Spooner has good debut in tough overtime loss to Red Wings

There was a game last night too. It didn’t start until almost 8 PM. In the latest defeat  which was the seventh straight, the Rangers lost a tough one to the Red Wings 3-2 in overtime.

They deserve credit for rallying from a 2-0 deficit to force extras to earn their first point during the losing streak. The previous six losses all came in regulation.

Newest Ranger Ryan Spooner had a good debut. After coming over from Boston earlier on Sunday as part of the Rick Nash trade that also netted a first round pick, Ryan Lindgren, Matt Beleskey and a 2019 seventh round pick, the 26-year old forward recorded two assists on both Rangers goals.

After looking like he’d start centering the fourth line, Spooner was moved up by coach Alain Vigneault to the second line with Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast. The trio showed early chemistry with Spooner setting up Fast’s second goal in as many games to tie the game in the third period. A nice pass to Fast at the front of the net with the gritty forward’s tough pass to Hayes coming back to him to beat a stingy Jimmy Howard.

The Blueshirts fell behind by two on goals by Andreas Athanasiou (with seven seconds left in first through Rob O’Gara’s legs) and Darren Helm (breakaway) on Henrik Lundqvist. It was his first start in a week after rookie Alexandar Georgiev gave him consecutive nights off.

It was one of those winnable games where the Rangers got plenty of looks st Howard. Even in a back-to-back, the American netminder who wears number 35 for idol Mike Richter played like him by making several fantastic saves. He loves playing in New York and has always played well against the Rangers. He finished with 36 saves with none better than his ridiculous glove stop to rob Chris Kreider in the first minute. A save so good, it left Kreider in disbelief and had the crowd buzzing.

The play was a two-on-one with Pavel Buchnevich waiting before making a perfect feed across for Kreider to one-time. He aimed high but a sliding Howard got across and took a sure goal away. Kreider was again aggressive throughout delivering a clean hit on Dylan Larkin behind the net which led to a brief exchange between the benches. MSG rover John Giannone reported that Kreider told Larkin he let up and didn’t use his feet. It was a good hit.

The highlight though was Mats Zuccarello leveling Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet into the Red Wings bench and making sure he stayed there with a push for good measure. It wouldn’t be Zucc otherwise. No wonder no one wants to see him go.

The astonishing thing is Oulett went for the hit with Zuccarello carrying the puck and he took the brunt of it. The pint sized Norwegian has a lot of strength for a little guy and more heart than most. He is beloved for a reason by the Garden Faithful.

Even though they played better, the Rangers found themselves in a two goal hole following a John Gilmour turnover at the Detroit blueline that allowed Helm to break in and beat Lundqvist under the left arm with Zuccarello chasing.

However, a good pass by Spooner to J.T. Miller allowed him to blast a slap shot top shelf by Howard to cut the deficit to 2-1 for a power play goal. It was a rocket by Miller, who got his 13th. His game is coming back. Tony DeAngelo picked up a secondary assist.

Detroit had a goal reversed due to a successful offside challenge by Vigneault and the Rangers bench. A Red Wing was clearly ahead of the play making it a easy ruling.

That allowed the Rangers to go to the locker room still down just a goal. They played a real strong third peppering Howard with 19 shots. He was terrific but couldn’t prevent Fast from knocking in his 10th from Hayes and Spooner.

In the 3-on-3, Kreider was snake bit having a chance clang off the goalpost. That’s the way it’s been going. It would get even more frustrating with Red Wing Trevor Daley beating Buchnevich down low to redirect a Frans Nielsen pass by a frustrated Lundqvist with six seconds left. Lundqvist slammed his stick against the boards as he left the rink.

It’s tough to watch him after losses. He looks heartbroken. But prior to the games and big ceremony, he spoke of why he won’t wave his no-trade clause. He indicated that he couldn’t envision himself in another jersey. Lundqvist is a throwback who loves the Rangers and wants to spend his entire career with one team. He sounded positive about the losing and hopes they can turn it around and be competitive again soon.

I’ve seen people critique him for being “selfish” due to wanting to stay. He’s loyal and loves this team and its fans. How about showing him more respect? He’s a winner.

As for the trade deadline, it’s at 3 PM on the east coast. It remains to be seen if the Rangers will do anything else.

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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