In the early stages of the 2011-12 NHL season, the New York Rangers are doing their best to redefine 'rock bottom' with each game they play. With a 4-1 third-period lead at 8:05 against the Ottawa Senators, the Blueshirts yielded three straight goals in just over an eight-minute span, then could do nothing in the shootout and fell to the Senators, 5-4. The Sens' Milan Michalek tied it and then won it with the only tally in the 'skills competition.'
What makes this one even harder to swallow was that the Rangers entered the third period with their first lead all season, a 2-1 advantage. And they then cashed in on two more goals -- one by Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards' second -- to pad their lead and possibly give the team and their fans a huge sigh of relief with a comfortable win. Their effort in the latter half of the final frame spoiled the sensational efforts from Richards, who had three points and was the force expected when he was signed in the offseason, and Gaborik who had three points (two assists) and played like the sniper New York needs him to be this season to have a chance to contend.
Instead, though, the defense fell apart -- where are you Marc Staal? -- and Henrik Lundqvist could not do enough to lift the Rangers to the win late in the third, letting in three on 16 shots. For the ninth game in a row, the Rangers were out-shot by their opponent; this time 40-28.
To add insult to injury, after getting a large lead in the final 20 minutes and seeing the offense finally click, the Blueshirts were helpless in stopping Ottawa's attack (which doesn't exactly have the most dangerous of forwards), almost letting them score at will. Staal's absence was really felt in this one, as no blue-line combination really stepped up to put a stop to the rally and it because coach John Tortorella has faith in only in half of his defensemen -- he's forced to throw Dan Girardi, game-high 33:14 in ice time, nearly every other shift.
The other goal-scorer for New York was Ryan Callahan, who tied the game up early in the second period on the power play, a five-minute major to Zenon Konopka after he boarded Artem Anisimov. Richards also scored on this man advantage.
Wojtek Wolski enjoyed his best game of the year, two assists, in 15:50, but also may be facing a suspension after elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head in the third period. This penalty led to Jason Spezza's second goal of the game, which made it 4-3.