It was the kind of effort that everyone desired and the kind of finish that everyone would be terrified of. Apparently there's something about finishes in game 3's versus the Whalers. Last season the Rangers led the game 3-1 until the dying minutes where they were effectively rescued byt the buzzer when Scott Dickie let former Whaler captian: Cole Jarrett's shot in over his shoulder. This season things would be even more intersting. The Rangers led 4-2 late in the game, and twice allowed the Whalers to close to within one goal in the final three minutes, and once a clear in attempt nearly snuck past Topping who was visably shaken. In all the two teams' combined for a total of 3 goals in 33 seconds in what was one of the craziest 33 seconds of hockey seen at the Aud in years.
The game was easily the most physical of the
series, both Petr Kanko and Mike Duco lead the charge for the Rangers crashing
into virtually anything that was moving. Tim Sestito opened the scoring
for the Whalers slipping a rebound past: Topping who was down and out on
the play. While the Rangers entered the second down a goal, it didn't
to faze the spirit of the hometown team or its fans. Petr Kanko dug
a rebound out and put it in the Plymouth net to draw the Rangers back to
even. Only minutes later while the Rangers were on a powerplay Andre
Benoit stepped into the middle of the point and let one of his patented
seeing eye point shots go which found it's way through a maze of players
and past Ryan Nie. Peter Franchin would then get down and dirty infront
of the Whalers' net, digging a puck free and depositing it past: Nie for
his team leading 3rd goal of the playoffs. The Rangers would then
face their biggest test of the game, having to kill a two-man advantage.
Not only were they able to pull out a gutsy effort, especially Adam Keefe
who refused to give up, Nathan O'Nabigon who had just gotten on the after
the Rangers cleared the puck and the first penalty expired chipped the
puck past a surprised Nie while the Rangers were still shorthanded to give
the Rangers a commanding 4-1 lead.
Mike Knight formerly of the Belleville Bulls, got the ball rolling on a third period comeback, his point shot deflected into the top corner of the Rangers' net. Knight struck again with just over two and a half minutes remaining in the third period, narrowing the Rangers' lead to only one goal. Immediately after Petr Kanko stormed down the ice and shot a puck that found it's way in from a near impossible angle restoring the two goal lead. Before the Whalers could even bring Nie to the bench again Mike Letizia scored and suddenly panic started to spread around the Auditorium. Unfortunately the panic wasn't only in the stands, Topping almost allowed a routine clear in to sneak past him and into the Rangers' net. Fortunately the Rangers were able to get things under control and kill the final two minutes of regulation.
The Rangers specialty teams were the difference
in this game. The Rangers powerplay finished the night 1 for 5 on
the man advantage, after a depressing 1 for 11 on the powerplay during
game one of the series. Probably most key to the final result of
the game, was the Rangers' penalty kill which shut down the Whalers' powerplay
on each of their 7 opportunities, including a rather lengthy two-man advantage.
James Wisniewski absorbed a thundering Petr Kanko hit midway through the
third period and was not seen for the remainder of the game, speculation
would be that Wisniewski's shoulder might have been injured.