Thursday, January 23, 2014
Power play comes up short against Blues
By Katie Strang
NEW YORK -- The Rangers knew what to expect from a strong St. Louis Blues team that got absolutely hammered two nights prior, 7-1, by the goal-starved New Jersey Devils.
The Blues delivered on a big, heavy, tight-checking game that left little room to maneuver, and for the most part, the Rangers felt they responded in kind despite the 2-1 defeat, the team's second straight loss.
After the game, the team was happy with its overall game, save for a power play that came up short.
The Rangers were blanked on three power-play opportunities.
The Rangers were blanked on all three man-up opportunities, including one in the third period with the chance to tie the game.
Prior to that, the team's sixth-ranked unit had tallied on the power play in eight of the previous 10 games.
"It was the first time in a long time I thought the power play let us down," said veteran center Brad Richards. "We were just not pounding the puck; if there's anything that wasn't on tonight, that was it."
The Rangers have largely exorcised those power-play demons from years past, but the unit that entered Thursday's action with a 21 percent success rate just couldn't get the job done.
"We didn't establish our shot enough, for whatever reason" said coach Alain Vigneault. "That's the No. 1 element, I believe, you have to do on the power play."
The Rangers fell behind 1-0 8:38 into play on Alexander Steen's team-leading 26th goal of the season, one that deflected in off his skate.
Steen later left the game with a lower-body injury, missing the entire third period.
The Rangers didn't lie down, though, as star winger Rick Nash tallied his 10th goal in 10 games, a snipe from the left circle that was the only shot Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak let through all night.
It was a tight 5-on-5 game the entire night, but Sochi-bound Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk ultimately snapped a 1-1 tie on a power-play goal with Nash in the box serving a slashing penalty.
The Rangers' best chance to knot the score came 12:31 into the third period, with Barret Jackman whistled for a crosscheck, though the team's power play didn't even get a shot on goal.
"I don't know if they weren't giving us the opportunity to get the shot through or we just weren't taking that opportunity," Vigneault said.
With the loss, the Rangers dropped to 27-23-3, though they remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division standings, one point ahead of the scorching-hot Columbus Blue Jackets.
Thursday's effort was at least night-and-day different from Tuesday's match against the Islanders, in which the Rangers were outplayed and on the wrong side of the puck all night.
It had to be, with the team knowing that the Blues were looking to shed the embarrassment of Tuesday night's rout in New Jersey.
"We saw the ticker and we knew they were coming with some anger, obviously," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "A team like that never gets beat like that, so we knew they were going to come in hard, but like I said, I thought we matched it, played a pretty solid physical game."
Matched up with one of the top teams in the West, the Rangers were pretty satisfied with how they fared, just not the result.
"It was a good hockey game. We played a real good hockey team," Richards said. "They scored on the power play and we don't."