Rangers lose to Canadiens 1-0 as Pacioretty scores lone goal

By on January 30, 2015


They say hockey is a game of mistakes, and in Thursday night’s 1-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden, the Rangers tested the limits of that cliché.

But there was an extra sting to this loss to open a four-game homestand after Henrik Lundqvist kept the match scoreless for two sloppy periods, and the Rangers finally made a third-period push behind the playmaking of center Derek Stepan and ferocious defending from Marc Staal.

Countless Blueshirts chances failed to get past or on Habs goaltender Carey Price, and then, with 4:17 to play in regulation, Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty took a harmless snap shot from the boards above the right circle, through the legs of closing defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and the puck snuck between an unaware Lundqvist’s left arm and torso.

Goal. Game over.

The Rangers (27-15-4, 58 points) have lost two straight coming out of the All-Star break, and are just 3-4-0 in their last seven games. Their offense has gone ice-cold, with one goal in the past two games, scoring in just seven of their last 22 periods since returning from their sweep of California earlier this month.

The loss to the Canadiens (31-13-3, 65 points) gave the Rangers a 6-10-1 record this season against current Eastern Conference playoff teams, of which they are one – for now.

Derick Brassard should have gotten a slash call on Habs defenseman Andrei Markov in the waning minutes prior to Pacioretty’s goal, but the point remains: The Rangers can’t score. Alain Vigneault tried to change it up on Thursday, assembling a new third line of Carl Hagelin, Dominic Moore and Lee Stempniak seeking a semblance of offense from his depth forwards. But he didn’t get it.

The Rangers’ first period was an absolute embarrassment, particularly coming off Tuesday night’s loss on Long Island, in which a slow start did them in. Chris Kreider couldn’t control a puck. McDonagh kept giving it away. The Blueshirts weren’t ready.

With neither team able to play very good hockey, the period devolved into a gong show of 10 combined penalties, with one fight, two almost-fights, and a heated end-period exchange that drew blood.

Appropriately, during the first intermission, the Garden fire alarm went off and blared for a good five to seven minutes.

The fireworks began at 13:05 along the boards, when Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban gave an extra nudge with his right knee to Kreider, who had fallen to the ice. At the next whistle, Kreider cross-checked Subban in the back. Subban collapsed. Both players went to the box.

When they emerged, Kreider threw down his gloves to fight and shook Subban like a rag doll. Subban smiled and refused to engage, but both went back to the box anyway for unsportsmanlike conduct.

At that point, Vigneault sent Martin St. Louis over the box to say something to Kreider, who half-listened as he continued to talk trash across the officials’ scorers’ table to Subban. Clearly, the message was, ‘Settle down,’ because when Subban and Kreider emerged again, Subban was ready to fight, but Kreider turned and looked at Vigneault on the bench for permission and did not receive it.

The Rangers’ play continued to crumble, and that was with Montreal not even playing particularly well, and their poor play eventually carried over to the game’ officiating.

Lundqvist made a magnificent kick save on Dale Weise that, upon video review, showed the puck actually had crossed the goal line. But NHL officials did not count the goal, calling the review “inconclusive.”

Rangers forward Tanner Glass and former Ranger enforcer Brandon Prust dropped the gloves to relieve the tension, and then Lundqvist came up with a spectacular save on Max Pacioretty after another McDonagh turnover to keep the game scoreless.

As the period ended, though, Canadiens’ forward Lars Eller got his stick up high on Stepan and cut his nose, leading to punches thrown before both teams went to their respective locker rooms.

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