|Series boils down to a best
The script of the entire series changing in the first period when Whalers' playoff scoring leader: Chris Thorburn (mid-season acquisition from the neighbouring Saginaw Spirit) blasted a puck through netminder: Scott Dickie giving the Whalers their first opening goal of the series. The Rangers had scored first in all 3 games leading up to this one. Thorburn's goal while on the powerplay would be his first of two on the night. Thorburn brings together a rather lethal combination of size, power and speed, his two goals equalled Gregory Campbell's totals of 10 during this postseason, tied for first in the Western Conference. Despite their inability to kill off one of the powerplays in the first period the Rangers penalty killing, as it was all season long, remained strong. The Rangers were forced to kill off two more than minute long 5-on-3's. The first kill of which was of paramount importance, considering the fact that it would have given the Whalers a 2 goal lead for the first time since a game clinching empty net goal that they managed to score on the Rangers in the first game.
Michael Richards would be the guilty party on both of the second penalties leading to two man advantages for the Plymouth Whalers, the first call could have been understood, but the second call was nothing short of a clear display of officiating incomptence by an official who has carved out a penalty-happy reputation throughout the postseason. With the Rangers already shorthanded, Richards coasted backwards towards Drew who was nearly out as far as the hash marks, Drew met him, sticking him in the back. Richards lost it after the penalty was assessed and had to sit out two for interference plus a ten minute misconduct. This all came within a minute of when Steve Eminger knoted the score at 1-1 with a point shot while the Rangers enjoyed their only two-man advantage of the game. As the second penalty was called, coach Peter DeBoer used the Rangers only timeout to prep for the powerplay, and it obviously worked as the Rangers scored easily.
Soon after Eminger tied the score he did the Rangers one better launching a shot from far out just under the crossbar to give the Rangers their first lead of the game late in the second period. The second period where the Rangers outscored the Whalers 2-0 would be the only period where the Whalers and Rangers would have similar shot totals (14-14), the Rangers were outshot 13-6 in the first period and 18-9 in the third. Though it should be notted that these shot totals were inflated by the Whalers attempts to fool Dickie with these hard clear in shots directly on goal after the near complete dissaster that occured on Sunday after as the game came to a close.
The third period was completely dominated by the Whalers, they outhustled and outworked the Rangers throughout. Thorburn's game tying goal was a result of speed and reach as he snuck through on a rush and received a perfect pass from Karl Stewart deflecting the puck into the half empty net behind Dickie. Perhaps most embarassing was Chad LaRose (who factored in on all 3 Whalers goals and was named first star) walking in from the high slot on contested and given enough time to deke Scott Dickie while he lay helplessly on his back. Simply put no one took the third man on the rush.
The Rangers clearly missed the pressence of Marcus Smith on the blueline,
who has an upper body injury. T.J. Eason has been filling in well,
however lacks some of the passing abilities that the Rangers were able
to enjoy through two and a half rounds with Marcus directing traffic from
his own zone. Matt Manias dressed for the first time since the series
against the Greyhounds, he saw ice early in the game while paired with
Harrison. The loss was the Rangers first on the road in the playoffs
(5-1), it is notable that the Rangers outscored the Whalers 6-1 in the
second period while playing in the CSA in Plymouth. Adam Keefe sacrificed
his body in a fight against one of the top Whalers defenders: Nate Kiser
in the first period. Very late in the second period Keefe was almost
rewarded with a goal, but couldn't find the handle on the puck around the
Special thanks to: Duct
Tape for the excellent game night photography.