Rangers Fall to Senators

Source: Daily News, New YorkNEW YORK – The Rangers did not get a memo about another crackdown on penalties. But they did get a warning. Two, in fact.

The first came from the guy who has vowed to make them more accountable, GM-turned-coach Glen Sather. The second came from the guy empowered to make them pay in a more immediate sense, referee Stephane Auger.

The Rangers heeded neither. Instead, committing penalties with the frequency that helped get Bryan Trottier fired, they greased their own skids in a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night at the Garden.

“You can’t beat a team like that taking penalties,” Sather said after the Rangers’ fifth straight loss – the last two on his watch – left them five points out of a playoff spot. “We’ve been talking and talking and talking about that. It’s a killer. They’re not the best team in the league by accident. And we played with them, stroke-for-stroke, all night. And we gave the game away by the same problem – undisciplined penalties.”

Actually, it was perhaps the least egregious of the Rangers’ transgressions that wound up leading to the deciding goal. Having been wiped out in the corner by Curtis Leschyshyn, Rangers winger Sandy McCarthy reached his glove over the Ottawa defenseman’s back to scramble to his feet. He was assessed a holding penalty, the Rangers’ seventh minor of the game. Todd White cashed in, pounding home a rebound kicked into trouble by Mike Dunham to break a 3-3 tie 8:23 into the third period.

“That could happen 20 times in a game and it wouldn’t be called,” Sather said. “But (Auger) said he was going to call it like that and he did. It’s not as if we weren’t warned.”

And it’s not as if Sather and assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld didn’t point out Ottawa’s second-ranked power play in their pregame admonition to stay out of the penalty box. Not that that was the only time that penalties hurt the Rangers on Wednesday night.

Leading 2-1 entering the second period on a shorthanded goal by Petr Nedved – his team-leading 20th goal of the season – the Rangers continued a parade to the box that had begun midway through the first.

Darius Kasparaitis, Dale Purinton and Bobby Holik took minors to go with the ones Boris Mironov, Ronald Petrovicky and Matthew Barnaby had committed earlier. Radek Bonk tied it 2-2 while Kasparaitis was in the box. White gave Ottawa its first lead while Purinton was off for elbowing.

The Rangers’ improving power play – 5-for-13 in recent games – got it back to 3-3 on an Eric Lindros goal late in the second. But with a second straight home game against a superior opponent up for grabs in the third period, the Rangers again lost their grip.

Holik wanted to know if this would finally be the time when a foot was put down. “Yeah, I took a penalty,” he said. “The individual players are responsible for their play. And if they don’t do what the team needs them to do, they have to be reprimanded. It’s selfish. And if you make a selfish play, you need to be reprimanded.”

Only trouble is, the Rangers have put themselves in a position in the standings where they can’t afford to sacrifice games to teach lessons. Or is that they can’t afford not to?

?(c) 2003, New York Daily News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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