Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Questionable Call Costs Rangers In Toronto

Entering this season, the NHL wanted referees to call the game closer to the vest. Tuesday night in Toronto, a questionable goalie interference call on Jed Ortmeyer wound up deciding a tightly played game which the Maple Leafs (10-7-2) won 2-1 to snap the Rangers' three-game road win streak.

With the game tied at one early in the third period, that's when referee Don VanMassenhoven whistled Ortmeyer to the box for the dubious penalty. With Toronto goalie Ed Belfour outside the crease, Ortmeyer's skate accidentally touched Belfour's as both moved at the same time. Unbelievably, it was enough for VanMassenhoven to give the Leafs their fourth power play.

Having connected once already on a Bryan McCabe blast with 1:59 left in the first, the Leafs' second ranked man-advantage would be the difference again. With penalty killer Steve Rucchin forced by Jeff O'Neill along the boards, the puck came back to Tomas Kaberle, who quickly sent a soft pass over to McCabe, who blasted his second of the night past Kevin Weekes to put Toronto up 2-1 3:37 into the third. McCabe entered the game with 15 of his 23 points on the power play. Goals number seven and eight made it 17 of 25 for the season.

Effective most of the night at even-strength, the Blueshirts had a couple of big chances to tie it. Off some grunt work from Dominic Moore, they drew their fourth power play on another iffy call. This time it sent McCabe to the box for elbowing. But on it, Belfour stopped Jagr to keep his team ahead.

Shortly after, Marcel Hossa had an apparent tying goal disallowed correctly because he used a high stick to bat a puck down before beating Belfour. Even after that, the Rangers had their best opportunity to knot the game. With a little over six minutes remaining, Jagr sprung Martin Straka for a breakaway. Unfortunately for Straka, with Belfour down, his backhand hit the post.

Afterwards, Toronto dictated the play and forced Weekes to make some tough saves. With the Rangers unable to get through the neutral zone, they didn't get another shot on Belfour until Weekes was pulled for an extra attacker with 14 seconds left. Off a Blair Betts faceoff win, Michal Rozsival's blueline shot was snagged by Belfour. A rushed Straka shot went wide with time winding down.

Outshot 10-7 in the first, the Rangers didn't get much done. But in the second, they went to work to tie it. Off a great cycle behind the net, Michael Nylander setup Jagr in the slot for his league-leading 18th goal to make it 1-1 6:14 into the stanza. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Belfour robbed Rucchin, Ville Nieminen and Hossa late in the period. Not to be outdone, Weekes was sharp on a Sundin backhand with seven seconds remaining.

Belfour made 27 saves while Toronto native Weekes turned aside 22 of 24.

Notes: In his first game against his ex-team, Eric Lindros was held off the scoresheet in 17:42 of action. The former Ranger went 11-and-six on draws. ... In a physical game, both teams finished with 26 hits. ... Rangers (11-6-3) conclude their road trip at Southeast Division leader Carolina (13-3-1) Thursday night.


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