Rangers End 2015 By Killing Two Streaks With One Stone

The last time the Rangers headed to Tampa they were on a nine game winning streak. Since then? They have gone 6-11-2 and have only one road game (two nights later against Florida). Basically, it hasn’t been a pretty streak. So considering all of that plus the fact that Ben Bishop was 9-0-0 against them in the regular season, tonight didn’t look good. And that’s usually when the Rangers play their best.

First the line up, as media and fans were given a little surprise when the team practiced yesterday in Nashville as Kevin Hayes was skating as a defenseman with Dylan McIlrath. For those who don’t follow practice updates closely, that meant those two wouldn’t be playing tonight. The surprise wasn’t so much that Hayes was being taken out but more the fact Vigneault was finally doing it. After practice, Vigneault ripped Hayes basically saying he’s had a long leash but time was up and they weren’t happy with him both on and off the ice. If you missed them, you can see the full quotes here. They’re worth a read as in three years, I don’t think Vigneault has ever called out a player that harshly. Makes me wonder what Hayes has done this year, besides his horrible play, to piss him off that much.

Of course, Chris Kreider had to go and get sick so there was a question if would Hayes ended up playing after all. Personally, if that had happened, I would’ve played seven defensemen instead of putting Hayes in after making those comments. Sure you can look at it as hopefully it will light a fire under him. But to me, you really get your point across if you’re willing to play only 11 forwards rather than put him in the line up. That said, it didn’t matter as Kreider was able to play.

Besides talking about Hayes yesterday, Vigneault also talked about his team. While he admitted they were having a tough time, he said they should be able to get up for tonight’s game. From the drop of the first puck, it looked like he was right as the visitors were flying. It led to a Tampa icing just 1:50 into the game. On the ensuing face-off, the Rangers put out their fourth line and third defense pair. The result? Dominic Moore cleanly winning the face-off back to Keith Yandle who found a wide open pinching Dan Boyle for the early lead. I think even the Rangers were surprised how easy that was.

Things were going great for the next five minutes when the referees decided they wanted to be a part of the game. So off went Tanner Glass for high sticking. With less than ten seconds to go in that kill, the Lightning thought a power play meant they could have six guys on the ice. Just as that expired, Chris Kreider, trying to bat the puck into the net while standing in the crease, ended up hitting Ben Bishop. Apparently that’s a penalty now. (It was a follow through which last I checked isn’t a penalty.)

After all that was killed, the referees decided to take a step back for a couple of minutes. Then a turnover by I believe McDonagh led to Rick Nash heading to the box for an accidental high stick. (He did high stick Paquette but it looked like he was just trying to turn and skate and got the stick too high. Either way, it was a penalty.) There were only so many power plays in a short span that the Rangers were going to kill. They didn’t kill that one and we had a tie game with three minutes to go in the period. Somehow the score remained tied through twenty.

But you could see the Lightning getting their legs and I was worried about how the second period would go. This is the Rangers we’re talking about, after all.

And because it’s the Rangers, you just never know what is going to happen. For instance, they could come out and score a goal in the first minute of the second period to take a 2-1 lead. Which they did, as J.T. Miller found Mats Zuccarello who rifled one by Bishop before he even knew Zuccarello had the puck.

The referees then evened up the penalties giving the Rangers a power kill three and a half minutes after the goal and then another, which Ryan McDonagh literally killed by taking a dumb penalty, halfway through the period. But while the Lightning had chances, the Rangers somehow kept the puck out of the net.

Then with less than 90 seconds to go, Tanner Glass took his second penalty of the night as he slammed Brian Boyle into the Rangers bench. I don’t care what fans think about Dan Boyle, I really have no desire to have Brian back. I have no idea if they were originally going to call a penalty but NBC went to break and when they came back, we were told that Brian complained and therefore Glass was in the box. I can’t say it wasn’t a penalty (as even Glass admitted it was), I just want to know if they had planned on making a call originally as I didn’t notice an arm up before the commercial break.

But that wasn’t even the worst part. With time winding down, the Lightning set up and it looked like Henrik Lundqvist made a save. In any case, the whistle clearly blew before it was discovered the puck had squeaked into the net. I have no idea what they reviewed or why they reviewed, but for some reason they reviewed the play and determined the puck was in the net so it was a goal. Was the puck in the net? Yes, it clearly was…after the whistle. You clearly hear the whistle. Last I checked that (1) means no goal and (2) is not reviewable. But apparently there was some new rule I was not aware of that allowed it to be reviewable because it was a continuous play. And you wonder why fans hate the referees. You can read the full explanation here.

Anyway, because of it we had a tie game going to the third. At least the goal didn’t cause the Rangers to be down a goal.

