‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The New York Rangers better leave the odor — and the ugly hockey — in Montreal after stinking up the joint at Bell Center in a 7-4 defeat Tuesday.
“Well, it was, to say the least, a strange game,” head coach Alain Vigneault said after Game 5.
The Rangers committed seven turnovers in the first period. They struggled to connect passes out of defensive zone, lacked any measure of poise and discipline, and failed to match the Montreal Canadiens’ desperation. They seemed overawed by the raucous atmosphere.
“For whatever reason, we just weren’t connecting on our passes out of our zone,” alternate captain Marc Staal told MSG reporter John Giannone. “We weren’t very crisp, we weren’t clean like we normally are. When we did turn it over, they made us pay for it.”
Staal finished the night a minus-3. Both Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh were a minus-2. Chris Kreider became the youngest Ranger to record four points in a playoff game, but overall he lacked any form of composure or discipline.
Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t right. The usually masterful goalie gave up four goals on 19 shots, and was pulled before the halfway point of the second period.
The Habs did everything to get under the skin of the Blueshirts – and it worked.
Montreal pulled out all the tricks and theatrics. Tomas Plekanec didn’t get touched by Martin St. Louis’ high stick, but he dramatically snapped his head back. Thankfully, the officials did an excellent job of spotting Plekanec’s theatrics and he was called for an embellishment penalty. This is nothing new from Plekanec. He’s been faking contact throughout the series. The Rangers went on to score a power play goal, proving that hockey karma might exist. But a number of Canadiens successfully attempted to con the refs throughout Game 5.
Montreal’s star defenseman P.K. Subban was able to fool the refs into charging Benoit Pouliot with a penalty after a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. Subban took a clear and obvious dive to make it appear that he had been kicked out from under by Pouliot. It’s disgusting stuff from a player who is quickly becoming one of the faces of the sport due to his incredible athleticism and powerful shot. It’s a shame that Subban packages dishonest traits with his all-world skill and outgoing personality.
Tuesday’s dismal performance wasn’t anywhere near what you’d normally expect from a Rangers team that turned a major corner since their 5-1 victory in Game 5 of the last round against Pittsburgh.
Thankfully for those of a Blueshirts persuasion, these playoffs have proven that game-to-game momentum doesn’t exist. Every game is a clean, fresh slate and the Rangers have shown all along that they have a very short memory. Fans can take heart knowing their team will respond in a big way when they hit the ice for Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
SUPREMELY TOUGH STEPAN SCORES TWO GOALS IN RETURN
Just four days after suffering a fractured jaw, Derek Stepan heroically returned for Game 5. He wore a protecting facial shield and took in fluids through a straw on the bench.
Stepan was one of the few bright spots for the Rangers. He played nearly 20 minutes, scoring two goals on two shots. Stepan finished the game as a plus-one.
“If there was a positive, the fact that he was able to, under those conditions, play such a strong game,” Vigneault said. “That whole line was good tonight, and we need to get the rest of our group to play the same way.”
Throughout his career, Stepan has been an ironman. Game 4 against Montreal was the first game he missed in his four-year career. Stepan had previously played in 349 consecutive games.
“I think the last game he missed was his first one in four years, right? He’s played all the games I’ve been here except for the last one, and prior to that he’s played all the games since he’s been a New York Ranger,” Vigneault said before Game 5. He’s a good, young player that is a big part of our team. He plays huge minutes, plays five-on-five, power play, penalty killing. He’s the only right-handed face-off guy. So he’s a big part of our team and has been a big part of our team’s success.”
MOORE TO HAVE WEDNESDAY HEARING FOR BLINDSIDE HIT ON WEISE
Just after midnight, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Rangers defenseman John Moore will have a hearing on Wednesday.
At 10:41 of the third period, Moore unleashed a blatant, high, blindside hit on ex-Ranger Dale Weise. It was nearly identical to Brandon Prust’s hit on Stepan in Game 3, which resulted in a two-game suspension. Since Moore received a 10-minute match penalty, he is automatically suspended for at least one game pending review. He will likely receive no greater than a combined two-game suspension.
“The league will do what it has to do,” Vigneault said. “I think he was penalized on the ice. John is definitely not the type of player to try to hurt someone but it was a late hit and it was the right call on the ice.”
Raphael Diaz is the obvious candidate to replace Moore in Thursday’s Game 6 at Madison Square Garden. Diaz has zero points through two playoff games and is a minus-one.
It’s possible that Derek Dorsett will be disciplined for his headbutt on Mike Weaver late in the second period. Dorsett will probably escape a suspension, but will probably receive a fine for his actions. Canadiens winger Rene Bourque could also be fined for cross-checking Dorsett after the final buzzer.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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