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Rangers comeback bid falls short in 6-4 loss to the Islanders

John Dundon

rangers vs islanders 3-6

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The Rangers battled hard after showing up late to the 5:08 puck drop, but the bad start ultimately cost them two huge points.

It wasn’t just a typical bad start; this was downright awful. The worst of the season by far. You can take your pick from the excuses being thrown around, but there is no explanation for the lack of effort and headiness the Rangers started this game with. Alain Vigneault said after the game “credit them, they came out hard.” Yeah right, coach.

The Rangers start in that spot, against a division rival, with home ice advantage on the line, was inexcusable.

The first period turned out to be the most exciting period of hockey we’ve seen all season. The Islanders dominated the first five minutes and jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Johnny Boychuck, Brock Nelson and then Kyle Okposo on the power play. The Rangers looked like the just rolled out of bed and laced up the skates.

Alain Vigneault called a timeout after the third goal and calmly addressed the team. The Isles lead in the shots on goal department 10-0 at one point, then the Rangers arrived.

AV called the Stalberg-Staal-Lindberg line “the only line that was going tonight,” he was right. They made a few big plays to keep this game from getting out of control early, starting with Oscar Lindberg’s goal just past the halfway mark in the first period. Lindberg got the good guys on the board with a backhand shot that found a way through Jaro Halak, Eric Staal had an assist, his first point as a ranger. Lindberg went forehand-backhand in tight and squeezed it through Halak’s arm and the post. This was the first of a few squeakers that got through the Isles goalie. Had it not been for Halak playing poorly, this game would’ve been a blowout.

Tanner Glass got involved when he banged home a ricochet off the boards behind the net and pulled the Rangers within one. Glass was in the right spot at the right time and made no mistake when the puck found its way to his stick. The bottom six forwards provided energy and got two huge goals to get the Rangers back in it.

Johnny Boychuck stepped into a puck along the wall and ripped his second goal of the game when it whizzed by Antti Raanta, who was not ready for the shot. It was 4-2 Islanders until Eric Staal had the best shift of his short career on Broadway that resulted in his first goal as a Ranger on the doorstep. The over hit 15 minutes into the game.

The second period was an absolute snooze-fest. Seemed to me like the coaches reamed out their teams for playing too loosey-goosey. I counted two high quality scoring chances between the two teams.

The Rangers entered the third period down a goal and looking for the equalizer. It came when Derrick Brassard blasted a shot through Jaro Halak on the power play. Keith Yandle and Derek Stepan had assists on Brass’s goal.

Cal Clutterbuck would go on to score the game winning goal off a faceoff won cleanly by Casey Cizikas from Derek Stepan. The Islanders would add an empty netter for a 6-4 win at MSG. Alain Vigneault has already taken a considerable amount of flak for sending out Derek Stepan over Dom Moore or Eric Staal (20-22 on face-offs tonight) to take the draw on the game winning goal. That flak is unwarranted. AV isn’t the one who lost the draw cleanly.

Stepan took the draw because he is right handed. That’s it. It’s the formula the Rangers have used in the defensive zone since Vigneault arrived on Broadway. Had it been on the left side, there’s no doubt that Staal or Moore would’ve taken the draw. Stepan said after the game “It sucks. Whenever you blow the game for your team it sucks.” Vigneault said after the game “Step took two PK face-offs on that side, won them both and he lost the last one.” He isn’t wrong.

Another area Vigneault was criticized for was his usage, or non-usage, of JT Miller. Miller started the night on the top line, was moved down to the third, then the fourth, and ultimately the bench, playing just one shift in the third period and a total of 6:35.

Ever since his run where it seemed like he was scoring a goal a game, Miller’s production has slowed down considerably, and he hasn’t scored since February 8th, a span of 13 games. Derick Brassard has been inconsistent, but you don’t bench your leading scorer or your best power play point man. Tanner Glass was actually playing well tonight and scored a goal, so there’s no reason why he should have been benched either. Sometimes, you just have to roll your best forwards.

If you were looking for a silver lining, after the Rangers got down 3-0 they battled back when they could’ve wilted over. They showed the same resiliency that they have for years now, even without arguably their two best players in Henrik Lundqvist and Rick Nash.

The fact of the matter is that you can’t win many games going down three-zip in this league. The late arrival doomed the Rangers on this night.

NYI has taken all three meetings against the Rangers this season. All of the losses have been equally painful, but this one hurts bad. The boys battled back but in the end the opposition made one more play, it happens.

For the Rangers, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. They will play the bulk of their remaining games against teams currently in playoff positioning. The task they’re saddled with has become more difficult with this loss. They will attempt to hold the two seed—and home ice advantage in round 1—while also trying to get and stay healthy. No one will feel sorry for them, or make excuses. They know this.

Dylan McIlrath also injured his leg in this game, and his status is unknown. A call-up from Hartford sounds likely.

The Rangers look to get back on track Tuesday against Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres.

THREE STARS

1) Eric Staal – 1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 19:07 TOT

2) Keith Yandle – 1 A, +2, 25:41 TOT

3) Oscar Lindberg – 1 G, 3 SOG, 3 HT, 15:44 TOT

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Posted on March 7, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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