- Last Updated: 9:53 AM, May 17, 2012
- Posted: 3:58 AM, May 17, 2012
This was a stinker, nothing other than that from a Rangers’ team that was outworked for perhaps 45 of the 60 minutes it took for the Devils to even the Eastern Conference Final with last night’s 3-2 Game 2 victory at Madison Square Garden.
This was a deficient display of commitment that dishonored the Black-and-Blueshirt identity the Rangers have made famous, and it was one that ended with Marian Gaborik on the bench for the final 1:29 — even though Henrik Lundqvist had been pulled for the extra attacker — just as he had been nailed to the bench for the first 11:02 of the third following his failure to complete a routine clear before the Devils tied the score 2-2 at 18:09 of the second.
“It’s disappointing. You want to be out there [at the end], obviously, but I have to do a better job on their second goal,” said Gaborik, whose attempt to come out the right side was rebuffed easily at the blue line by Bryce Salvador moments before Ryan Carter’s deflection past Henrik Lundqvist. “I just have to get it back for the third game.”
When Gaborik was granted a parole, he skated his final two shifts with Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin while Chris Kreider, the Rangers’ best forward by a significant margin, played with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan as coach John Tortorella sought to create chemistry — and better yet, the tying goal — on the fly.
With all due respect to Chris-sanity, when a 21-year-old with 14 games of pro experience is a team’s best forward in the second game of the conference finals, that’s not especially flattering to everyone else.
Tortorella would not discuss his decision to limit Gaborik to four shifts worth 3:07 in the third (15:21 total), obviously believing in the axiom there is no need to state the obvious … or no need to state much of anything, for that matter.
The coach simply said “No” when asked if the Rangers had played with the effort necessary to win a game of this magnitude. Then he refused to amplify when asked a follow-up about whether he was disappointed or surprised his team would have come up so small after a rather similar showing in last week’s second-round Game 6 defeat in Washington.
The Devils were quicker to the puck and stronger on it pretty much all over the rink and pretty much all night except for a 15-minute stretch of the second period during which the Rangers got power play goals 9:56 apart from Marc Staal at 2:23 and Kreider at 12:19 to overcome Ilya Kovalchuk’s power-play goal at 13:09 of the first.
“We weren’t consistent enough in our wall battles and it was an inconsistent game from us,” Callahan said. “At times we showed it, but not enough throughout the game and I think that’s what hurt us in the end.”
The Rangers spent nearly the entire first period chasing the puck and losing battles for it after arriving, out-attempted by a 23-7 margin that was an accurate reflection of the Devils’ superior will to win.
The Rangers steadied for much of the second, but clearly were the second best team on the ice from the moment of Gaborik’s gaffe — not that he can be held responsible for the team’s fate — until the moment the buzzer sounded with Martin Brodeur celebrating his 108th career playoff victory.
“To be able to pull one game out of this building, we have to be really proud of ourselves” said Brodeur, who was in command throughout. “This is a really tough place to play.
“The ice is not good. The boards are awful. You have to look at the puck all the time. Whenever you win it doesn’t matter which way.”
A loss is a loss is a loss, too, except when it’s a result of inferior effort. Then it’s a head-scratcher, more so coming as it did in a third straight Game 2 defeat following a third straight Game 1 victory — more so when the Rangers acknowledged beforehand they needed to increase their intensity off Monday’s opening 3-0 victory.
“We’re always staying positive, but we know we have to play a lot better if we want to have a chance,” Hagelin said. “We have to pick it up and start winning some battles.”
And it will have to start with the Game 3 faceoff Saturday afternoon at the Rock, which can be found right next to the hard place on which Gaborik sat for almost all of last night’s third period.