Any notion that the Rangers would only be able to mount an impressive comeback against only inferior teams may have gone out the window on Sunday afternoon. The Rangers, who were clearly not thinking of the Grey Cup gave the Western Conference leading champions, all they could handle and on this day a little more. After a humbling loss in the midst of an 8 game run where the Rangers only managed 1 win, the Rangers put together their first three-win weeekend, two of them in thrilling come from behind wins.
The Rangers' three game in four day weekend couldn't have been more of a success for the team. Three different Rangers goalies were of record in three Rangers wins for a 6 point weekend which left the Rangers in 7th place in the conference where they started though, far far closer to first place overall in the OHL. Infact they aided their first place rivals from down highway in Guelph, by defeating the London Knights in overtime. The reality of the situation is that the Rangers soon only hope to help themselves, first place in the league is only 4 points infront of them, and through a crazy amount of coincidences the Rangers place both 7th in their conference as well as 7th in the league overall, as the Eastern Conference continues to be less than mediocre on just about any given night. The three game sweep on this week was similar to one early in the 2002-'03 season where Dickie, Harpwood, and DiRienzo enjoyed wins over the 67's, Bulls, and Ice Dogs during three consecutive games on that weekend, those wins would start the Rangers on one of their most prominant winning streaks of the season, leading them to first place overall, a status that they wouldn't relinquish.
The mood in the Memorial Auditorium was rather
restless early in the game towards official: Ian Smith, Dennis Wideman
injured Jesse Boucher with what many felt was a kneeing infraction, things
were escalated when Kanko was assessed the instigator penalty while trying
to enact some revenge on the veteran London defenseman. Fans continued
to voice their displeasure when Paul McFarland found his way to the box
with a four minute hitting from behind penalty. Rob Schremp waltzed
through the entire Rangers' defensive corps and zipped the puck past DiRienzo.
Things got even more interesting after Andre Benoit left a puddle of blood
on the ice late in the period after a series of mishaps which started with
a Logan Hunter highstick, the Rangers' powerplay sputtered, and only finally
connected when Marc Methot found his way to the box giving the Rangers
a full two-minute, two man advantage. Michael Richards deposited
a rebound past Coleman and the Rangers were in business.
The Rangers found themselves in a much bigger hole in the second period. First Corey Perry stepped out from behind the net looking virtually uncontested and eventually found his way around DiRienzo who couldn't come up with the stop. Minutes later former Ranger: Scott Sheppard would strike for his second goal against his former team. The linesmen would wave off icing late, and DiRienzo played the puck onto Corey Perry's stick in the corner, Sheppard simply had an empty net to beat once the hard pass arrived infront. Much like on Friday night, the Rangers were able to draw momentum from another capacity crowd of nearly 6,000 specatators who were as boisterous as Aud crowd's get. Nathan O'Nabigon was able to beat Coleman and bring the Rangers back to within one later in the period.
A long road still lay infront of the Rangers during the third period. Unlike the Saginaw Spirit, the London Knights were refused to collapse under the pressure provided by the Rangers as they gained momentum and worked towards tying the game. It was a 6 man effort and Carlo DiRienzo was able to attain for his clearing error in the second period, making some very quality stops including one glove save that brought the crowd to it's feet after the game was already tied. Michael Richards supplied the tying goal as he did during the previous home game, he snapped a wicked wrist shot over the glove of Coleman, while on the rush with David Clarkson. With the momentum clearly in the Rangers' favour Peter DeBoer called a timeout late in the third period, to set up a game plan for his team to avoid overtime with, the rest appeared to have benefited the Knightst the greatest as they took the puck down ice and heamed the Rangers into their own zone.
In overtime, Petr Kanko was the hero, his shot
while on a two man rush with David Clarkson would send an already explosive
Rangers' home crowd into a frenzy, as well as emptying the Rangers' bench
onto the ice. The win was the Rangers second straight in overtime,
the Rangers lost in overime in Windsor, the second game of the still young
season. The win was the 3rd straight for the Rangers, 5th in 6 games.
Jesse Boucher returned to the ice during the third period, however Andre
Benoit was not seen again after his injury. Mike Chmielewski and
Peter Franchin for the second consecutive game, continued to create havoc
in the offensive zone, but were not rewarded with any scoring. Adam
Keefe was very noticable on the penalty kill for the Rangers. The
Rangers powerplay went 1 for 10 on the man advantage scoring only on the
two-man advantage during the first period, the Knights pressured the puck
relentlessly and were rewarded for their efforts. Perry (1-2), Kanko
(1-2) and Clarkson (0-3) all had three points a piece. Richards,
who seems to be coming into his own as the team captain, was rewarded for
his 2 goal effort as the game's first star for the second consecutive game.
In the three weekend games Richards tallied 8 points (4-4) and is sure
to be a player of the week candidate.