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Rangers blow late lead in a disappointing loss to the Buffalo Sabres

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers (16-8-1) saw their team fall apart, giving up two late goals and blowing a lead against the Buffalo Sabres (9-9-5), dropping their fifth game in their last eight contests.

Ryan McDonagh, Rick Nash and Marc Staal combined to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead after two periods, but it all eventually fell apart. Jack Eichel, in his second game back from injury, scored two big goals, including the game winner.

It was a game the Rangers never really should have won, because they were outmatched for the majority of the game. It was another concerning showing from the Blueshirts, one that has now become a pattern.

Here’s my recap with some thoughts and observations;

  • The first period started about as poorly as it could have for the Rangers. Just 18 seconds in, the Sabres scored on a dump in from center ice. Jake McCabe sent the puck in from center ice, which bounced off of Johan Larsson. The puck bounced odd going on net, and it squeaked through Lundqvist on a shot he really should have had.
  • After that gaffe, the Rangers played a pretty good period for the most part. They started getting a lot of chances, played well defensively and Hank definitely rebounded with some good saves. The best chances came from Kevin Hayes and Marc Staal, who both nearly scored on give-and-go plays.
  • The Sabres are dealing with some injuries, but they have come a long way from the team that drafted Eichel two years ago. The Sabres are good enough to compete on a nightly basis and have a pretty solid group of players. Even their backup, Anders Nilsson, had an outstanding first period.
  • Thankfully, the Rangers were able to make up for the early mistake with a goal on the power play. Ryan McDonagh scored his first goal of the season, finally getting a well-deserved goal after a great start to the season. On a relentless power play, McDonagh blasted a shot from the point through the screen of Chris Kreider.
  • The Sabres nearly scored a goal of their own as the period came to an end. Buffalo had the Blueshirts pinned back in their own end, struggling to get the puck and clear it, but some big saves by Henrik Lundqvist and a block by McDonagh allowed the horn to sound with no additional damage.
  • There was a 15 minute period, spanning from the end of the first period through the second period, where the Rangers had two shots in 15 minutes. Too many times this year the Rangers have been pushed around offensively, and they have a lot of stretches where just nothing happens offensively.
  • But the power play is where the Rangers shined in this game. In their second power play opportunity, they scored their second power play goal. This time it was Rick Nash attacking the net after Adam Clendening and Jimmy Vesey worked to get the puck on net.
  • But less than two minutes later, the Sabres scored a goal to tie the game. The Sabres had another sustained offensive shift for about 40 seconds or so. With the puck bouncing around everywhere, Marcus Foligno set up Brian Gionta for a game tying goal.
  • Less than two minutes later, Marc Staal scored a goal. A beautiful passing play between him and Jesper Fast, with Chris Kreider using his strength to win the puck along the boards, the Rangers were able to recapture the lead.
  • And in the third period, everything fell apart. They were playing with the lead, which means they’re playing with fire. Because when AV has the lead late, the team goes into an absolute defensive shell and prays that they squeak away with a win. It didn’t work.
  • At first, Lundqvist was making the saves and surviving the Buffalo onslaught by the skin of his teeth. But after Adam Clendening took a holding penalty, the Sabres took advantage. Jack Eichel scored on the power play, sneaking it through Hank’s pads on a goal he should have had. The defensive coverage was also awful here too.
  • Less than two minutes later, Jack Eichel scored again, his third goal in two games back since the injury. The Rangers were pinned back in their own end (shocker) and couldn’t clear the puck, and the defense fell to shambles (also shocker). Jack Eichel banked the puck in off of Mats Zuccarello’s skate and past Lundqvist, who looked totally lost on this play.
  • The Rangers struggled to get anything going for the last five minutes, and couldn’t even get possession at the end to give themselves a chance to pull Lundqvist. The Rangers lost, 4-3.
  • This team needs to get its act together. Just like last season, they got off to a hot start, and now the holes are starting to show. Last year, the hot start was squarely on the shoulders of Henrik Lundqvist. This year, it was the offense scoring five goals a game. But players’ shooting percentages are falling back to reality, and this team can hardly win a game unless they score four goals. December was a disaster for the 2015-16 Rangers, and we’ll see if the same thing happens here.
  • Henrik Lundqvist played his worst game in a few years tonight. The goal from center ice was really bad, the first Eichel goal was bad, and he was out of postion on the second. Lundqvist’s positioning was off, he was moving too much in the crease and just did not look good.
  • However, the defense was also pretty atrocious. And one person in particular. I hate to beat a dead horse, but Dan Girardi just is not that good. Sure he’s improved from last season, but it’s like going from a broken down car without wheels to a car that barely makes it down the road. Sure it’s an improvement, but it’s still not good.
  • And the fact that Dan Girardi plays top pairing minutes is baffling. Ryan McDonagh, the team’s best skater, is dragged down every night because of his defensive partner. They had 25% possession tonight, which is awful. Girardi makes boneheaded decisions at times and decides to defend plays by sliding on the ice. He’s not a top pairing defenseman and something needs to be done.
  • Note: Dan Girardi played a whopping 21 minutes tonight. Brady Skjei played 14:06. That makes no sense.
  • Marc Staal played great. He scored a goal and honestly could have had three if the puck bounced the right way for him. He’s truly improved from last season, and I have no problem with him playing every night. The left side of the Rangers’ defense (McDonagh, Staal, Skjei/Holden) are not a problem. It’s the other side.
  • I also thought that Adam Clendening played a good game. It’s nice to have a puck mover back there so the team can actually transition and break out of their own zone. But after the late penalty AV probably won’t play him until January.
  • This forward group is good enough to win a Cup, I truly think that. But the defense is a major problem. With Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich out, this team has some problems. Adam Clendening isn’t going to fix everything, and the team needs to fix the defense. The lack of puck movers means that the team has their speed taken away from them because they can’t work the puck out of their own zone from the back end. Please, for the love of all things holy, get Ryan McDonagh a real defensive partner.
  • If I see the Rangers get pinned in their own zone for 45 seconds to a minute one more time, I may go insane. This happens way too often. What also happens too often is the team cannot do anything offensively, and they dump and chase. There will be 15 minute stretches where they have two shots and lose all momentum.
  • This team will not win a Stanley Cup if the defense remains the same. And there’s a good chance that this team just unravels like they did last year, just with more goals scored.
  • The Rangers play against Carolina on Saturday at 1 p.m.
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Posted on December 2, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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