The Rangers began a stretch of four games in five nights out West Monday night with a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The Blueshirts, who are now 1-2-0 in the pre-season, trailed throughout, surrendering the game's first two goals, as well as the final two, including an empty-netter.
Henrik Lundqvist made his second start of the pre-season, and played the entire game. He was exceptionally sharp at times when the Rangers allowed a series of prime scoring chances. Lundqvist, though, was beaten on a Curtis Glencross breakaway 6:05 into the game---on a shot that glanced off his glove and into the net, and by a wide-open Dennis Wideman from the slot at 6:18 of the second period before Matt Stajan was left alone in the slot and buried a shot up high late in the third stanza. Stajan posted a three-point (1-2-3) night, while Glencross and Wideman were both 1-1-2.
Marc Staal scored the Rangers' only goal---a power play tally at 16:12 of the second period. The veteran defenseman went to the net and was rewarded when the puck landed at his feet and he swatted it into the cage, the Rangers first power play goal of the pre-season. The score came on the Rangers lone power play opportunity of the night. Their penalty killing unit was 3-for-3 and is now a perfect 9-for-9 during the pre-season.
A few days ago Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault stated that he wanted to take a long look at several of the younger players vying for spots on the roster this week, and certainly there was much to like from what he saw from the prospects on Monday night. Marek Hrivik, Danny Kristo, Jesper Fast, and Oscar Lindberg all stood out in a positive way against the Flames, with both Fast and Hrivik finding their way on to the scoresheet, earning the assists on Staal's goal.
Hrivik was one of the lone bright spots for the Rangers in the opening 20 minutes, in which the Blueshirts were outshot by their hosts 9-6. Forceful and confident with the puck, and positionally smart without it, Hrivik shined in all three zones. In one first period shift the Slovakian forward stole the puck twice, leading to scoring chances on both occasions, including a partial breakaway of his own which began in the neutral zone.
At one point in the second period Hrivik found himself on the ice with Kristo and Lindberg after a partial line change, and all three young forwards produced scoring chances over a 20 second span. Later in the second Kristo sprinted up left wing on a breakaway, though he was stopped by Cagary netminder Karri Ramo; and in the third period Fast was rewarded for his strong play through 40 minutes when Vigneault bumped him up to the top line opposite Rick Nash and Brad Richards.
Also standing out for the visitors were all three fourth-line forwards: Arron Asham, Brandon Mashinter, and Darroll Powe. The threesome played a physically punishing game, was strong on the forecheck, and had several good scoring opportunities. In fact Mashinter had two of the Rangers' best chances all night, the first on an opening-period put-back from the slot that hit Ramo in the pads, and the second on a third-period break-in after a perfect tape-to-tape cross-ice pass from Michael Del Zotto which was also denied by Ramo.
The Rangers received a scare late in the first period when Del Zotto's ear was cut by a skate blade. Del Zotto remained in the dressing room for repairs for most of the second period, but was able to return, with a protective piece covering his left ear hole. Moments after returning to the game, Del Zotto started the scoring play on Staal's power play goal with a smart pass from the left point.
In the third period John Moore was shaken up when he blocked a shot and the puck rode up his stick and struck him in the neck. Though in obvious discomfort, Moore did not miss a shift, and , in fact, he engaged in a spirited fight with Glencross shortly after Calgary had scored their third goal.
The Blueshirts are right back at it Tuesday night when they face the Oilers in Edmonton. Martin Biron will start in goal and is expected to play the entire game.