After losing back-to-back one-goal games on home ice, it was time to reflect. The Rangers haven't lost two games straight since late in the month of December and the bubble appears to have burst against some of their tougher opponents. Sickness and a mounting injury toll have the Rangers playing shorthanded. Though technically their play while down a man has improved and been second to none in the entire league since New Year's day, since everyone has moved on to newer calendars the Rangers penalty kill is operating at nearly 88%. The problem is that everyone aside from their most active penalty killer: Dan Turple has been going down injured. Unfortunately despite some minor improvements in the roster, the Rangers are making one step forwards, followed by two or three backwards. A healthy Patrick Davis was a friendly sight for Rangers' fans but news of Duco being gone for the weekend at minimum and for up to 3-4 weeks certainly casts a dark shadow over the Rangers. As does the knowledge that Matt Lashoff is also joining him on the sideline. The Rangers are starting to appear every bit as spirited as the gutsy 1997-'98 team, though on paper when healthy much more talented.
Very similar to the last meeting between the
two teams, the Rangers let the Spitfires away with an early goal, last
time it was John Scott Dickson that hurt them with a pair of goals early.
This time it was Brett Liscomb, he buried a feed from Steve Downie putting
the Spitfires ahead only 1:39 into the game. While working with two
of the Rangers' biggest wingers, Justin Azevedo knifed a shot into the
top corner of the net, his 12th of the season, a quick sniper-like shot
brought the Rangers' back to even terms. While playing on a Rangers'
4-on-3 powerplay later in the period. Azevedo would wrist a point
shot just shy of the top corner of the net nearly duplicating his earliier
feat. At the other end of the ice Dan Turple was forced to make a
breakaway stop to keep the score tied at one goal a piece. At the
20:00 mark, Mike Weber threw off the gloves with Adam Keefe, the scrap
was in reality a huge mismatch, Keefe slammed his opponent's helmet into
the ice and landed several power punches delighting the crowd while they
were making their way to the concourse.
Much like in the first period Brett Lisacomb caught the Rangers early, this time only 41 seconds in. Ryan Garlock emerged from behind the Rangers goal with the puck and while at the top of the crease Liscomb dug low for the puck and managed to squeeze it between Turple's legs. Many would observe that the Rangers' defenders infront of the goal were perhaps a little guilty of being soft on Liscomb. Later in the period while on the powerplay the Rangers would for a second time tie the game. Craig Voakes was allowed some time and space to really step into a point shot. It did and his blast rocked the back of the net behind Knechtel. In the third period the Rangers may have been at their best, though throughout most of the game the Rangers weren't overly thrilling for the more than 6,000 fans in attendance. The Rangers peppered Knechtel with 15 shots (nearly half of their game total) and several times appeared to be thwarted by early whistles. Disaster struck late in regulation, with only 1:28 remaining, Paul McFarland threaded a perfect pass on to the stick of John Scott Dickson who made little mistake on his opportunity. Two timesouts and a vacated Rangers' net later, and the home side had lost their second straight.
Paul Yovanic dressed in his first game with the Rangers, he nor Dan Gyenes ever stepped onto the ice for the Rangers. Peter DeBoer did not face any additional discipline for his actions one game earlier when he was ejected, he was however assigned a fine of $1000. The return of Patrick Davis reunited a line which earlier in the season was at times deadly. Clarkson, McGrath and Davis contributed for all 3 goals in a 3-3 tie in Windsor, and only one night later scored all 6 goals in a 6-3 win over the Plymouth Whalers; unfortunately that line while impressive at times did not produce against the Spitfires. After going pointless in each of his first 10 games with the Rangers Jean-Michel Rizk now has points in each of his last two games. Should the Rangers and Spitfires not meet in the postseason this will have been Brad Toppings' final visit to his short lived home in Kitchener.