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Rangers collapse late in loss to Nashville; Defensive game still lackluster

Bobby Bevilacqua

What on earth was that?

rangers vs predators 12-28

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (20-13-4) had a long, six day break to recuperate and get ready for their game against the Nashville Predators (18-12-6). So what do they do? Come out with almost no offense at first, rebound for a good second period, and then completely fall apart in the third, ultimately losing 5-3.

There’s no other way to say it. This team is fragile. They’re broken. This isn’t a slump, and it isn’t a passing fad. This is their reality. As they are currently constructed, they are not a great hockey team. They aren’t playing like a good team either. Something needs to change. There needs to be a move made to inject life into the lineup.

Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein made their return to the lineup. Klein was okay, but it’s no coincidence that when Girardi returns, the defense goes to shambles. The McDonagh-Girardi pairing is woefully ineffective, Staal was terrible, and McIlrath was sitting in the press box. The defense is just bad, making too many errors, blowing coverages and missing assignments.

Henrik Lundqvist was yanked after allowing five goals on 35 shots. While he hasn’t been his superhuman self that he was at the beginning of the season, Lundqvist was far from bad tonight. He gave the Rangers a chance, Vigneault said so himself. But in the end, he just needs a break from the BS defensive play in front of him.

The Predators played two nights ago, and this was their first game since the 22nd. The Predators had some jump in their game, and the Rangers were sluggish. Nashville had 11 shots in the first 10 minutes, and they didn’t allow the Rangers to have much sustained pressure at all.

Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein both made their return to action. Klein wasn’t noticeable, which isn’t bad because he wasn’t making mistakes. Girardi was okay too. He broke up a potential goal but his errant pass led to the scoring chance.

The first shot of the game, and the first of the period was from Dan Girardi. He smartly positioned himself down low, and waited for Dominic Moore to make a play. Moore sent a shot on net and through the crease, Girardi collected the rebound, and was denied by Rinne’s right pad.

Nashville began pouring on the pressure, getting lots and lots of shots on goal, mostly from the point. Henrik was sharp and made some good saves, but luckily the Predators didn’t get a lot of traffic in front of the net.

Rick Nash had another good chance for the Rangers, using a burst of speed to beat his defender and get two chances, stopped at the net and shooting wide on a follow up chance. Dominic Moore was the best forward in this period. He was all over the ice, had a lot of possession and created three or four good scoring chances.

dominic moore skating 12-28

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Predators got a late power play chance when Derick Brassard was called for a retaliatory roughing penalty. Nashville’s power play has been running at about 25% this month, and they cashed in here. Roman Josi fed Filip Forsberg for a one time slap shot, and Lundqvist had no chance. Forsberg’s eighth goal in 15 games put the Preds up 1-0.

The Rangers had minimal possession and were outshot 15-6, but headed to the locker room down by just a goal.

The second period was a lot better for the Rangers. They did a much better job in the offensive zone, looked a lot sharper with the puck and they outshot the Predators in this period.

There wasn’t much through the first six minutes of the period, but the Rangers began to pick things up shortly after that, scoring their first goal at 6:59 of the period. The Stepan line were forechecking hard, and eventually were able to get the puck to Girardi at the point. His wrist shot was expertly redirected by Jesper Fast and through the legs of Rinne, tying the game at one goal apiece.

jesper fast goal celebration 12-28

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers continued their onslaught of chances, ultimately peppering Rinne with 14 shots. The first line and the first defensive pairing took advantage of a downed Barret Jackman, holding possession for over a minute and getting some good chances. Zuccarello had a chance to fire a wrister at Rinne from the front of the net, but tried a backpass for Nash that was broken up.

With the Ranger buzzing, Pekka Rinne stood tall. He made 13 saves in the period, and a sequence of saves on a flurry of shots led to a rush for the Predators. Mike Ribiero, one of the best passers in the league, fed a trailing James Neal, and he beat Lundqvist high to give Nashville their one goal lead back.

Nash had another good chance in this period. He sent a heavy wrist shot at Rinne, and the initial save was made, but the puck trickled through his pads. Calle Jarnkrok swept the puck out of the crease before it could cross the line, and the Rangers couldn’t equalize. Henrik made a sprawling save on Paul Gaustad after that to keep the deficit from ballooning.

Despite a better period and some really good plays, the Rangers couldn’t beat Rinne more than once, and that was the deciding factor in this period.

The third period was pitiful. Absolutely pitiful. The Rangers had one shot on goal through the first 12 minutes, the defense was atrocious and the team collapsed after a strong second period. They tried to comeback at the end, but the hole was too deep.

Early in the period, it looked like Filip Forsberg scored his second goal of the game. He went around the back of the net, and fired a bad angle shot off of Dominic Moore’s ankle and into the back of the net. However, Alain Vigneault challenged the goal. After replay, it was determined that Craig Smith impeded Lundqvist’s ability to make a save, and the goal was waved off.

Minutes later, Craig Smith was involved in another controversial play in front of the net. Roman Josi sent a shot on net from the point, and Smith deflected it past Henrik and into the net. Lundqvist argued that Smith hit his glove, but after review, the goal stood and the Predators had a 3-2 lead.

A few minutes later, Dominic Moore took a penalty for tripping, putting the Predators back on the power play. And just like in the first period, they scored again, with Ryan Ellis blasting a shot past Henrik from the point.

The Rangers gave up back to back goals in under two minutes yet again, surrendering another goal just 55 seconds later. Moore and Glass couldn’t clear the puck, the Preds had a flurry of shots, Hank had to keep moving from side to side, to get into position to make another save, but an uncovered James Neal slotted the puck past Henrik for the fourth unanswered Predators goal.

Marc Staal’s horrendous season continues. He decided to skate all the way out of position, all the way to the loose puck where another player was already waiting to make a play, leaving Neal totally uncovered. Why is Dylan McIlrath in the press box again?

After this goal, Henrik Lundqvist was pulled in favor of Antti Raanta.

The Rangers attempted to mount a comeback, and it was Rick Nash scoring his 11th goal of the season, and his 100th as a Ranger. Rinne tried to clear the puck through the air and the middle of the ice, but Nash intercepted it and sent it into the open net.

JT Miller followed up Nash’s goal with one of his own, staying hot with his sixth point in the last seven games. Derek Stepan won the faceoff cleanly, and Miller ripped a wrist shot off of the inside of the post and into the net, cutting the lead to two.

Despite pulling Raanta with three minutes remaining, the Rangers couldn’t make the game any closer, and failed to complete the comeback. It’s their 12th loss in the past 16 games.

There are plenty of offensive guys (Hayes, Kreider, Stalberg, Glass, Stepan) who aren’t getting it done, and the defensive coverage is terrible. I don’t know what’s wrong, but Vigneault needs to figure out what has been plaguing this team for 37 games now.

The Rangers take on the Lightning Wednesday night.

THREE STARS

1) JT Miller – 1 G, 5 HT, 15:34 TOT

2) Rick Nash – 1 G, 9 SOG, 12 SA,

3) Jesper Fast – 1 G, 14:49 TOT

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Posted on December 29, 2015, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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