Leonard: Garden electricity missing in Rangers opening dud

By on October 29, 2013
The new Madison Square Garden as the New York Rangers play the Montreal Canadiens on Monday October 28th, 2013 (Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News).

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

The new Madison Square Garden can’t to anything to help the Rangers stop their losing ways.

The Rangers’ long-awaited return to the glistening new Garden was supposed to pulse with electricity but instead fizzled into one big short-circuit. Nothing seemed to work at Garden chairman James Dolan’s shiny new playhouse during the Rangers’ home opener, a 2-0 shutout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.

The enormous new big screen, creatively titled GardenVision, didn’t show stats the entire first period, apparently due to an NHL issue. The arena’s buzzer honked meekly at the end of each period, seemingly responding to the home team’s offense.

The evening’s lifeless fans made even less noise than the players, perhaps distracted by the flashy new big screen that is the NHL and NBA equivalent to the Cowboys’ NFL monstrosity hanging down in Dallas.

“We didn’t give them much to cheer about,” alternate captain Marc Staal said. “We had a few chances and a little momentum, but the loudest they got was because they were angry at the refs. That’s not good enough. We’ve got to find a way to create a couple goals.”

The result deflated a group excited to have concluded a nine-game, season-opening road stretch that had been forced upon it because of Dolan’s poorly timed renovations. Coach Alain Vigneault even had some fun at his first pregame press conference at home when he heard a reporter’s cell phone ring.

Here Chris Kreider sums up how all Rangers fans must feel after Monday.

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

Here Chris Kreider sums up how all Rangers fans must feel after Monday.

“If I was Torts, I’d be leaving,” Vigneault said with a grin, referring to former coach John Tortorella.

But then the Rangers (3-7-0) endured their third shutout loss in 10 games, failing to capitalize on the momentum they’d built with Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win in Detroit, with the rival Islanders on deck at Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night.

“You just hope for an early goal for us to get the energy and confidence and the building going,” said Henrik Lundqvist (25 saves), who showed no signs of ailing from the undisclosed injury that had kept him sidelined the past two games. “A disappointing loss, but it was great to be back.”

To be fair, this wasn’t one of those hopeless efforts the Blueshirts had turned in so often at the start of their season.

Young forwards Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller continued to pace the attack, only to be turned away by sharp Canadiens backup goalie Peter Budaj (25 saves) and a stingy, shot-blocking Habs defense. The Rangers’ top-four defensemen were solid, led by Ryan McDonagh’s best game in recent memory.

Henrik Lundqvist (r.) looks healthy but the Rangers can't get him any goals.

Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News

Henrik Lundqvist (r.) looks healthy but the Rangers can’t get him any goals.

Montreal’s first goal, in the second period, was practically unavoidable, a smooth Tomas Plekanec power-play rush on which all five Habs touched the puck. Their second goal late in the third shouldn’t have counted after Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk kicked the puck in the net, but NHL officials in Toronto upheld it.

The officials were suspect all night, missing calls both ways. Brian Boyle was whistled for a roughing penalty that made Plekanec’s goal possible. An interference call on Kreider stopped short one of the Rangers’ five unsuccessful power plays.

S till, the problem again came down to the offense, which the Rangers were only able to temporarily bring to life Saturday in Detroit. They are again the lowest-scoring team in the NHL (1.50 goals per game), and though Tuesday’s expected return of Carl Hagelin should help, they’re still up against it without key cogs Rick Nash (concussion) and Ryan Callahan (broken left thumb).

“We’re generating a sufficient amount of chances to get more offensively than what we’re getting right now,” a solemn Vigneault said after the loss.

New arena. New coach. No goals.


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