Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lack of Discipline BeDevils Rangers

Sound off the alarms. The home losing streak is at three. In as undisciplined a game as they could play, the Rangers fell to the Devils (15-13-5) 3-1 at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. The three-game losing streak is the longest of the season thus far and requires immediate solutions to the sudden lack of offense- the Rangers have scored just four goals during the stretch.

"You can't win scoring one goal," said Jaromir Jagr to reporters. "The way we played was not good. ... I'm worried that we don't score goals. I'm not worried about anything else."

Coach Tom Renney also might want to address the lack of discipline from veteran center Michael Nylander, who took four penalties including a high sticking double minor. That's eight penalty minutes for those keeping score. But who is? Not when the Blueshirts time and time again went to the penalty box an exasperating 12 times- forcing their second ranked penalty killing unit to spend way too much time (18:12) on the ice while Jagr (18:30) sat. They were a perfect 11-for-11, including neutralizing two New Jersey five-on-three's. Not that the Devils were exactly firing on all cylinders coming in. Unable to convert on the PP, the Devils are now 3 for their last 81.

"When you're winning 1-0 and you lose, I guess you start to think maybe we're taking penalties. But really we kind of handed it over to the Devils," said a frustrated Renney. "Any kind of momentum or flow you could create off of rolling your lines certainly gets disrupted by having to kill so many penalties."

Despite killing them off while trying to protect a 1-0 lead via a Steve Rucchin redirect setup by a diving Petr Prucha at 14:19 of the second, the Blueshirts ultimately came undone in a 16-second span. With less than six minutes left, the Devils struck twice in stunning fashion to take the lead. First, Brian Gionta tallied his team-leading 19th goal off a goalmouth scramble when he flipped a backhand past Kevin Weekes. The go-ahead goal was more startling. Off a Brian Rafalski pass, John Madden fired a slapshot from the left wing, which defelected off Michal Rozsival right to a wide open Alexander Mogilny, who one-timed the early Christmas gift into an open net.

From there, a desperate Devil team clamped down. Madden added an empty net goal with 13 seconds left to ceil the Rangers' fate. Madden finished with a goal and two assists while Rafalski added two helpers. Brodeur had 30 saves while Weekes turned aside 29 of 31.

Entering the game on the heels of Larry Robinson resigning due to health issues and ex-Ranger Vlad Malakhov's sudden retirement, New Jersey came out looking to get their first win in regulation for December. Their only two previous victories in eight came via the shootout. With 63-year-old GM Lou Lamoriello behind the bench making his regular season coaching debut for a franchise he turned around, the Devils came out with more determination than in previous games.

Though they were outshot 11-7 in the first, the period had to be considered a success. Especially with the Rangers unable to generate anything. Lamoriello- who previously coached the Devils once during the 1988 playoffs to a 7-1 loss would be rewarded with his first NHL win.

"We were 6 minutes away from a good win against a good team," Weekes said. "They were hungry, obviously, with Mr. Lamoriello behind the bench. We almost had a victory. It's a tough pill to swallow."

Notes: The Devils earned their first regular season victory over the Rangers in five meetings. With three games remaining, the Rangers hold a 3-1-1 edge. ... Madden's goal was his first since November 19 at Ottawa. His three points were a season high. ... Gionta has five goals in five games against the Rangers this season. ... Rangers lost a game for the first time all season when leading after two. ... Continuing a disturbing trend, the Rangers went 0-for-6 on the power play. They're 2 for their last 36 in the past six games. ... Rangers (20-11-4) look to snap their three-game losing streak when they complete a four-game homestand at MSG against Tampa Bay (18-13-3) Thursday night.

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