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New year, same Rangers; Rangers fall to Panthers down in Florida

Bobby Bevilacqua

This is a scary loss.

Rangers vs Panthers 1-2

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (21-14-4) looked to conclude their road trip and start the new year on a high note, but instead lost to the Florida Panthers (22-12-4), shut out by a score of 3-0.

The last time the Rangers won two games in a row, it started with a win over the Panthers on November 21st. A lot has changed since then. The Rangers have slumped massively, going 5-11-2 in their last 18 games. The Panthers have leapfrogged everyone in the Atlantic Division and are outplaying almost everyone they face.

Before the loss tonight, the Rangers had won seven straight games against the Panthers. Florida also won their eighth consecutive game, a new franchise record. The win also put them back atop the Atlantic Division.

In the last two seasons, Alain Vigneault had turned this team into road warriors, and they always played well in opposing arenas. But they’ve really struggled on the road this year, going 7-9-3 away from MSG, going 1-2-0 on this road trip and 1-7-2 in their last 10 road games.

Looking at the box score, you may think that the Rangers just ran into hot goaltending and got unlucky. They fired 40 shots on goal, and yes, Luongo was excellent in this game. But Steve Valiquette estimated that the Rangers had about five quality scoring chances in the game. Most of the shots were from far out, Luongo was largely unscreened and they didn’t get to the dirty areas of the ice.

This has to be concerning for the Rangers. Just when it seemed like they turned the corner with a strong win over the Lightning. But despite having more shots and possession, they were outchanced and outplayed. It was a pretty bad effort from a team that really needed to get the ball rolling.

For the most part, the Rangers played a really solid road period. They traded chances but came out with more shots on goal and chances but a late turnover from Emerson Etem and a goal for the Panthers undid everything.

The period started with a bang, as Tanner Glass delivered a big hit and wound up fighting with fellow enforcer Shawn Thornton just over two minutes into the game.

The Panthers got the first power play chance as Keith Yandle was called for hooking, and they nearly scored. Henrik Lundqvist make an excellent pad save on a Brandon Pirri one timer, moving to his left and kicking out a leg. Shortly after, Aleksander Barkov fired a wrist shot that hit off of the post but stayed out of the net.

The Rangers had a few of their own chances as well. Keith Yandle nearly re-directed a pass past Luongo, but couldn’t get all of the puck. Then Yandle found Dan Girardi down low below the faceoff circle, but he elected to pass instead of shoot, and the puck didn’t get on net.

With just 24.8 seconds left, the Rangers made one of their only mistakes in the first period. Emerson Etem tried to send the puck out of the zone but found a Panther defenseman. Corban Knight carried the puck into the zone and found Logan Shaw, who redirected the puck past Lundqvist for the fourth goal of his NHL career.

Until that mistake, the Rangers had played well. New York went into the locker room up in shots, 10-7, but down a goal.

The second period wasn’t much better for the Blueshirts. They outshot the Panthers again in this period, but surrendered an early goal and would wind up trailing by three after 40 minutes were up.

Jaromir Jagr took a high sticking penalty just 18 seconds into the second period. Luongo was the Panthers best penalty killer. He made two great reaction glove saves, snatching a shot from the point and robbing Derek Stepan on an open wrist shot in the slot.

A few minutes after the kill, the Panthers struck again. The Rangers got caught making a change, and Florida took this chance to make a rush on attack. Petrovic fired a shot at Lundqvist, and he made the initial save. But the puck redirected off of his blocker and hit Vincent Trockeck on the leg, going into the back of the net.

On the goal, Emerson Etem was one of the players just getting on the ice. When transitioning to defense, he was all over the ice and out of position, leaving his man open. It was the second mistake he made in the game, and both were costly.

Later in the period, Etem was called for hooking, sending the Panthers on another power play. This time they cashed in on their opportunity, and the Rangers never even touched the puck. Some excellent passing from the Panthers led to a one-timer from Brandon Pirri, and he beat Lundqvist for the Panthers third goal of the game.

The Rangers had two more great chances, one coming from Derick Brassard in front. He tried to sneak the puck around Luongo’s outstretched pad, but he wasn’t able to get it past Lu’s right skate. On a late power play, Luongo made another great save on a deflection. He would finish with 14 saves in the second period, and was the main reason why the Rangers were blanked through 40 minutes.

In the third period, the Rangers didn’t do much. The stats lie because they had 15 shots on goal, but most were on an unscreened Luongo from far out. There weren’t many chances from the dirty areas, and didn’t do enough.

The main event in this period is a hit that Chris Kreider laid on Willie Mitchell. It was a crosscheck from behind and sent him into the boards. Brandon Pirri took exception and dropped the gloves with Kreider. He got a penalty for interference.

The horn sounded and the Rangers succumbed to yet another tough loss. They had the shots, they had some chances, but failed to put anything together.

I honestly can’t pinpoint anything anymore. Even when they play what looks like a good game, they get shutout. Henrik Lundqvist continues to let in goals, and regression has hit him hard. The defense in front of him isn’t great, the offense has flashes of brilliance but then disappears, and they just seem to shoot themselves in the foot.

Currently constructed, and the way this team is playing right now, they don’t look like Stanley Cup Contenders. They look like a team that could sneak into the playoffs, win a game or two and then lose in the first round. There are problems and inconsistencies all over the roster, and both Alain Vigneault and Jeff Gorton have their work cut out for them.

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Posted on January 3, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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