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Close doesn't count, Rangers drop 10th straight in London
 


Azevedo reacts after missing a second period penalty shot.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com


It's been a long while since the Rangers have won in London.  Since the 2002-2003 season the Rangers have now dropped 10 straight decisions in London, including a trio of playoff losses in the spring of 2005, and now a pair of overtime losses during the regular season where the Rangers at least managed to pick up a single point.  Since the Knights have moved to the John Labatt Center in downtown London the Rangers have a 2-9-2 mark in the building (wins-losses-overtime losses), the only wins that the Rangers have managed to pull off happened during their championship run in 2002-2003.  Those overtime losses carry with them credit for a single point but what has to be disappointing is that the Rangers have had 3-0 and most recently 2-0 leads in those games only to fall in overtime.  The positive Ranger and Rangers' fan alike have to look at the Rangers' third period comebacks against the Knights this year.  Sure, they did stake themselves to an early 2-0 lead, but the Knights also had a late 3-2, that the Rangers managed to comeback from.  The Rangers have put the Knights on alert this season, no lead - no matter how late is safe against Kitchener as the Rangers have twice tied games late in regulation, in their first meeting in Kitchener, the Rangers didn't only tie the game prior to the expiration of regulation time, they also snuck away with the win late in the game.

One thing that is becoming very evident in the Midwestern division in the second half of the season is that goals will not be easy to come by.  All five teams hold overaged netminders in their posession.  All nights that you face Midwestern division opponents (unless they give their starter the night off) you will probably struggle scoring.  This matchup had enough opportunities to create quite the barn-burner!  At times both netminders stood on their heads, other times it was the shooters who may have been guilty of holding their sticks a little too tightly and not getting the best chances.  Justin Azevedo nearly threw his stick in aggrevation after a penalty shot, he later scored on a top shelf beauty.  Knights' sniper David Bolland made an impossible move while on a breakaway to open the scoring for the Knight but when facing Turple in the first period simply had the puck roll off of the end of his stick as it appeared as if he had lost the pursuing Rangers' defender at the side of the goal.  Much like in their previous meeting prior to the World Junior Championships, the netminders did steal the show, and perhaps the best stop in this game occured on Evan McGrath who picked up the puck backdoor and had Dennis snap up the glove at an incredible speed to knock the puck straight into the air as it appeared on course to send the water bottle flying from the inside of the net after being shot.  It was a pivotal point in the game when Dennis stopped several Rangers' breakaways, including one by Yves Bastien, keeping the Knights in the game long enough for them to get their legs.  A favour afforded to the Rangers in Kitchener by Dan Turple on teddy bear night where it appeared as if the Rangers had left him for dead earlier in the third period.
 



Dan Turple quickly kicks out his pad for a stop in the first period.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com

Coming off of a very dominant victory over the Knights on Tuesday night with both teams not sporting full lineups, the Rangers seemed to hold both the momentum and the upper hand early in this game.  After the two teams spent the opening minutes feeling each other out, the Rangers started to pick up some great scoring opportunities.  And with Andrew Wilkins in the box and a delayed penatly to Jordan Foreman coming up immediately after the faceoff, Craig Voakes managed to tuck a rebound under Adam Dennis giving the Rangers an early lead, the Rangers have scored the opening goal in all three matchups with the Knights this season.  Early in the second period the Rangers took yet another powerplay but early in this one, Robbie Drummond was assesed a major penalty for crosschecking and a game misconduct, the Rangers had a golden opportunity infront of them a two man advantage of nearly 90 seconds followed by three and a half minutes of power play time.  Evan McGrath gave the Rangers a two-goal lead just as the initial penalty expired, but the Rangers couldn't open up a larger lead with the remainder of the power play infact it was there that the Knights got back into the game.  David Bolland took a clear breakaway with lots of room to spare, he faked a shot and then spun wide of the goal chipping the puck perfectly over the outstretched Turple in the Rangers' net.

The Rangers had chances of their own to restore the two-goal lead.  Evan McGrath was robbed on a one-timer with a spectacular glove save by Adam Dennis just below the crossbar.  Impressive rookie Yves Bastien broke in all alone, but couldn't bait Dennis with his move.  Perhaps the biggest opportunity belonged to Justin Azevedo, he came in on a break but was hooked to the ice from behind.  On the ensuing penalty shot Azevedo wasn't capable of a good scoring opportunity and as a result the score stood 2-1 Rangers.  But the tide was shifting against the Rangers, it took a while but London's league-best power play finally clicked late in the second period on a beautiful redirect by Schremp.  Early in the third the Knights took their first lead, Dylan Hunter found the empty half of the net.  But with less than 4 minutes remaining Justin Azevedo got a little revenge on Adam Dennis taking the puck deep and then unexpectedly flipping it up and over Dennis who hadn't gone all of the way down but did leave the near top corner exposed.  Despite the goal the Rangers were put even further on their heals and barely managed to force overtime.  Halfway through the overtime session Dylan Hunter deflected a harmless-looking Ryan Martinelli point shot past Turple.  Late in the game David Bolland and Mark Fraser each came around the net leaving their checks on opposite sides colliding behind the goal.  Bolland appeared to injure his knee and Fraser appeared to take an elbow to the head.  No status on the health of either at the conclusion of the game.  After allowing a very stingy 2 goals in three games in 2006, the Rangers tripped their goals against in this one allowing 4 goals, with two of them coming while killing penalties.