Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rangers Drop Tough One In Carolina

A night removed from an emotional comeback home win over the Devils, the Rangers played on fairly even terms with the defending Cup champion Hurricanes in Raleigh. But one mistake was all it took to decide a tightly contested game which Carolina pulled out 2-1 thanks to a Rod Brind'Amour goal with just 6:05 left at RBC Center Wednesday night.

With the teams knotted at one, an icing proved costly. Forced to keep the same players out while Carolina changed, the Blueshirts paid the price. Even though ex-Cane Matt Cullen beat Brind'Amour in the faceoff circle, an Aaron Ward reverse got intercepted by Justin Williams, who quickly setup a vacated Brind'Amour in the slot for a quick shot which beat Kevin Weekes inside the crossbar for the Hurricane captain's eighth.

Though the Rangers pressed late for the equalizer, they couldn't beat Cam Ward. The second-year Conn Smythe winner turned aside 23 of 24 shots to pickup the win, including a couple of big stops on Cullen and Fedor Tyutin.

Making his first start in five to give Henrik Lundqvist a night off, Weekes was solid in making 22 saves. But the ex-Carolina netminder got out to a tough start when Ranger killer Craig Adams tipped home an Anton Babchuk feed only 2:51 in. Chad LaRose also notched an assist.

After looking a couple of steps behind, the Rangers found their game and nearly tied it a couple of minutes later when Michael Nylander found Jaromir Jagr all alone for a breakaway. But the Ranger captain's forehand deke was denied by a sprawling Ward.

Weekes made some big stops in a busy second (14 saves) to keep his team down one. With the backup providing solid netminding, Jagr wouldn't miss the next time when Brendan Shanahan set him up in the slot for a one-timer which beat Ward five-hole on a power play at 16:02 to tie it. It was Jagr's third in two games and 599th of his NHL career. With his next goal, he'll become the 16th player to reach 600. Martin Straka also picked up a helper.

After killing off a Canes' man-advantage late in the second, they had a great opportunity to surge ahead early in the third when Eric Staal was assessed a double minor for high sticking Cullen. But New York failed to capitalize and it was cut short by a Jagr tripping penalty.

The Canes' Erik Cole came close to beating Weekes when his shot rang off the right post with less than 13:00 to go. It was the third post they hit to that point. Unfortunately for Weekes and his teammates, they wouldn't be as fortunate late.

Notes: After seeing over 3:00 of ice-time the first period, Colton Orr (4:31) rarely saw the ice and was replaced by Jagr in the third, who took a doubleshift with the fourth line a night after it worked so well against the Devils. The formula nearly paid dividends again when Jagr almost banked one past Ward. ... This was Cullen and Ward's first return to Carolina since helping them win the Cup last June. ... Canes won 29 of 51 draws including 20-11 from Brind'Amour. ... Rangers (10-8-1) are idle the next two days before visiting Pittsburgh Saturday and then returning home to MSG Sunday against Tampa Bay.


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