Tough outing for the Rangers, it really doesn't get much worse than losing in overtime on home ice, it doesn't get more devastating either. David Herring, the overtime hero for the Otters, appears to be at least a worthy opponent for Andrew Shennan in terms of being public enemy #1 in Kitchener. Suddenly the Rangers similar in many respects to the 2004 playoffs find themselves surrendering home ice after only one game in the series. This one didn't come without a battle and also the Rangers had some tough luck around the Otters' net throughout the game, they were unable to coral rebounds and also couldn't capitalize on the powerplay. In the first playoff game with the Erie Otters since the team has played in Erie. Their last series against the Otters franchise happened in back-to-back years 1990, and 1991 when the team was located out of Niagara Falls. It leaves only the Saginaw Spirit the last in conference team that the Rangers still have yet to play. Unfortunately for the Spirit who've been in the conference for 3 years now, those sentiments are also shared by 8 other Western Conference teams. No one said the playoffs would be easy though few would have predicted that the Rangers would struggle with scoreing as much as they did during the first game of the best of seven series.
After many close chances early for the Rangers
they appeared to really catch a break when the Otters started getting in
trouble for stick fouls. Geoff Platt started by spearing Justin Azevedo
in the abdomain area leaving the Rangers' rookie curled up on the ice in
pain the referee was unable to see the play but the linesmen who had just
dropped the puck informed him of the infraction and assessed a double-minor
for spearing on the Otters' sniper. Those problems really were further
compounded when Tomas Galasek took a double-minor just under two minutes
later for a high stick to the face of Michael Richards that drew blood.
The Rangers' didn't take any time, Evan McGrath backhanded a rebound into
the empty half of the net only 8 seconds later. The result was extremely
negative for the Otters, with only 3 seconds left in the first of the minors
to Platt, they would still have to kill off two more full minutes while
playing two men down. Somehow, some way the Otters did it even with
the Rangers all over the net, hitting posts, missing corners and refugee
status was given to the Otters' when finally all of the infractions had
expired and David Clarkson was assessed a minor for netminder inteference
on the way into the first intermission after the Rangers had pounded 22
shots in Disher's direction (many more that were blocked) and only had
a 1-0 lead to show for it. Fans couldn't have anticipated that the
Rangers would be shutdown and shutout over the next 3 periods and change.
The theme of the first period appeared to be Otters penalties, in the second period it was the Rangers who started the period with a call against them and then continued a long parade of players to the penalty box, and this time the Rangers would be the ones forced to kill off multiple two-man advantages something that they did with confidence. Their play in the offensive or the lack of play in the offensive zone really started to take the crowd out of the game in the second period where the Otters really started taking the play to the Rangers. Finally the Otters broke out their scoring funk only 10 seconds into a powerplay created by a: Mark Fraser high-sticking minor. Derrick Merlini's point shot was tipped past Turple by Andrew Shennan tying the score at 1-1. The Otters threatened for more when Jakub Kindl went to the box after the Otters had tied the game up and only Dan Turple was capable of holding the Rangers into the game. A scoreless third period set the scene for overtime. In the first overtime Michael Richards probably enjoyed the best chance his backhander off of a rebound drifted just over the net, and Josh Disher appeared luck enough to get just enough of each shot to keep them from entering the net.
In the 2nd overtime period, David Herring took down a Rangers' defender from behind the net, a short while later he emerged infront of the net putting a wrist shot past Dan Turple giving the Otters the early edge in the series and the all-important home-ice advantage. Josh Disher and Dan Turple both of whom faced 57 shots were givens for both first and second star, if either netminder had elected to have a "normal" game, it would have resulted in a blowout victory for one of the two teams. The Rangers enjoyed 13 powerplay opportunities but only walked away with one powerplay goal for their efforts, an aspect of their game which has to improve. Both penalty kills were aggressive in the series opener, both were also very busy killing a combined 20 minors. Payback seemed to be something of an absent theme in this game, despite some of the chaos that ended the game between the two rivals only one week earlier.