Well, just because the New York Rangers are home, doesn’t mean all their problems are solved. Granted, the Blueshirts had some legitimate gripes with the officiating and Montreal Canadiens backup goaltender Peter Budaj was superb, but the Rangers didn’t get it done in a 2-0 shutout loss to the Habs in their home opener at Madison Square Garden. Henrik Lundqvist made some excellent saves in his first game back after missing two games with an undisclosed injury, but Budaj was better in turning away all 27 shots faced. With a critical stretch of games at home ahead, the Rangers can’t afford to burn away points or employ excuses. With Monday’s blanking, the Blueshirts fell to 3-7-0 on the season.
Questionable calls: Rangers fans’ disgust with the officiating reached a crescendo in the third period, when Chris Kreider was sent to the penalty box for a phantom interference penalty in which Raphael Diaz collided with a teammate at the blue line and went tumbling to the ice. The penalty negated the bulk of what would’ve been a prime scoring opportunity for the Rangers on the power play.
Playing with fire: After killing off Montreal’s first three power-play opportunities, the Rangers’ penalty kill surrendered one late in the second with Brian Boyle in the box for a suspect elbowing call. A surgical passing sequence by the Habs left the Rangers helpless as Tomas Plekanec deked Lundqvist and beat him with a deft backhander to take a 1-0 lead with 3:26 remaining in the period.
Help on the way? Though coach Alain Vigneault wouldn’t commit to it Monday morning, it is possible that Carl Hagelin will be back for Tuesday’s match against the Islanders. That would be a huge boost for the Rangers, considering the injuries that are hindering the team right now. Already without the grit and physicality of Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash’s size and skill, the Rangers look like they can use Hagelin’s speed ability to hunt down the puck. The young forward will certainly provide the Rangers with a different dynamic, including a more aggressive forechecking presence.
Up next: Rangers at Islanders, Tuesday at 7 p.m.