It looked like it would be another third period like so many we’ve seen recently when very early in the period, Filppula took a shot that beat Lundqvist and then trickled towards the net before Marc Staal did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=915529

And that is why Staal will continue to get to play big minutes, because he can make plays like that. Sure he had a few turnovers tonight as well but that…that was perfect. I’m honestly shocked he didn’t put it in the net with the way his luck has been going. Maybe the Rangers luck really is about to turn around.

Shortly after that, the fourth line went to work again, this time it was Dominic Moore who forced Hedman to turn over the puck. Moore then took the puck, dangled around the Tampa defenseman and buried it behind Bishop to give the Rangers the lead.

At that point there was a little less than 17 minutes remaining in the period and the Rangers went into the defensive shell they are known to do to hold on to a third period lead. And tonight it was welcomed. Why? Because we haven’t seen it in over a month. Was it perfect? No, but it was close. The Rangers absolutely frustrated the Lightning until with a minute and a half to go, Viktor Stalberg somehow found the empty net from deep in the Rangers zone. Rick Nash would add another empty netter 48 seconds later and the Rangers would finally beat Ben Bishop in the regular season. The road win was nice too.

So are things turning for the Rangers? Well, it was one game. But I almost recognized the guys in Rangers jerseys. The question is can they string a bunch of these performances together? I’m going to hope so. Either way, it was a great way to end 2015.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

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Rangers Lose Another As Third Period Woes Continue

Down by only one going into the third period, this game was there for the taking. But as with so many games we’ve seen recently, the Rangers chose instead to just hand it away.

While the Rangers probably enjoyed having an extra day or two to their break, the negative was the fact the Predators had already played a game coming into tonight’s contest. And it showed in the first period as the home team had their legs and the visitors just tried to survive. And they almost did, even though they were outshot 14-6 through the first 18 and a half minutes.

But then, with just 90 seconds to go, Derick Brassard took his stupid penalty of the night. It’s been a while since he’s taken one so I almost want to give him a pass. But it took the Predators 23 seconds to score and then he had the audacity to argue the call with the referee before heading off the ice for intermission. Should it have been a penalty? I don’t know, there are probably other things the guys in stripes should be focusing on. Did Brassard wrap his arms around a Predator and drag him to the ice? Yes he did, and that’s called every time. Next time instead of arguing, don’t do it in the first place.

I wasn’t sure how the boys would react to the late goal against but it appeared twenty minutes was all they needed to find their legs. They got a number of chances in first few minutes and finally tied the game seven minutes in when Jesper Fast perfectly deflected a Dan Girardi shot.

The Rangers would keep pushing after that but like Lundqvist in the first period, Rinne was up to the task. Less than two minutes after the goal, Barrett Jackman would be hit hard by a shot and go down. Since the Rangers kept control of the puck, the referees didn’t blow the whistle even though Jackman took forever to even attempt to stand up. For those who aren’t aware, that was the right call as that is the rule. I just think it’s a dumb rule. He didn’t play the rest of the period but somehow came back for the third. I wasn’t expecting that as it really didn’t look good.

Anyway, the Rangers took advantage and absolutely controlled play for the next five minutes, minus a drop pass here and there. But they couldn’t get the go-ahead goal and when Kevin Hayes lost the puck in his skates and went down, you just knew how the rush the other way would end. I can’t even say it’s the Rangers as that happens to every team.

I saw some mention that the Rangers should have been given a power play a little before the goal as Brassard was slashed. The broadcast mentioned he pleaded to the referees but to no avail. This is why you don’t argue an obvious penalty, especially early in the game. Wrong or right, referees remember. That said, I didn’t see the play so I have no idea if it should’ve been a penalty or if the referees really did miss it.

Both teams had chances over the last six minutes but the score remained at 2-1 through forty. But it was pretty clear there would be an early goal in the third that would swing momentum one way or the other. And there was, kind of.

Just five minutes into the period, Nashville scored to make it three one. Immediately Henrik Lundqvist went nuts saying that Craig Smith interfered with him making the stop. Here was the play in question:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=913087

Personally, I thought Dominic Moore did more to stop Lundqvist from making the stop then Smith did but the Rangers thought otherwise and challenged it. Somehow, the referees agreed and the goal was disallowed.

Did the Rangers take advantage of that? Absolutely not as it took only two minutes for the Predators to get the goal back. Lundqvist wanted to challenge that one as well but he didn’t have an argument that time. To be fair, the Predators were pissed the goal was disallowed and used it as motivation to get it back. Honestly the Rangers might have been better off with that goal being allowed as the wheels completely came off after they called it back.

Moore would take a penalty a minute after the Predators actual third goal, giving them their second power play goal of the game. Two minutes later, it was 5-1 and Lundqvist was on the bench. Pretty sure the Rangers had no intention of putting Antti Raanta into a game anytime soon and definitely not tonight.

