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Rangers suffer late collapse in defeat to Islanders, slip to third in the Metropolitan

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs islanders 1-14

Photo courtesy of the Getty Images.

On November 23rd, the Rangers (23-15-5) were up in the standings by seven points. After tonight’s loss to the rival Islanders (24-15-5), they trail the Capitals by 18 points. That’s a 25 point swing in less than two months.

The Rangers are no longer in first place, they sit in third in the Metropolitan. The Rangers are no longer a lock for the playoffs, because they’re just four points away from being kicked out of a wild card spot.

What’s worse? They totally deserved to win tonight. They Dominated, with a capital D, for the first two periods, and Jaroslav Halak stole the show. Three bad minutes in the third period undid everything they did in the rest of the game and handed the Rangers their 15th loss in the last 22 games.

Despite leading after two periods, the Rangers wound up giving two third period goals. It was the first time that they lost when leading after two periods since November 29, 2013, and just the second time in the past 176 games.

Jaroslav Halak continues to dominate against the Rangers, as well as dominate Henrik Lundqvist. Halak has won his last eight starts against Hank, including all six as a member of the Islanders.

The Rangers also continue to struggle on the road. They’re just 7-10-3 away from Madison Square Garden, and have won just one road game in their last 12 contests, dating back to November 27th.

The Rangers also failed to win consecutive games yet again, and have not done so since beating the Panthers and the Predators on November 21st and 23rd, respectively.

The first period was one of the best that the Rangers have played in weeks. They totally dominated possession at even strength (25 CF to the Isles 14), they had the better of the scoring chances, and the Isles really only had a few memorable scoring chances. It was a good period offensively and defensively for Vigneault’s squad.

Playing for the first time in six games, Dylan McIlrath looked right at home. He was very comfortable with the puck, sound defensively and played well with Keith Yandle.

The game started out aggressive, physical and fast paced, with lots of rushes and scoring chances. Tanner Glass started things off by knocking Bryan Strait into the next borough, and Matt Martin got into things with Dylan McIlrath.

Both goalies were superb in this period, and Henrik Lundqvist made the first great saves, stopping a blast through a screen off of the stick of Nick Leddy, and denying John Tavares on a breakaway chance all along in front of the net. The Islanders would take a penalty shortly after that, giving the Rangers their first power play of the game.

And this is where momentum shifted. The Rangers had three shots on goal, nearly scoring just seconds into the man advantage. Mats Zuccarello fired a wrist shot through a screen from Rick Nash, deflecting his stick but hitting the post.

Jaroslav Halak made a fantastic save on Rick Nash shortly after the power play expired. After a puck was blocked in front, Derick Brassard found the loose puck, backhanded a puck over to Nash, but Halak stretched out his left pad and stopped Nash from finding the open net. Henrik Lundqvist made another fantastic save, stopping Cal Clutterbuck’s wrist shot after some one-touch passing and a rush up the ice. Henrik stuck out a glove and made a huge save to keep the game scoreless.

At the end of one period, the Rangers held a 14-10 advantage in shots, a +11 advantage in Corsi for, and a +4 in high-danger scoring chances for, but the game was still scoreless.

The second period was just as thrilling as the first one, with tons of scoring chances and rushes up the ice. The Islanders made a bigger push here, but the Rangers still held the advantage in possession with 56 shot attempts through 40 minutes. Halak was strong, but he had a lot of help with 19 blocked shots from his teammates in front of the net.

The Rangers got an early power play after the Islanders had too many men on the ice, and Vigneault started Keith Yandle and the second unit. They moved the puck well and had a lot of chances, and they hit another post, this time it was Kreider who was unable to find the back of the open net. They had four shots on goal and one hit post, but didn’t score.

Halak got some more help from his players in front of the net when Mikhail Grabovski stopped what would have been Tanner Glass’ second goal of the season. Zuccarello sent a shot on net, and Halak left a huge rebound. Glass got a shot from the rebound, but Grabovski got down to the ice and blocked the shot.

Then it was Henrik Lundqvist’s turn to make some more highlight reel saves. He first made a fantastic glove save on Ryan Strome off of a rebound, and then kicked out his right pad on Frans Nielsen’s wrist shot from in tight.

With the period dying down, the Rangers finally broke through with less than a minute to go in the second period. Kevin Hayes spun and sent a fantastic pass through the crease, and with Kreider rushing down the middle of the ice, Marc Staal was free to get his stick on the puck and deflect it past Halak for his second goal of the season and his first in 36 games.

The Rangers headed into the locker room with their one goal lead, up in shots 27-22 and finishing with a +13 in Corsi for through the first 40 minutes. All it took was a few bad minutes in the third period to undo all of the good that the Rangers had done through the first 40 minutes. Just 1:53 into the third, Brock Nelson scored yet again, beating Henrik Lundqvist for his sixth goal in the last four games on an ugly defensive sequence from the Rangers. Kevin Hayes was pushed off the puck in his own zone, turned the puck over, wasn’t ready for a pass from Yandle, and provided the screen on Lundqvist for Nelson to beat Hank and tie the game at one.

A few minutes later, Dylan McIlrath took a penalty for roughing, sending the Islanders on the power play. John Tavares set up defenseman Nick Leddy for a one-timer, beating Lundqvist and putting the Islanders up 2-1.

From that point on, the Rangers weren’t able to break through the Isles defenses. All credit to Jack Capuano and the structure the team showed, because the Rangers couldn’t do much of anything. Lundqvist made one more spectacular save on Strait, but Okposo scored into the empty net to seal the win.

It’s more understandable when the Ranger lose a game after playing like crap, but they played really well for almost the entire game and came up on the short end of the stick. There has been way too many moments where the team falls asleep and blows a game or lets in a few goals, and it happened again tonight. It has to stop occurring so frequently.

Just when I thought Kevin Hayes was getting better, and after a spectacular assist on Staal’s goal, he made a stupid mistake that led to the Islanders’ first goal. Then his head didn’t look in the right place for the rest of the game. He’s got a problem with his consistency and with his mentality in games, and unfortunately, this could lead to him getting scratched again.

Oscar Lindberg was a healthy scratch for the second straight game, and Jayson Megna remained on the second line for the fourth consecutive game. I’m not sure what AV sees in him, but it’s ridiculous that an NHL forward is getting top six minutes, and power play time, while Lindberg sits in the press box.

Henrik Lundqvist was great, fantastic even, but was let down by his team during those three plays. It’s a good sign to see him playing so well in these last two games.

The Rangers will take on the Flyers in Philadelphia this Saturday.

TWO STARS

1) Henrik Lundqvist – 23 SV, .935 SV%

2) Marc Staal – 1 G, 17:39 TOT

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Posted on January 15, 2016, in Game Recaps, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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