Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rangers Don't Play 'Well Enough' In Loss To Penguins

After taking four points in a home-and-home against the Devils, the Rangers didn't play well enough to defeat Pittsburgh (4-6-5) in rookie phenom Sidney Crosby's Madison Square Garden debut. Instead, they fell to Crosby and Co. 3-2 Monday night.

All night long, the Rangers accomplished very little on seven power plays. With the Pens overplaying Jaromir Jagr and no pointman able to get shots through, the Blueshirts weren't sharp enough to capitalize on Matt Murley's hooking penalty with under four minutes left down a goal. It was only the third time this season they failed to score on the man-advantage.

"We had some chances, but we didn't play well," Jagr told reporters afterwards. "We couldn't play the way we wanted to."

Before anyone gets the idea that New York was in the game, make no mistake about it, they weren't. Coming out flat against a struggling opponent, the Rangers couldn't get much done the first two periods and fell behind by two goals.

Mario Lemieux got Pittsburgh on the board when he took a Sergei Gonchar pass and beat Kevin Weekes at 15:20 of the first. It was Lemieux's sixth of the season from Gonchar and Josef Melichar.

Late in the second, the Pens increased their lead to two when Crosby went around the Ranger defense and then calmly beat Weekes five-hole on a breakaway with 1:57 left. It was Crosby's fifth of the season. Ric Jackman and Steve Poapst notched assists.

While Crosby was impressing the Garden crowd and special guest Mark Messier, who returned for the first time since retiring, the Rangers were a step slow the first 40 minutes.

"We were awful in the first, better in the second, and then we did everything we could in the third to get us the win," said a frustrated coach Tom Renney.

Ziggy Palffy would make the deficit three 3:42 into the third when his slapshot beat Weekes upstairs off a faceoff with traffic in front. Rookie Ryan Whitney picked up the lone assist.

Minutes later, Palffy had a chance to put the contest out of reach. Pulled down by Marek Malik while breaking in shorthanded, he was rewarded with a penalty shot. But Weekes was equal to the task, denying Palffy with a pad save to keep the Rangers alive.

That's when New York finally awoke to get back in the game. Rookie Ryan Hollweg scored his first career goal to cut the margin to 3-1 with 13:09 left. Jason Ward and Darius Kasparaitis tallied helpers.

Down by two, Renney rewarded the energetic Hollweg up to the second line replacing an ineffective Petr Prucha. The move paid off when Marcel Hossa finished a play in front from Steve Rucchin to make it 3-2 with 6:24 remaining. Hossa's fourth of the season snapped a 10-game goal drought and was his first since October 10th at Washington. Rucchin and Hollweg assisted.

But on a night when they couldn't take advantage on the power play, it was as close as they got.

Sebastien Caron finished with 35 saves while Weekes turned aside 21 of 24.

Notes: With Jason Strudwick scratched, Ville Nieminen returned to the lineup while rookie Maxim Kondratiev remained on the blueline. ... Jagr's 12-game point streak was snapped. ... Crosby was named the game's First Star. ... Rangers (8-5-3) embark on a five-game road trip starting in Florida (6-7-2) Wednesday night.

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