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Rangers succumb to epic meltdown in 7-3 loss to the Capitals

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Capitals 12-20

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

This better be rock bottom, because I can’t imagine things getting much worse.

The Rangers (19-12-4) embarrassed themselves in one of the most disheartening losses of the year, surrendering six consecutive goals and blowing a lead to the Metropolitan Division leading Washington Capitals (24-6-2) in a 7-3 loss.

It’s become a tired narrative. The defense is bad from the forwards and defensemen, the team is blowing leads, the goaltending isn’t as good, and they keep finding ways to lose. It’s been happening for the last 14 games.

I don’t know how to explain it. They’ll have leads and score goals, play well for stretches, and then fall apart. The team is fragile, mentally and on the ice, and it seems like nobody has the answer as to why it’s happening.

The first period went extremely well, and it was the best period the Rangers have played in an extremely long time. After surrendering the first goal, they showed resiliency and scored three straight goals, outshooting the Capitals 15-7 too.

Alain Vigneault really switched up the lines as well, looking for anything to provide a spare. And to his credit, it certainly worked. Here were the forward lines:

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Rick Nash

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Kevin Hayes-Mats Zuccarello

Oscar Lindberg-Dominic Moore-Emerson Etem

The top line played particularly well, and JT Miller took advantage of his time on the top line. Just a couple of minutes into the game, Miller carried the puck down the wing and centered a puck just out of the reach of Brassard’s stick.

The Caps had a few golden chances early, nearly stuffing a puck past Lundqvist in the crease. Henrik made the initial save on a deflected shot, but Justin Williams dove into the crease to try and push the puck over the goal line. But Dan Boyle went down to the ice and swept the puck out of the crease with his glove to turn aside the chance.

But Williams would answer back a little over seven minutes later, scoring his ninth goal of the season. Taylor Chorney had the puck around the point, and Kevin Hayes skated away from his man, Williams, to try and defend a shot. But that left him wide open in front of the net, redirecting it past Henrik to give the Caps a one goal lead.

JT Miller made sure the momentum didn’t stay with Washington, scoring just 1:39 after Williams found the back of the net. Miller carried the puck into the zone, deked past a defender, pulled the puck back away from Holtby and slit it past Washington’s netminder for the equalizer. The assists went to Rick Nash and Keith Yandle.

Chris Kreider kept the Garden loud with a goal less than three minutes later. Kreider intercepted a pass around the blue line and skated to the front of the net, outmuscling a defender and deking past Holtby’s outstretched pad to give the Rangers the lead.

The Rangers had all the momentum at this point, turning it into countless scoring chances. Emerson Etem used his size and speed to beat a defenseman down the wing, Etem was hooked but forced Holtby to make a good save. The puck popped loose to Chris Summers, who was all alone in front of the net, and he was turned aside, with Holtby making an excellent save. But the Rangers had a power play chance.

And the league’s fifth best PP delivered yet again, with Dan Boyle continuing his red-hot play as of late. Ryan McDonagh looked for a shoting lane and fakes a shot, making a no-look pass to Boyle at the faceoff circle. Boyle did his best Ovechkin imitation, firing a one-timer off of the far post and into the net, his fourth goal of the season.

The goal was Boyle’s fourth in the last seven games, and he has six points in those games as well. Boyle has been on the ice for 15 of the Rangers 21 power play goals this season.

The Kreider-Stepan-Fast line had a very effective period, with Fast leading all skaters with a +9 rating in corsi. Kreider and Stepan each finished with a +8 corsi for in the first period. In the second period, everything fell apart.

After a stellar first period, the Rangers had an epic collapse. They keep finding ways to blow leads and make mistakes. The “real” Rangers team shown through, surrendering a total of 17 shots and four goals, two of them on the power play.

The start of the period was truly indicative of what would ultimately happen. Right off of the opening faceoff, Marcus Johansson fired a wrist shot off of the crossbar. That didn’t go in, but a lot more did.

After a Rangers penalty kill, the Rick Nash had a great chance, flying down the wing and forcing Holtby to make a save with the right pad. The puck eventually got to Stepan, who was uncovered in front of the net, and he whiffed on the shot.

The Capitals got momentum from their penalty kill, and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 10th goal of the season, cutting the Rangers lead to just one. Kuznetsov came off of the bench for Tom Wilson, who was coming out of the penalty box, and he collected the puck near the front of the net, making good of a broken play and backhanding the puck over Lundqvist.

