New territory hasn't exactly been friendly to the Rangers of late. Nor have comebacks, in each of the last two Rangers' games they have come from behind to tie the games after trailing by mutliple goals to start the game, the unfortunate part is the two losses that accompanied these comebacks. The latest setback being a 4-3 decision to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, decided in overtime. It's a first but hardly a positive one for a Rangers' team which has struggled like never before; at least never before in the DeBoer era. But at least in this game the Rangers did manage to walk away with a single point, unlike their tough finish in Guelph. One could argue that lessons were learned as the Rangers did play some solid defense against the Greyhounds in the latter half of the third period. This loss unlike in the previous game also resulted in the Rangers acquiring a much needed point for the extremely competitive Western Conference standings. But the slow starts by the Rangers remain a primary concern. Multi-goal deficits to start a pair of games in Guelph, a game in the Soo, at home against the Otters. The Rangers simply put have been getting their skating legs late in games, and that can be looked as at much as any area as room for improvement.
For the Rangers this start wasn't bad it was
just outright disasterous! Four shots and two goals, the first by
Ryan Kitchen and the second by Tyler Kennedy (coming on a broken offensive
play) were enough to chase the big Rangers' starting netminder. Mark
Packwood entered the game, but couldn't change the tide, already firmly
in the Greyhounds' favour with a strong crowd urging them on. The
crowd announced at over 3,500 was more than the Rangers have seen in the
Ontario Hockey League's most northern city in at least 5 seasons, including
a pair of post-season games. Soon after Mark Packwood's emergence
into the game, the Rangers simply dug a bigger hole for themselves.
Matt Lashoff took a penalty while on the Rangers' powerplay and soon after
Valabik made an infraction while playing four-on-four, this eventually
led to a better than 60 second two man advantage, more than enough time
for Jason Pitton to beat Packwood and nearly enough time on the single-man
advantage to simply run the Rangers out of the Memorial Gardens.
The Rangers are simply running out of time to run away with points from
the Memorial Gardens, set for demolition with a new arena being erected
immediately next door on course to see it's first action in the 2006-2007
Call it another tale of two games for the Rangers, whom have been playing a convincing game of Jekyll and Hyde while convincing both fans and indepedent media that they are capable of more, much more. After starting the game down 3-0, the Rangers got just a trickle of life when Evan McGrath tipped a powerplay point shot through Gajewski. They wasted little time on that man advantage connecting after 2 passes, and a Jakub Kindl point shot in only 5 seconds. It was a sign of life, but to most of the 3,505 in attendance, it was hardly of concern with the Rangers looking both disorganized and rattled at the same time. Immediately after the goal, McGrath found himself in the penalty box for an extended amount of time, David Kuchejda delivered a hit with a high-elbow on rookie Yves Bastien and the 4th year veteran took exception, he settled the score, but would also have to settle for 17 minutes straight in the sin bin for the Rangers. The Rangers scoring problems were further compounded when Jakub Kindl received a five minute major for cross-checking on what in reality was a case of near non-contact with Andrew Shennan. It wasn't just the penalty the Rangers would have to kill, but another high scorer was name unavailable to the team through the remainder of regulation. After setting the tone in the second period with an early dominant penalty kill, the Rangers started to create chances, they also returned the reigns back to Dan Turple whom has played in all but one of the Rangers 12 games thus far. Mike Duco seemed to spark the Rangers when he took himself off of the ice for 5 minutes winning a scrap with Jacob Lalonde. The return of McGrath and Duco both late in the second period seemed to lift the Rangers, fresh late in the period McGrath for the second straight period gave the Rangers something positive to return to the dressing room with snapping a Yves Bastien feed past Gajewski.
The movementum gained in the second seemed to bring the Rangers to life in the third. Mike Duco burst down the wing and put a low slapper past Gajewski on a bad angle, pretty much the only goal of the game that any netminder would really really want back. Tie game and it was then that frustration started by the two teams who are facing off for 8th in the conference started to show. Only minutes later Boris Valabik, Matt Auffrey, Tyler Kennedy and Cody Thornton started a four player war behind the Rangers' net, one that threatened to spread to all players on the ice. Somehow officiating was friendly enough to give all combatants roughing minors and double minors for what was a very ugly melee. Only seconds after a lengthy break of sorting out the infractions, physical intensity returned to the opposite end of the ice, this time Andrew Shennan got the jump as well as the instigator in an ugly infraction with Jean-Michel Rizk, the power play combined with a delay of game call for a puck that was launched from the Greyhounds zone and direcly into exit doors, thankfully missing all fans en route, but creating a thunderous sound. It also created a very abbreviated two-man advantage for the Rangers' one discussed with a timeout immediately after the call. The Rangers failed to score on their big chance, but had sophomore netminder Kyle Gajewski rattled. Time after time they put shots just past the post on the wide side and after coughing up a three-goal lead, Gajewski started to fight the puck, he'd redeam himself later.
The Greyounds, first late in regulation and then the Rangers in overtime would each have 2 minutes of powerplay time, neither team was able to put the puck in the net. Leading to what turned out to be the first regular-season shootout for both teams. The Rangers struggled mightily with their shooting in the pre-season and this game was no different. Matt Auffrey, not a member of the team at season's start scored the only Rangers goal, while Ryan Kitchen ended the game in sudden and dramatic fashion with a goal after Tyler Kennedy had beaten Turple on the Greyhounds' first shot. Myles Applebaum played in his first regular season game this season, and veterans Sean Courtney and Boris Valabik returned to the Rangers lineup. Overage winger: Ryan Donally continued to sit out, still feeling the effects of a concussion suffered in Peterborough.