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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    NY Rangers Record Historic Loss

    For a tortured fan base of a team that has only won four Stanley Cups in it’s 82-year history, the final result seemed inevitable. The majority of the years between the Rangers 1926 entrance into the league, and the NHL’s first real expansion in 1967 saw only six teams compete in the league. For all the history and nostalgia said to exist in Madison Square Garden and around the Rangers, the lack of success seems to make those claims sound rather hollow.

    Fast forward to Feb. 19, 2008. Two of those original six teams squared off north of the border, against a franchise with unparalleled success. The Rangers rolled into Montreal to play the Canadiens. Both teams sat in the playoff picture, and the Rangers were coming off a pair of impressive weekend matinee victories that got their fan base roaring again. And although most New York fans were busy pre-gaming the Super Bowl the last time the Rangers were in Montreal, they seemingly had the Canadiens number, especially considering how they rose from a three goal deficit to beat Montreal 5-3 on Super Bowl Sunday.

    The Rangers jumped all over the Canadiens in the first period. By the time the game was 14 minutes old the Rangers led 3-0, and had chased Montreal’s highly touted rookie goalie Carey Price. His backup Cristobal Huet did not fare much better, and five minutes into the second period the Rangers converted two chances less than 30 seconds apart to go up 5-0. It seemed like one of those games, where the Rangers just converted everyone of their good scoring chances to blow out a good team.

    The fact that it was happening in Montreal, where their classless fans seemingly forgot hockey is a contact sport as they scream for penalties every time a Canadien player is touched, made it sweeter.

    With a score of 5-0, what could go wrong? In classic fashion, the team dropped into a defensive shell and just tried to hold the 5-0 lead. What happened next was 30 minutes of pure domination.

    Unlike the Rangers, who converted everything to gain their 5-0 lead, Montreal roared back physically and emotionally. They overpowered the Rangers physically, drove them further into their shell. Not only did the Rangers not mount an offense to try and stem the tide, they couldn’t get the puck out of their own end. Maybe, as some say, Henrik Lundqvist could have come up with one more big save to secure the game, but without him in goal it just as easily could have been 10-5 Montreal.

    Michael Ryder scored twice for the Canadiens in a four-minute span to make the game 5-2, and that’s all the crowd needed to get going. As much blame as the fans should get, they rattled the Rangers as the wave of momentum gained steam.

    Maybe it’s a good learning experience for the eight Ranger players under 25 who were in the game. It seemed like Montreal might have killed their own momentum late in the second, when Long Island native Mike Komisarek took a roughing penalty, then proceeded to come out of the box and attempt to knock Paul Mara’s head through the boards with a high check, earning him another two minutes of penalties. Of course Komisarek was wearing the big red Canadien ‘C’ across his chest, so the fans thought Mara should get a two minute minor for head butting Komisarek’s stick. No where in the United States does a crowd become as involved. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see flares come raining down like in a European soccer game.

    But the Rangers went into the second intermission with a three goal lead. Head Coach Tom Renney, who stood behind the bench with the same uninterested look while his team choked away it’s lead, must have given some pep talk. 6:43 into the period, it was 5-3. Nine seconds later it was 5-4. Henrik Lundqvist did his best to hold the fort for nearly 10 minutes, until defenseman Marek Malik took his seven millionth hooking penalty on the season (and he missed a bunch of time with injuries and because he’s a terrible hockey player). The building nearly erupted when former Ranger Alexi Kovalev fired a slapper that went through Lundqvist to tie the game.

    Somehow the game made it into overtime. After both teams traded chances for five minutes without any goals being scored, the shootout began. For most regular season games, the shootout is fine. It’s a fun thing for the fans to see, but it’s no way to decide a game like this.

    The Rangers seemingly lucked out, having one of the best breakaway goaltenders in the league, and the fact that if they had to play any more five on five hockey they definitely would have lost. But the glorified skills competition went to the Canadiens after Captain Jaromir Jagr lost the puck off his stick on a final deke attempt, and the collapse was complete. And just like that the successful prior weekend went out the window.

    In typical Ranger fashion, they not only lost, but did it in the most excruciating of ways. The only recourse is that they did the same thing last February, but still managed to find a grove and make the playoffs. While there have never been any other blown five goal leads in the teams history, coming up short in a big spot seems all to familiar.

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