very good club (Sunday) night,” said Tortorella. “We can’t worry about this now. We have to move on to the next one.”
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