Make no mistake about it, the Rangers have their hopes and dreams resting on the shoulders of their backup netminder. Eric Pfligler was 1st star for the second consecutive home game after leading the Rangers to a 3-0 shutout of the Owen Sound Attack, the first Ranger playoff shutout since Scott Dickie put together back-to-back shutouts against the Greyhounds in the first two playoff games of 2003. Unlike the pair of shutouts by Dickie, Pfligler was battling his opponents without the benefit of any early offense by the Rangers. Infact in earliest that the Rangers have scored is midway through the second period in either of the two games this series. The problem for the Attack has been that they have yet to hold a lead against the Rangers, scoring only one goal in a combined 121 - plus minutes of hockey against the Rangers. Pfligler could have just as easily have been first star in Owen Sound where he came within 5 minutes of a shutout before the Attack sent the game into overtime late in regulation. The little 'big' man's influence on this series is indisputable. And like a fine wine, he's aging (improving) quite well in the playoffs. Pretty good for a netminder who's OHL career after some spectacular play with the Green Bay Gamblers could be ruled a dissapointment, that is until this postseason rolled around and incombant starter: Dan Turple went down with injury forcing him into action.
Eric Pfligler made several spectacular stops
in each of the first two periods, but save of the game or at least the
most flashy stop went to Pfligler's former teammate: Mike Brown who absolutely
robbed Michael Richards of a goal, when he snatched a lazer beam of a shot
out of the air, it appeared marked for the top corner. Mike Brown
held the Rangers scorers under wraps early in the game, but after some
big stops the visiting Attack started to gain some momentum. Richardson
and Bobby Ryan started to penetrate the Rangers' zone the deepest and several
times the Rangers required Pfligler to bail them out of trouble.
In the second period in what was probably one of the more memorable moments
of the game, Pfligler was caught sliding out of position, he had dove across
the net, but had gone too far, rather than returning to his crease he elected
to poke check: Jeff Kyrzakos who was caught completely by surprise and
off-guard. Only 11 seconds into an Attack powerplay, on a play that
started deep in the Rangers' end, the Rangers scored a crushing shorthanded
marker. Michael Richards raced up ice and his move was a bank shot
from the side of the next that went off of Mike Brown's leg and into the
net, giving the capacity crowd of nearly 6,300 reason to explode.
The goal only occured 7 seconds prior to the end of the middle period.
The Rangers appeared almost tentative when protecting their lead early in the third period. Ryan Donally provided them with some veteran poise while killing penalties and Adam Keefe and Evan McGrath were also doing a number on the Attack. McGrath intercepted a bad pass in deep while in on the forecheck, he turned to run out to the blueline, squared himself to the goal and his wrister bulged the twine over Brown's glove-side shoulder. It was the Rangers' 2nd shorthanded goal of the game. The sounds eminating from the capacity crowd were deafening. Less than one minute later Justin Azevedo capitalized with the game's only even strengh goal, Kevin Henderson deflected the puck onto his stick and he in turn chased the Attack team to the bench where Mike Stothers called a timeout to regroup with the Attack down 3-0, more was threatning as well. Patrick Davis just barely deflected a shot-pass wide of the goal that woudl have make the score 4-0. Nonetheless with the score 3-0 Rangers' fans stood to salute and cheer on the Rangers who for the most part took things to the Attack physically while playing out of their own rink, something they did extremely well against the Attack.
Now that the Attack and Rangers have 8 total games against each other, the Rangers have a slim: 4-3-1 win-loss-tie margin. The Rangers scored a pair of shorthanded goal and especially in the third period had the Attack powerplay under wraps. The Attack were 0 for 7 on the man advantage and now rest 0 for 14 during the series with a pair of shorthanded goals against. All-time the Rangers improved their home playoff record against the Attack/Platers franchise to: 4-2. For the first time the Rangers actually have a two-game lead against the Attack. Official Terry Hobor did a competent job in keeping the game under control. Though several players were receipients of spears, butt-end and slashes behind the play. After being outshot in the first two periods, the Rangers doubled up on the Attack with a 16-8 margin in the third period.