When you're having one of the team's worst starts in years, things tend to go wrong whenever possible. Case and point would be the Rangers woes on the blueline. With each of the team's top three defenders all graduating, the team was already going to have their struggles on the back end. Problems simply compounded themselves when during the team's first three games of the season, they lost one of their most key defenders in each matchup. It's left the team crippled at times this season, especially when fatigue sets in and penalties follow. The Rangers did manage to mix things up a little in this matchup, rather than a strong first period and a disasterous second, the Rangers struggled through the opening period of play, John Murray and a steady defense that blent but didn't break was the only thing between the Rangers coming out of the period in a scoreless tie, versus a one or two goal deficit. Murray, who's start broke the Rangers' three-man rotation in Erie, was the only Rangers' netminder to record victories this season, he also after this matchup was the only netminder to have played in consecutive starts.
The Rangers' penalty kill was strong again,
the big coup for the team, was killing off a more than one minute two-man
advantage during the first period. The netminders did come up with
some huge stops though to enable both penalty kills to go a combined 12
for 12. The Rangers' power play, their achilleus heal this season,
fired blanks again, they were 0-for-7, operating at 15.4% on the season,
an area where the Rangers were amongst the league leaders in the previous
season. Mike Duco probably came closest of all shooters during the
first period, when he took a back-door pass, but failed to beat Guadagnolo.
Failing to beat Guadagnolo has been somewhat of a problem since he joined
the Spitfires, long heralded as the individual who helped turn things around
last season, Guadagnolo has been extremely stingy when in goal against
the Rangers' who saw their Windsor goal parade abruptly halted when Guadagnolo
showed up in town. This season, hasn't been the greatest for the
now veteran overage Spitfires' netminder. He like the Spitfires,
have stumbled out of the gate this season, a cardinal sin for an overager,
as his play could be described as crippling for a team that lost nearly
all of its key offensive cogs during the off-season. On this night
you wouldn't have known that Guadagnolo was struggling though. He
was finding some way to stop shots, and just as often the Rangers were
finding some way to have the puck just barely miss the net.
The Spitfires seemed to arrive in Kitchener with a purpose and that was to snap their winless start to the season. It wasn't just a start of a new season, but also several other news starts. The team was on the move though only on paper to a new arena at long last and new ownership was giving the franchise who had last laid claim to a division title in 1988, new hope. The first period, a strong one had to be discouraging for the Spitfires, even more discouraging was an early second period goal by Matt Auffrey. It's been a long time since a shot was put into the net with with such little pace, and so much precision. Matt brought the puck in deep, towards the Spitfires' goal and managed to trick Guadagnolo into losing his net in chase and as a result with a down and out Guadagnolo had a shot sneak past him that Matt Auffrey only had enough on to sneak just barely over the goal line before the net was intentionally dislodged in an invain attempt to thwart the goal. Later in the period, one where the Rangers dominated at times, the Spitfires drew even and it wasn't pretty. Adam Henrique took a pass from Richard Greenop, and from the top of the faceoff circle beat John Murray low with a shot that might have been tipped by a Rangers' defender on its way in.
Things seldomly go right for struggling teams, and in the third the Rangers applied pressure early, but each time Guadagnolo was there with the answer for the Spitfires, it was either spots that managed to sneak through the crease or Guadagnolo quickly flashed the leather thwarting opportunity after opportunity. And just when it looked like overtime and potentially a shootout might be around the corner, disaster struck - full scale: Micky Renaud, who has been if nothing else one of the Spitfires hardest workers this season, was rewarded with only 16 seconds left when he tipped Mike Weber's shot past a screened John Murray with only 16 seconds left. It was the worst kind of devastating loss the Rangers could have possibly had, the fourth line played out the remainder of regulation. John Murray absorbed his first loss, playing competently and coming up with a huge diving stop just prior to the game winner, but wasn't able to equal Guadagnolo's performance through 60 minutes, the game-changing stop illuded him. Kitchener was also still waiting for its first regular season shootout. Former Spitfires' heavyweight: Brian Soso battled with rookie Richard Greenop in an uneventful tilt at the halfway point of the second period.