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Slow Start Dooms the Rangers

Four goals in first 10 minutes propel Blackhawks to win at MSG

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Mar 29, 2012  |  Updated 11:38 AM EDT
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A reminder that every minute counts in an NHL game.

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The final 56 minutes of Thursday night's Rangers game against the Blackhawks went just fine for the home team.

The Rangers outscored the Blackhawks 2-1 over those 56 minutes, outshot them and generally played the brand of hockey we've come to expect from them over the course of the season.

Problem is, the NHL still mandates that games be played for the full 60 minutes and the first four minutes of the game might have been the worst four minutes the Rangers have had all season.

Chicago, losers of nine straight entering the game, took advantage of several Rangers mistakes and turned them into three quick goals. They would add a fourth halfway through the period and hold on for a 4-2 win that ended their losing streak and snapped the Rangers winning streak at four games.

The goals came on a penalty shot called on Dan Girardi for closing his hand on the puck in the crease, a call that seemed dubious upon replay, and the Blackhawks scored two others off further Girardi mistakes. He pinched without success twice, leading to Chicago breakaways that Martin Biron couldn't stop from going into the net.

It was one of Girardi's worst nights of the season, if not his worst night of the season, and it was such a condensed stretch that it's a bit easier to shrug your shoulders about the whole thing. 

The Rangers got off to a slow start against a desperate team with their backup goaltender in the game, a combination of events that make it hard to get overly fired up over the loss.

If you do need something to get fired up about, you could choose either the call that led to the penalty shot or the fact that the Blackhawks were allowed to choose whether to face a four-minute 5-on-4 or two minutes of 5-on-3 when they were called for three minor penalties against one for the Rangers at the same moment in the first period.

They chose the 5-on-4, obviously, and defended it without allowing a goal, but the rule simply makes no sense.

Why should the offending team get a chance to make a decision like that and why should there even be a decision to make when it would automatically be a 5-on-3 if the penalties happened one second apart?

And, on top of all that, the loss is a lot less painful than it would have been if it came against an Eastern Conference foe. Coming away with no points isn't ideal, but it didn't turn into a bigger swing on the playoff ladder so, again, you shrug your shoulders and get ready for Columbus this weekend.

Getting to react that way is the beauty of building a big lead over your rivals. Leave the hand-wringing to those fighting for a ticket to the dance. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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