Seeking a fourth straight victory, as well as a chance to get back to .500 on the season and earn some payback for a 6-0 loss back in early October out in Anaheim, the Rangers fell short Monday night at Madison Square Garden, losing to the Ducks 2-1.
The loss dropped the Rangers record to 6-8-0, and was their first on this four-game homestand which concludes Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After missing seven straight games since breaking his thumb blocking a shot in Washington on October16th, Ryan Callahan was back in the Rangers lineup Monday night and was, arguably, the team's most effective skater all night long. Callahan started on the third line with Derick Brassard and Brian Boyle, and found himself on the second line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin before too long. The Rangers captain earned an assist on the team's lone goal and was also credited with a game-high six hits.
Henrik Lundqvist allowed a pair of first period goals and that was all, finishing with 23 saves. Anaheim rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen won his fourth straight start, establishing a new franchise record for most wins by a goaltender at the start of his Ducks career.
Andersen preserved a one-goal lead with a series of clutch, Grade A saves late in the third period, including a pair on Ryan McDonagh and one after Benoit Pouliot broke in behind the defense only to be snuffed on a backhand attempt. He also helped stymie two late Rangers power plays---one penalty called on Bryan Allen at 14:43, the second against Ryan Getzlaf at 16:34. Andersen stopped 32 of 33 shots on the night.
After a dismal start to the game---falling into a 2-0 hole just 9:09 into the contest---the Rangers finished the first period on a somewhat better note before finding their stride--or more specifically their forecheck---in the middle 20 minutes. Building momentum throughout the period the Rangers finally broke through against Andersen on a Michael Del Zotto goal with 1:24 to play before the second intermission to cut their deficit in half.
Moments after the Ducks iced the puck following a brilliant Andersen save on Richards, Del Zotto scored off a scramble in front on the Rangers 15th shot of the period and 25th shot of the night. The goal was Del Zotto's first of the season and first in 31 games dating back to March 19th of last season, in a game against New Jersey. Hagelin and Callahan assisted on the goal, with Hagelin upping his point total to four in four games (2-2-4) after coming back from off-season shoulder surgery.
McDonagh put an exclamation point on a strong second period by twice burying Corey Perry over the boards and into the Rangers bench on the final shift of the period, the second time at the buzzer, bringing a crowd of players over for a small skirmish that had the reenergized crowd on its feet roaring its approval.
Perry had opened the scoring just 2:29 into the first period when, following a Rangers turnover in the defensive zone, he roofed the rebound of his own first shot past Lundqvist for his team-leading ninth goal of the season. Another Blueshirts turnover led to the Ducks keeping the puck in the Rangers' end of the ice and a Kyle Palmieri goal at 9:09. Palmieri fired a wicked shot from the slot just under the crossbar for his fourth goal off a smooth right wing pass from Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin.
Anaheim scored twice on their first five shots against Lundqvist, but managed just one more shot the remainder of the first period, and only six in the second period. By that point the Rangers had fired 25 shots on Andersen, though the young netminder wad doing a solid job of not allowing rebounds and calmly deflecting away even the best of the home team's scoring chances until Del Zotto finally broke through against him.
The Rangers struggled mightily in the early going against the Ducks forecheck, but it was their own work on the forecheck that slowed the visitors and eventually gave the Rangers momentum during the second period. Callahan played a major role in that area, with Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett, Hagelin, and Richards also standing out on the forecheck.
Anaheim regained the territorial edge for much of the third period, forcing Lundqvist to make 13 saves in order to keep the Rangers withing striking distance.
J.T. Miller was scratched to make room for Callahan in the lineup, along with defenseman Justin Falk, while Rick Nash and Dominic Moore remained out with injuries. Anaheim played without the injured Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Jakob Silfverberg.