Just 1:36 after that goal, TJ Oshie scored the equalizer, his eighth point in the past four games. Nicklas Backstrom sent a pass off of the boards, and the puck bounced perfectly to Oshie. He fought to the front of the net, and shot the puck through Lundqvist. It went under the right arm of Lundqvist, and it’s one he wants back.

That two goal sequence marked the eighth time this season that the Rangers have surrendered two goals in a two minute span, and the fifth time in the last sixth game that has occurred. Possibly on of the worst stats a team could have.

But the bleeding didn’t stop there. Summers tripped up Andre Burakovsky, sending the Caps back on the power play. And just as you’d expect, Alex Ovechkin scored with a powerful wrist shot off of the glove and left shoulder of Lundqvist, too strong to handle. Ovechkin’s 17th goal of the season gave the Capitals the lead on the team’s third goal in 5:28.

From that point on, the Rangers decided to not play offense anymore. Emerson Etem, one of the few decent forwards through the entirety of the first two periods, drew another hooking penalty. But the Blueshirts didn’t get many chances and Yandle played just the last 29 seconds of the power play, which makes no sense.

Oscar Lindberg took another penalty, this one high sticking, with 2:10 left in the period. Justin Williams would go on to score his second goal of the game off of a lightning quick wrist shot from the slot to cap off a nightmarish period for the Rangers, and give the Capitals a 5-3 lead.

For the second time in a week, Alain Vigneault pulled Henrik Lundqvist in favor of his backup. Magnus Hellberg made his debut for the season and in blue, and was immediately given the “New York Rangers treatment.”

What’s that you ask? Poor defensive coverage, bad decision making and no help from the forwards. Hellberg allowed two goals on the first two shots that he faced, largely due to some big mistakes.

The first goal the Capitals scored in the period actually came on the Rangers power play. Keith Yandle made a stupid decision to pinch in an attempt to keep the puck in the zone, but he missed it and sent the Capitals on the breakaway. Jason Chimera scored to make it 6-3.

Johansson scored the seventh Capitals goal on a total meltdown of a play. Summers turned the puck over behind the net to Evgeny Kuznetsov. One defensemen decided to make a change for some reason, so Dan Boyle couldn’t get on the ice in time to play defense. Tanner Glass and Kevin Hayes were chilling behind the net, and Mats Zuccarello was hovering around the boards. So Johansson was able to get a free shot on goal. The Caps took a 7-3 lead on two goals just 2:10 apart from each other.

It’s not worth talking about the last 16 minutes because nothing relevant happened except for the amazing and dedicated Rangers starting a “Let’s Go Rangers” chant despite the embarrassing product on the ice.

The Rangers were 16-3-2 at one point. They were still playing really badly then. Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta masked a lot of the Rangers problems. There was reason to worry, I said so myself, but the narrative was that “a win is a win” and “don’t complain when they keep winning.”

Well, the team has crashed and their flaws are showing. The confidence is at an all-time low now. Despite what the players say, they are fragile. This is a team that has given up 31 goals in the last six games, and 17 in the last three. They’re 1-5-1 in the last seven games and 3-9-2 in the last 14 games. They’re falling apart.

Rangers walking out onto ice 12-20

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The defensive coverage is still extremely lackluster, from the forwards and the defensemen. Lots of wide open players, some turnovers and big mistakes. When you’re not getting hall of fame level goaltending on a nightly basis, that’s a problem.

I’m not going to point fingers today because it’s the entire team that isn’t playing well. Out of the forwards, JT Miller has been really good lately, and noticeable in the losses.

Dylan McIlrath continues to avoid making mistakes, and he’s been the most reliable defenseman. Dan Boyle is heating up, scoring goals, running the power play and playing solid defense. While the top players continue to slack, these two have stepped it up.

AV needs to show some accountability. Stop being afraid to call out players who are bad. Don’t just say “we’re working hard but the results aren’t coming our way.” That’s BS. The team is playing badly and you know it. Kevin Hayes has been a non-factor for a long time now. Say something. The supposed “best defensemen” are playing poorly. Scratch them, not Boyle and McIlrath. And he needs to make adjustments. To the game, the team, and the lineup. If he doesn’t, nothing will change.

The Rangers will play another home game on Tuesday against the Ducks, one of the worst offensive teams in the league. You gotta win these types of games.

THREE STARS

1) Dan Boyle – 1 G, 5 SOG, 20:26 TOT

2) JT Miller – 1 G, 15:30 TOT

3) The Fans – for cheering them on and starting a LGR chant despite being down 7-3

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Posted on December 21, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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