Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hawks Edge Rangers In OT

In the first of a three-game road trip over four days, the Rangers fell to Chicago (11-14-2) 2-1 in overtime Wednesday night at the United Center. It was their second defeat in three games.

Nikolai Khabibulin's 30 saves along with the Blackhawks' special teams were the difference. After failing to take advantage of nine power plays due to aggressive Chicago penalty killing, the Rangers had several chances late in regulation to win the game. But in a period which they outshot the Hawks 15-5, The Bulin Wall stoned them. Having foiled them all night, Khabibulin denied Michal Rozsival's stuff in attempt and shut the door on Blair Betts' wraparound with under five minutes left.

The Hawks just missed on two chances with under a minute to go in regulation. Rene Bourque fired wide from the right circle. Kyle Calder then rang a shot off the crossbar to send the game to OT.

When Martin Rucinsky accidentally high sticked Mark Bell in the first minute, it gave Chicago a four-on-three power play which decided the outcome. Having failed on four previous ones, this time the Blackhawks capitalized when Tyler Arnason's shot from the right circle trickled thru Henrik Lundqvist to give them a 2-1 victory. After Betts and Tom Poti missed shorthanded, Chicago came the other way and won a battle against the boards. With both Betts and Jason Strudwick failing to win the puck from Brent Seabrook, he got it to Arnason who walked in and beat Lundqvist for the winner.

In a low shooting first in which Chicago held a 6-4 advantage, the Rangers misfired on two power plays. The closest they came was a Steve Rucchin backhand off the right post. It was the second post hit in the period. Two minutes in, Martin Straka hit the same post.

Despite keeping the Hawks in check most of the first, Lundqvist made the best save when he robbed ex-Flyer Patrick Sharp on the doorstep with 1:05 left.

The Blueshirts continued to fail on the power play in the second. With a full two minute five-on-three, they mustered just one harmless Rucinsky shot before his hooking minor 45 seconds later ended the big chance.

Not surprisingly, the only goal they scored came at even strength when red hot rookie Petr Prucha scored his 10th on a quick wrister in the slot to give them a 1-0 lead at 8:53. But it was shortlived as the Hawks came right back 18 seconds later when former Ranger Matt Barnaby setup Jaroslav Spacek to finish a three-on-two.

The Rangers had two breakaways afterwards but neither Tom Poti nor Ryan Hollweg had what it took to beat Khabibulin.

Making his fifth consecutive start, Lundqvist stopped 17 of 19 shots. After missing the last four games due to a bruised ankle, Kevin Weekes returned as the backup and could get a start in either Nashville or St. Louis.

Notes: Tom Poti returned from a groin injury after missing three games. He replaced Maxim Kondratiev on the blueline. ... Coach Tom Renney scratched forwards Marcel Hossa and Ville Nieminen in favor of Ryan Hollweg and Colton Orr. Hollweg returned from a bad eye and Orr played his second game for the Rangers. ... Rangers (18-8-4) continue their trip at Nashville (18-4-3) tonight.

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