Rangers Clawed Again by Panthers

In Inspector Gadget, Dr. Claw was the evil character who he took on and outwitted in the entertaining cartoon when kids could be kids. These days with what passes for TV during the afternoon, there are no Claws trying to ruin Gadget’s day or Lotors seeking to destroy Voltron. Skeletor versus He-Man won’t be happening anytime soon but unfortunately for the Rangers, they felt the Claw last night against their kryptonite in the form of the Panthers, who came into MSG and posted a whacky 4-3 win.

For some reason unknown to the universe, the Rangers simply cannot beat Florida. Throw out the shootout win and we’d be 0-for-3. It doesn’t matter what the records are. Even if half of Connecticut is on our roster, the bottom line is the Rangers are still sending three All-Stars who are thankfully all healthy. That Marian Gaborik isn’t one speaks volumes. Maybe he needs more odd goals like the one that went off his stick and shoulder to tie the Caps, who our team rallied to beat in the skill competition the other day. Where would this team be without Brian Boyle, who will probably get overlooked for the Selke despite leading the team with 18 goals and doing everything the award for game’s best defensive forward details? It’s Boyle who John Tortorella trusts so much to the point that he stuck Gaborik with him and saw Gabby set up the big man’s 18th which tied the game.

In a testament to their character, the Rangers again rallied this time from two down to tie Florida early in the third. One they absolutely owned except for the final tally. Sometimes, you’re unlucky. Just ask goat Artem Anisimov who went from shootout hero to No.1 Star for the Cats in 24 hours. Alright, maybe that’s a bit unfair. But come on. He had not one but two Panther shots go off him past a stunned Henrik Lundqvist for goals, including the bizarre winner off Mike Santorelli’s stick which caromed off No.42’s back and bounced over our helpless goalie. You can’t make it up.

What is it about Florida that makes them such a thorn in the Rangers’ side? Even when we win, it’s by the slimmest of margins. Granted. Tomas Vokoun is a good goalie who never gets his due playing in obscurity. Now, he knows how Roberto Luongo felt all those years before forcing a trade to Vancouver. Sometimes, people forget that the former Predator is a top 10 netminder who can steal a game. So, losing to the Panthers isn’t as humiliating as our favorite Ranger blogger Scotty Hockey makes it. What can you do when two shots go off a player for goals? What can be done when the Blueshirts dominate the third but the Panthers’ only shot resembles Adam Sandler’s winning shot in Happy Gilmore? Like all games, hockey’s a funny sport. If bounces don’t go your way, sometimes you lose.

Tortorella wasn’t disappointed with the team’s effort mostly because of how they responded after seeing Lundqvist give up a klunker that deflated the building. To those wagoners who gave him a Bronx cheer when it was 3-1, find another team to latch onto. Such childish behavior is inexcusable. You aren’t real fans. Anyone who acts like that should be tossed from the building by the dopey Dolan security and never be allowed to attend another game. I’ve gotten on Lundqvist plenty in this space but without him, we’re simply not a playoff team. He’s played his ass off and deserves better than that garbage. His team didn’t help much either being lazy on a pair with even Boyle’s line getting victimized.

Of course, they’d atone later with warrior Brandon Prust igniting a rally and then Boyle depositing loose change in front for a power play goal. See how easy that is? Stick your hardest working player out with size and grit and watch him get dirty to score a PPG. That’s how it’s done folks.

So, am I upset about the bitter loss ending our team’s play prior to the break? Of course. Losing to the Panthers irks me. Especially when they beat us in the flukiest way possible. But hey. Couldn’t we say the same thing for Gaborik’s goal that allowed us to steal two points in DC? Case closed.

Immediately following the game, the Rangers designated Mike Del Zotto, Kris Newbury, Chad Kolarik, Evgeny Grachev and Brodie Dupont for assignment so they could stay fresh in Connecticut. Enough can’t be said about the play of Newbury and Kolarik whose hustle is indicative of what this team is all about. They fit right in. Big kudos to Ken Gernander and Jim Schoenfeld.

Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan were bright spots again last night with MZA dishing out three assists and Stepan tallying his 14th and 30th point. Not bad production from the 20 year-old out of Wisconsin. Oh btw, Zuccarello’s up to 3-8-11 in 17 games proving he’s going to stick. It won’t be long before the little engine that could is scoring big goals. He’s a keeper.

When they return for the Feb.1 home game against the Pens with probably Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin back, figure Ryan Callahan to be there for his teammates which should be a big lift for a team that’s struggling to score goals. Brandon Dubinsky won’t be far from behind. All things considered, Tortorella has done a superb job keeping our team in playoff position with a 29-20-3 record for 61 points, good for sixth seed- two ahead of Montreal and two behind Washington.

I’d say you got a Jack Adams candidate there. Hope the break treats our players kindly. They’ve earned it.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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