Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Prucha Helps Rangers Steal Win In Florida

Just call him Petr The Great. Whatever you call him, rookie Petr Prucha once again was the difference for the Rangers in a come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win at Florida (6-7-3) Wednesday night.

Having miraculously tied the game on a lucky break when Dominic Moore's backhand prayer from behind the goal trickled off Jay Bouwmeester and Roberto Luongo and in with three seconds left to force overtime, the Rangers were fortunate that Moore's fourth of the season counted. Before he scored, Jaromir Jagr's trip of a Panther went undetected by officials. It summed up an awful night for the men in stripes- who missed several blatant fouls on both teams along with a couple of questionable calls.

After killing off a brief Panther power play in OT, the Blueshirts came close to ending it when Jagr setup Fedor Tyutin for a one-timer but Luongo closed up the five-hole. The Florida netminder finished with 37 saves. His counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist was equally as busy, making 38 stops including a tough one on Stephen Weiss from in close. It was Lundqvist's first start in nine days since a 4-2 Halloween loss to Montreal.

Both goalies were kept on their toes when the contest needed a shootout to decide a winner. After Martin Straka and Weiss exchanged posts, Luongo denied Michael Nylander with a glove save and Lundqvist stuffed Juraj Kolnik's backhand deke. The Rangers' third shooter, Jagr moved in and had Luongo beat but his backhand hit the post, making him 0-for-3 this season.

With a chance to win it, Panther captain Olli Jokinen's high shot Lundqvist got a piece of to set the stage for Prucha to do his thing. Having won Saturday's game over the Devils in similar fashion, the 23-year-old Czech moved in and roofed a perfect shot past Luongo to put the pressure on Kristian Huselius. When Huselius' shot went wide, the Rangers improved to 2-1 in shootouts. It was Florida's first shootout of the season.

New York got off to a good start when Steve Rucchin scored a power play goal 4:56 into the first. Parked in front, Rucchin deposited a Straka rebound off the post and in for a 1-0 lead. Straka and Jagr tallied helpers.

A few minutes later, Tom Poti hit the crossbar. The momentum swung to Florida in the second half of the period and they would be rewarded with the tying goal late. Taking advantage of some shaky play by the Rangers in their own end, rookie Anthony Stewart notched his second of the season with 2:21 left. After Maxim Kondratiev failed to clear the zone, Stewart's backhand rebounded off Lundqvist to Rucchin, who cleared it right to Stewart. With Lundqvist down, Stewart one-timed the puck upstairs to make it 1-1.

A late hooking call on Prucha would prove costly in the second. Though the Rangers killed it off, Florida went ahead 10 seconds after it expired. Taking a feed from Lukas Krajicek on the rush, Weiss broke in on Lundqvist and beat him to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead 41 seconds into the stanza. Krajicek and Luongo assisted.

But with Florida in control, the Blueshirts bounced right back to tie it 50 seconds later. On a nice passing play, Straka finished his second of the season from the slot, surprising Luongo shortside. Jagr and Nylander registered assists.

Shaky most of the period, the Rangers were shorthanded plenty. When Marek Malik was whistled off for holding, it gave Florida their fifth consecutive power play since Rucchin's goal. Jokinen quickly took advantage, surprising Lundqvist with a wrister from the right wing to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead with 6:04 left in the second. Mike Van Ryn and Weiss added assists.

Despite two power plays, New York couldn't get much done and trailed by a goal heading to the third. That's when the Panthers had a couple of opportunies to put the game away. With Nylander in the box for a high sticking double minor, a Panther shot sailed off the post.

After Nylander was called for a dubious goalie interference call when he was pushed into Luongo by Van Ryn, Malik took his second minor of the game, giving Florida a short five-on-three. After another Florida shot rang off the post, a Blair Betts clear allowed them to get out of trouble.

When Michal Rozsival picked up a cross checking penalty to cancel out a late Ranger power play with just 21 seconds remaining, the game looked over. But as fortune had it, Bouwmeester mistakenly iced the puck with 15 seconds to go. It would lead directly to Moore's tally- setting up the dramatic finish.

Notes: It was the first home game for Florida since October 20 due to Hurricane Wilma, which forced two postponements. They had played their previous six on the road. ... Florida defenseman Branislav Mezei left the game with a knee injury due to a hit by Ryan Hollweg into the boards. ... Rangers (9-5-3) continue their five-game trip- the longest of the season- with a visit to defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay (7-7-2) tonight.


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