It sure seemed as though the New York Rangers were on their way to an eighth straight win.
Playing at home with an early two-goal lead against a West Coast team on a long road trip, the signs certainly suggested it was going to be another good night for the NHL’s hottest team.
Devin Setoguchi scored two of San Jose’s six consecutive goals and the Sharks took advantage of backup goalie Steve Valiquette in a 7-3 victory Monday night that snapped the Rangers‘ seven-game winning streak.
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“We showed a little bit of our character,” winning goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. “We kept going and the power play came up big for us again. After that, they were a little bit on their heels and we took advantage even more.”
The Sharks were even at 2-2 after the first period and then scored three in the second to put the game away. San Jose is no stranger to comebacks.
Two weeks ago in Los Angeles, the Sharks spotted the Kings a 4-0 lead before rallying to tie it. They lost 6-4, but proved to themselves that no deficit is too big.
“We don’t want to put ourselves in that situation very often, but when we do we know we’ve got the firepower that can come back and put the puck in the net,” defenseman Dan Boyle said.
Valiquette didn’t make it out for the third period, replaced by No. 1 netminder Henrik Lundqvist after allowing five goals on 18 shots – three on 10 shots in the second.
“I don’t really have an answer for you as far as why that went the way it did,” Valiquette said. “I’m definitely angry and upset that I was a part of our team not winning the hockey game and keeping our streak going.”
Lundqvist gave up Ryan Vesce‘s third NHL goal – second in two games this season – at 3:46 of the third, and one to Patrick Marleau with 1:55 remaining that completed the scoring.
New York (7-2) hadn’t lost since a season-opening defeat at Pittsburgh, but despite the winning streak coach John Tortorella expressed concerns about his club.
The Rangers allowed more than three goals in a game for the first time this season, and had yielded a total of five in the previous three victories.
“We have some things to work on,” Tortorella said. “The first two periods, we weren’t as bad as what the score was at that point. I don’t think we were terrible.”
Brad Staubitz and Dany Heatley scored in the first period for the Sharks (5-3-1), and former Rangers forward Jed Ortmeyer added a goal in the second before Setoguchi struck twice. Marleau also had two assists.
San Jose went 2 for 7 on the power play.
“They’re a good team, no question, but we scored big goals at key times and took over the momentum,” Heatley said.
Chris Drury and rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto staked the Rangers to the early lead, but that quickly became a distant memory. Nabokov gave up Enver Lisin‘s goal that made it 6-3 with 2:48 left and finished with 27 saves.
Setoguchi started the season with a flourish, posting four goals and five points in San Jose’s first four games. After three consecutive pointless efforts, Setoguchi bounced back with three goals in two games. He moved into a tie with Marleau for the team lead with seven goals, one more than Heatley.
The Sharks, three games into a six-game Eastern trip, cut New York’s lead to 2-1 with 7:11 left in the first on Staubitz’s first of the season and tied it on Heatley’s power-play goal at 18:12.
“To go down 2-0 and come back bang-bang … that was big,” Heatley said. “If after the first you’re down one or two that changes things.”
Ortmeyer made it 3-2 at 1:19 of the second, and Setoguchi scored his first during another man-advantage at 6:05.
The Rangers killed off consecutive penalties to Sean Avery, but couldn’t gain any momentum or seriously threaten Nabokov.
Setoguchi pushed the lead to 5-2 by converting Marleau’s cross-ice pass past Valiquette with 2:39 left in the second.
Drury and Del Zotto scored 1:17 apart to give New York a 2-0 lead at 8:34 of the first.
NOTES: New York hasn’t won eight straight since Dec. 27, 1974-Jan. 11, 1975. … The Rangers gave up more than one power-play goal for the first time this season. … New York scored on the power play for the seventh straight game after failing on its first nine chances. … Nabokov has played in every Sharks game, going 5-2-1. … Rangers RW Marian Gaborik was pointless for the first time.