Blackhawks End the Raanta Run

CHICAGO 2, RANGERS 1

Nobody wins forever; not even Antti Raanta.

After Henrik Lundqvist‘s back-up had won three games in a row — two straight shutouts — the hope at The Garden last night was that the Fabulous Finn’s good times would roll on — and on.

But Antti’s alma mater, the Chicago Blackhawks, intervened to the tune of a 2-1 defeat of the Blueshirts.

Alain Vigneault‘s stick-handlers move on to Dallas where they meet the Stars on Thursday night and what certainly appears to be King Henrik’s return to the New Yorkers’ crease.

As for Raanta, his one-night demise could be attributed to a number of factors including injuries and a last-minute deletion of captain Ryan McDonagh from the lineup due to the flu.

But when his club produces only a single goal for the netminder, he has to be near perfect to win the match and on this night, it was not the case for the otherwise competent Raanta.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

  1. SCORING FIRST: The Blackhawks scored first (Trevor van Riemsdyk) which dented Raanta’s shutout streak, forcing the Rangers to play catch-up. They caught up, but Chicago went ahead on ex-Ranger Artem Anisimov’s goal and the home club never could rebound for another red light.
  1. CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR — OR RED LIGHTS: Despite a shorthanded roster, the Blueshirts mounted chances galore with many missing by only inches. Wide shooting didn’t help either.
  1. HOT GOALIE: In this battle of back-ups, Scott Darling prevailed on the strength of 33 saves out of 34 shots. Many of his stops were of the spectacular variety.

WHAT WENT RIGHT:

  1. PICKING UP THE PACE: It wasn’t as if the home club wasn’t trying. After putting only seven shots on Darling in the opening frame, the Rangers generated 16 in the middle period. Mats Zuccarello thought for sure he had a red-lighter until Darling got the shaft of his stick on the rubber and deflected it out of harm’s way.
  1. FAST PACE: Known and respected for his defensive play, Jesper Fast delivered a key goal that tied the game at 1-1. His baseball-style bunting the puck into the net was a study in hand-eye coordination.

WHAT THEY SAID:

  1. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “I liked our game because the guys competed hard. Chicago scored one that bounced off the linesman and they caught us on a bad read on the second one. We had enough ‘looks’ to tie the game but couldn’t do it.”  [Watch AV’s Post Game Press Conference]
  1. MARC STAAL: “We’re still missing a lot of key guys but we handled ourselves pretty well. We just weren’t able to capitalize on our chances.”
  1. DEREK STEPAN: “This was a really good hockey game and we just came out on the other end of it. We had our chances and their goaltender made the saves.”  [Watch Stepan’s Post Game Interview]
  1. ANTTI RAANTA: “It’s not a great way to lose when it’s so close but you have to respect the result. Scott Darling was their best player, making key saves in key moments. Losing my shutout streak? I just focus on the next shot. As a goalie, I forget it and go for the next shot.”

Antti Raanta gives credit to Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling and says the Rangers played well despite the loss to Chicago.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Reporter Patrick McCormack puts it best: “Sometimes close games don’t go the Rangers way and that was the case against Chicago. The Blueshirts effort was good but the result was frustrating. There were plenty of positives despite the negativity of the defeat.”

BOTTOM LINE: With five key players sidelined, the Rangers still had a winning combination but a blend of bad luck and very good Chicago goaltending meant the difference.

NEXT GAME: Thursday night at Dallas on MSG at 8 PM.