Biggest disappointment so far in this trip to Carolina, where it's really warm and really rainy? Haven't been able to score a Cam Ward bobble-head yet. The night is young, though.
As noted in the comments section of the previous post, the referees tonight may give you fans reason for pause. Don Koharski, of course, needs no introduction. Steve Kozari had the Rangers game Saturday at Pittsburgh, where the Penguins received nine power play opportunities and it was open season on Sean Avery.
(Interestingly, did you see who it was who T'd up Brent Sutter in the Devils' game at Pittsburgh Wednesday night? Yup, Mike Hasenfratz, who's had a couple of run-ins with the Rangers this season.)
As to be expected coming off Monday's superb 3-0 win over the Devils, the lines and defense pairings remain the same, particularly with Michal Rozsival out for at least one more game.
Sean Avery-Scott Gomez-Ryan Callahan
Nikolai Zherdev-Chris Drury-Nik Antropov
Fredrik Sjostrom-Brandon Dubinsky-Markus Naslund
Lauri Korpikoski-Blair Betts-Colton Orr
Paul Mara-Corey Potter
Marc Staal-Dan Girardi
Wade Redden-Derek Morris
One thing to keep an eye on is how these teams start the game. The Rangers are going to want to come out quickly and quiet a potentially boisterous crowd while the Hurricanes need to quickly knock some rust off. They haven't played since a 2-1 win at New Jersey on Saturday and Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, talking this morning, said while his team needed the rest, the four-day layoff may knock the team off the rhythm it established in going 10-1-2 in March. Plus, Maurice noted that despite the Hurricanes 3-0 win over the Rangers here on March 9, the Rangers actually carried the play early and his squad had to weather the storm, to use an unintentional pun.
Check back during the game for updates and please check in with your take on the game. Always helpful to see how others are seeing the game.
PRE-GAME UPDATE: Just a heads-up, press row internet connection is very spotty here so if I'm gone for a while, you'll know why.
UPDATE, 4:28 First period: Internet beyond awful, blood pressure rising. While I have you though, how great a re-acquisition was it for the Hurricanes to get back Erik Cole, whose screen on Henrik Lundqvist allowed Eric Staal to get a slap shot by the goalie.
UPDATE, 5:14 First period: There's your worst nightmare, an injured Henrik Lundqvist. No offense to Steve Valiquette, whose good when he's in, the Rangers will not make the playoffs if Lundqvist gets hurt. He was down for a while after Tuomo Ruutu backed into him and Lundqvist seemed to be testing his left shoulder.
UPDATE, 7:09 First period: Freakin' Tortorella. After saying to the media before the game he wasn't ready to use a forward on the point on the power play, though he's thought about it, he puts Chris Drury on the left point to start the game, then switches him to the right point. Oh, well. There's one rewrite necessary on the early notebook for tomorrow's editions.
UPDATE, 12:17 First period: Guess the Rangers didn't have to worry about Koharski-Kozari. The Hurricanes get called for their fourth straight penalty as Scott Walker high sticks Lauri Korpikoski (who also drew a boarding call against Ruutu). Rangers, obviously, are 0 for 3 on PP so far. Tortorella doesn't care about the percentage, he said. But he desperately wants to see a big goal and this counts right here. Rangers can't afford to waste the momentum that's being handed to them. Drury still on the left point along with Derek Morris.
UPDATE, 17:30 First period: Congrats Corey Potter on your first NHL goal. Good timing, too. And plenty of kudos, too, to Sean Avery, who screens Cam Ward and lifts his skate to let the puck go by.
AFTER FIRST PERIOD: Rangers outshoot the Hurricanes, 13-3, but because they go 0 for 4 on the power play, it doesn't feel like a successful period for them. Some of the calls may be sketchy but they're going both ways, which is, sometimes, all you can ask for. Slowly (OK, not so slowly) losing my mind over internet situation here. I'll stick with you as long as I can.
UPDATE, 1:45 Second period: Scratch my Lundqvist looks a bit slow comment from the comments sections. His reactions seem fine now.
UPDATE, 4:58 Second period: Rangers now 0 for 5 on the PP. It's getting painful to watch. I think the players are actually nervous.
UPDATE, 6:32 Second period: Chad Larose beats Henrik Lundqvist twice and gets credit for one goal. First, he beats Lundqvist with a slap shot over the goalie's glove that goes off the crossbar but later in the shift Larose skates to the crease to tap in the rebound of Ray Whitney's tip-in try from the left post, with Eric Staal starting the play from the right corner. Not great defense by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.
UPDATE, 10:08 Second period: Thus far, Sean Avery has had a minimal impact on the game. As a result, the Rangers' game has suffered.
UPDATE, 13:24 Second period: Drury now playing down low on the PP. Ryan Callahan at the right point.
UPDATE, 14:21 Second period: Now thyat's the definition of a big power play goal. Scott Gomez takes it into the Carolina zone and crosses it to Dan Girardi, who snaps it in as he skates to the top of the slot. Tied 2-2. Did I mention that's the definition of a huge goal? Because it was.
AFTER SECOND GAME: Sort of odd call on Sean Avery for roughing while being knocked down in the Carolina crease. Not questioning that he was roughing, just think there could have been a penalty on the Hurricanes, too. Rangers leading in shots, 31-14. This game is reminding me of Saturday's 4-3 loss in PIttsburgh. Rangers are playing a decent road game and keep coming back. But the Hurricanes have tremendous potential to come up with a game-changing play in the third a la Sidney Crosby. Particularly Eric Staal. Boy is he good in general and tonight in particular.
UPDATE, 3:37 Third period: Hurricanes right wing Patrick Eaves out with an upper-body injury.
UPDATE, 4:30 Third period: Hurricanes dominating play so far.
FINAL: HURRICANES 4, RANGERS 2: So we all know what happened from the last sentence, "Hurricanes dominating play so far" to this one. A couple of defensive breakdowns and the Hurricanes get two within 28 seconds. Would've, could've, should've. Rangers played OK and went into the third period tied 2-2. But they didn't complete the job, second time in a row on the road, which is a nasty trend.
Tortorella said he wouldn't use Ryan Callahan on the point again, said he was too uncomfortable. Honestly, he looks as exasperated with the Rangers' power play as Tom Renney did all year.