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Feb 7 2012; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) and center Brian Boyle (22) defend as goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) is out of the goal during the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Devils, Referees Defeat Rangers 1-0

Pathetic. (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

In no way am I going to pretend that the Rangers played their best, or even great hockey tonight. Only 15 shots through two periods, few of which were quality chances. The powerplay was irrelevant once again. The Rangers took some stupid penalties.

But only about a week removed from a loss to the Devils because of a complete fluke of a bounce, the Rangers deserved some luck of their own. Only this time they didn’t need luck. What they needed was competent officiating. With 5 seconds left the Rangers  threw a puck towards the net and Marian Gaborik crashed towards it before colliding with Martin Brodeur. Artem Anisimov found the loose puck in the slot and put it home. But the zebras made sure it didn’t count, citing goaltender interference and putting Marian Gaborik in the penalty box. Replay clearly showed Marian Gaborik trying to stop in front of Brodeur and replay also showed Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov pushing Gaborik right into the goaltender. The goal should have counted. The Rangers earned their last second comeback. But a terrible decision by the officiating crew cost the Rangers one and perhaps two points tonight. So it goes. Keep reading to see some post-game notes:

Stu Bickel- I like the guy a lot. He has played well above any expectations I had for him and his intensity and toughness are great in matchups against teams like the Flyers. But tonight he took his fourth minor in two games and it ended up costing the Rangers. Bickel only played 8 minutes tonight and I’d like to think that Steve Eminger can be relied on for more than that. Assuming Eminger is ready to go, I think he needs to be in the lineup next game. I have absolutely no problem with Bickel remaining as the 7th defenseman.

Derek Stepan- So much attention has been given to the struggles of Richards, Dubinsky, and Anisimov (and, to varying degrees, deservingly so). But Derek Stepan has somehow avoided a lot of criticism despite his lack of goalscoring. Stepan, who for the first part of the season might have been the team’s best forward, has only 2 goals in his last 17 games. Tonight I think Dubinsky, Richards, and Anisimov all had better games (and Anisimov had a goal stolen from him). Stepan was not at his best at all. What makes Anisimov so dangerous is his combination of size, speed, and hands. And so when Derek Stepan was getting pucks on his stick at will Artie was putting them in the net. Stepan hasn’t been bad, per se, goal scoring aside, but I think we can and should expect better from him.

Marc Staal-  Hard to find too many bright spots about tonight’s game, but I thought Marc Staal took another step towards being Marc Staal. He was physical along the boards and looked exceptional as he usually is at digging pucks out of the corners in the defensive zone and sending the Rangers the other way. Three shots as well. In all areas of the rink he looked much more active and much more confident.

Power Play-  0 for 3 tonight. Against a team like the Devils, who limit the number of quality chances you get, you have to take advantage of your power play opportunities because you’re not going to get many chances otherwise. The final power play of the game at least resembled something that might become productive. The Rangers could have just sat in their own zone with the puck for two minutes on the first two attempts. I don’t know what the solution is and I don’t think there is any individual player Glen Sather can acquire that will fix it. I hope that John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan have some ideas up their sleeves because right now I’m clueless as to what is going to work.

If the Rangers play the whole game like they played the third period then I think they win this game. However, they chose to give themselves only 20 minutes to win the game. That being said, this doesn’t even come down to catching breaks; the Rangers earned their goal and earned their way into overtime. Unfortunately it was not either team that decided the winner of tonight’s game but instead the  people wearing black and white. And I hope the NHL realizes how absurd that is.

The Rangers play again on Friday against the Lightning at MSG. We’ll have to see if the Lightning feel there is any unfinished business regarding Artem Anisimov’s snipe.

Tags: Anton Volchenkov Derek Stepan Devils Marc Staal Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils New York Rangers Power Play Rangers Referees Stu Bickel

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