Ever since the New York Rangers signed the big fish this offseason, Brad Richards, questions remained whether he’d jell enough to spark Marian Gaborik’s game. Then, after Marc Staal’s concussion was revealed, many wondered whether the defense could hold up. Essentially the seem was the same as last year, but with Richards and minus their best defenseman (for at least a month), would the Rangers be able to build on a promising 2010-11 campaign?
Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings in Stockholm, Sweden began to chip away some of the answers to those questions. After a very slow start, the Blueshirts began to show remnants of their successful forechecking style of play from last season, but in the end, fell to the Kings, 3-2, in overtime.
The only Ranger who came out of the gate flying was Henrik Lundqvist, who kept the Rangers in the game as they found their game. Part of the reason for the early sluggishness was two early penalties that New York had to kill off. Los Angeles would score the game’s first goal (even strength) when Anze Kopitar scored a pretty wrist-shot goal off of a feed from Justin Williams midway through, and nearly three-quarters of the way through the period, the Rangers still had 0 shots.
New captain Ryan Callahan found a way to get some offense going, however, as he scored a bad-angle goal from down near the corner of the rink on the Rangers’ second shot of the game.
After a scoreless second period, the Rangers’ first line lit the lamp to put the Rangers ahead at 10:28. Marian Gaborik scored at the doorstap from Brandon Dubinsky and Richards. However, Mike Richards tipped home a feed from Brad Richardson to knot the game up at 2 apiece with five minutes to go. Brian Boyle received an interference penalty two minutes later -- one of five minors, but not the most costly -- curtailing any late-game momentum (13 shots to eight in the period), the Rangers created to possibly end the game in their favor.
But, a tripping call to Ryan McDonagh when he got tangled up with Willie Mitchell at 2:51 of OT basically ended all hopes of a win. The Rangers’ defense could only do so much 3-on-4 and after the initial pass to Jack Johnson at the crease was slowed down, a second attempt reached him and he flicked it home for the winner.
On this Day 1 of the season, there were encouraging signs for Richards-Gaborik, but one could only wonder if Staal was out there in the third period whether he would have provided that blanketing defense (and put guys in proper defensive slots) to hold the lead.
In the end, the Rangers were pretty lucky to get one point and will look to continue their hard-working style Saturday against the Ducks in Stockholm.