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Rangers road struggles continue in 5-2 loss to Winnipeg

Alexandra Russo

Rangers vs Jets 12-18

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (19-11-4) have had some problems lately, to say the least, but they can’t blame losing on Stepan’s absence any longer. He returned with a strong game in a 5-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

Brian Little got things going for the Jets, scoring just about five minutes into the opening period of play. Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over behind the net, and Derick Brassard was nowhere to be found covering his man. Lundqvist, making his second start in as many nights, came far out of the net to challenge Little, but was beat around the left pad.

Little struck again in the first, two minutes after his first goal, to put the Blueshirts in a two-goal hole. The Rangers couldn’t blame the man in net for this one, though. It was poor coverage at the Rangers’ blueline that left Little with a big space to snap the puck just over Lundqvist’s glove hand.

Rick Nash had a great opportunity to give his team some life when he made some fast moves on Hellebuyck, but he was denied the goal, as he stayed with him throughout the play.

It was JT Miller who put the Rangers on the scoreboard. A slap shot from Kreider was mishandled by Hellebuyck. Give Miller credit, though, for being persistent enough to find the rebound and have the puck trickle past Hellebuyck, slashing the Jets’ lead in half 14:01 into the period.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine how a single player can make such a big difference, but Stoll’s faceoff percentage had helped the Rangers a lot. They only won 36 percent of faceoffs in this period, and one of those clean faceoff losses led to Byfuglien’s slap shot goal, which gained his team back the two goal lead.

The Rangers finished off the last 30 seconds of a power play opportunity headed into the second period and were on the penalty kill themselves for the first time in the game. They did an excellent job killing off penalties to Hayes and Nash, including a 5 on 3 for over a minute.

Overall, the Rangers hadn’t had a good game, or even a decent one and were being severely outshot. However, their power-play finally clicked, and Boyle beat Hellebuyck on the short side to make it a one goal game. The Rangers have scored four power play goals in the last five games.

Alain Vigneault decided to change things up by putting Nash on a line with Stepan and Etem in the hopes of better offense and maybe some pressure in the opponents’ zone.

Myers scored his third goal of the season on a shot that rang off the inside of the post and into the back of the net. He was wide open and uncovered in close proximity to the net. It was a big goal for the Jets that put them up by two for the third time in the game. The Blueshirts were headed into the final period of play, down by two.

The Rangers’ main problem was their lack of sustained offensive pressure and way too many giveaways. The Jets clogged up the neutral zone and gave the Rangers a tough time controlling play.

The Jets had a great chance to put away the game when a giveaway led to a three on one opportunity, but the Rangers, mostly Lundqvist, stopped the chance.

The Rangers pulled Lundqvist with just under three minutes left, but Ladd put away the game for the Jets with the empty net goal, handing them the 5-2 win.

Lundqvist has to get credit for stopping many of the shots he faced due to the Rangers’ poor defense, but as everyone knows, it’s the goaltender can’t always stop everything he faces. It’s the players’ jobs to block shots and keep the opponent to the outside, and the Rangers haven’t been able to do that for a while now. They’ve been giving up way too much high quality scoring chances.

To say it’s a bad stretch is now becoming kind of ridiculous. Three wins in the last twelve games? That’s not the kind of hockey Rangers’ fans are used to, and they can only hope that the Rangers can turn it around in time. Maybe Stepan needs more time to adjust and Klein needs to come back soon. Maybe the coaching strategy needs to change. Whatever it is, Rangers’ fans can swear they remembered Lundqvist saying in the beginning of the season that you can feel the determination in the air in the locker room. Hopefully, the Blueshirts can turn this ship around, preferably back to whatever they were doing to get that nine-game winning streak.

In the two day span that the Rangers have before getting back to action, they’ll need to evaluate their recent play and see what they can fix. (The forecheck might be a good place to start). They play against a very strong Capitals’ team, but they’ve been good at The Garden so far this season, so that should be of some assurance. Hope for the best and see the outcome on Sunday night.

THREE STARS

1) JT Miller – 1 G, +1, 2 BS, 12:57 TOT

2) Dan Boyle – 1 G, 3 BS, 19:43 TOT

3) Henrik Lundqvist – 31 SV, .886 SV%

 

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Posted on December 19, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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