I wish I could understand it. Before the break I kept seeing mention of the team being fragile but I didn’t want to believe it. I think I have to now. I had no confidence when they went into the third down 2-1 and it was clear they didn’t either. Sure they had a few chances in the first five minutes but as soon as the Predators scored, you could see their shoulders slump and you just knew it was over.

The Rangers would get two more over the last seven minutes to make it a respectable looking 5-3 but those goals were meaningless.

I keep saying I would prefer the slump now rather than in April or May but they really need to snap out of this soon. Problem is it doesn’t get any easier as they head to their nemesis in Tampa (for a nationally shown game, no less), then it’s the Atlantic division leading Panthers and then they come home to play the best team in the league, the Dallas Stars. Tonight was the night they had to get points and they blew it again in the third period. I really don’t get it.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Break Allows Rangers To Get Healthy

While most teams returned to game action this weekend, the Rangers had the luxury of a couple extra days off. The rest served them well as it was all hands on deck at practice earlier today:

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It was no surprise to see Dan Girardi or Kevin Klein back at practice as most have assumed they would be back in the line up against Nashville. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Antti Raanta could join them as well. Head injuries are the one injury that is completely unpredictable.

After practice, two of the three spoke to the media. Raanta admitted that the first couple of days he didn’t feel great but feels better now. I’m assuming it’s something they plan to keep an eye on but for now it appears they think he’s healthy enough to back up again.

As for Girardi, he apparently has a crack in his kneecap (which sounds painful, if you ask me). The good news is he apparently can’t hurt it further so has been cleared to play as long as the swelling stays down. The bad news? Well, I’m trying to figure out how skating in a game will keep the swelling down. I’m no doctor but this doesn’t make any sense to me.

While I freely admit to questioning the Rangers medical staff from time to time, guess we have to assume they are right on this one as, thanks to lines at practice today, it looks as if all three will be in the line up tomorrow night

Nash – Brassard – Zuccarello
Kreider – Stepan – Fast
Miller – Lindberg – Hayes
Glass – Moore – Stalberg

McDonagh – Girardi
Staal – Boyle
Yandle – Klein

Going to be honest and admit it’s nice to see a full roster again. We haven’t seen that since late November. Now here’s to hoping it lasts.

With guys coming back, that means someone has to come out. Chris Summers was sent back to Hartford earlier in he week so he was an obvious one to come out. Unfortunately Dylan McIlrath coming out was obvious as well. Does the rookie deserve to be taken out? Absolutely not. He has played very well the past few weeks and honestly deserves to be a permanent fixture in the line up. But a rookie will always come out before a veteran. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The Rangers could make a trade to get him permanently in the line up. Only problem with that is if a defenseman were to go down, they wouldn’t have a back up. My guess is McIlrath won’t be a regular until next season. And if so, nothing wrong with that. But he will definitely be a regular next year.

Up front, the Rangers didn’t have to make a change but the revolving door of Viktor Stalberg and Emerson Etem continued. With Stalberg being an ex-Predator, it’s not really a surprise he goes in. We’ll see how long he stays there. While I don’t think the Rangers are looking to make a move on the back end, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were showcasing someone up front.

And now the Rangers get back to work. The first month of the season, we all said the Rangers weren’t as good as their record showed. The last month, we’ve all agreed they aren’t as bad as they have looked. Here’s to hoping a new calendar year gives us the team we actually expected to see this year.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rangers Embarrassed By Caps In Return To MSG

Over the last week or two, we’ve heard the word “embarrassed” thrown around in regards to the Rangers play. I don’t think those who used the word (myself included) truly understood the meaning of it. The past two weeks have been full of incredible games compared to what just happened at MSG as tonight, the Rangers were embarrassed.

All the talk before the game was the new lines in warmups:

Yes, that is a line of Kevin Hayes centering Mats Zuccarello and Tanner Glass. While the logical part of my brain says Glass has been playing well and Vigneault is just trying to find something that could work, there is still a part that thinks he gets enjoyment out of doing ridiculous stuff like that.

In regards to the game, both teams seemed ready to play from the start. Four and a half minutes in, the Caps took a shot that squeezed through Lundqvist and trickled through the crease but somehow was kept out. On replay, I’m not sure it was kept out legally as Dan Boyle “swept” it out of the crease. At least that’s what was determined by the referees. He might have put his hand over it in doing so though.

But instead of the Rangers getting a penalty, it was the Caps as Williams went off for tripping giving the Rangers their first power kill of the night. Jesper Fast and Tanner Glass saw some time at the end of it so that’s really all you need to know.

With eight minutes to go in the period, the Rangers gave the puck over in the neutral zone and then allowed the Caps to set up and eventually gain the lead. It took exactly 1:39 for the Rangers to respond as Rick Nash came off the bench and got the puck to J.T. Miller who made a great move 1-on-3 to tie the game. That said, Holtby absolutely should have made the save as it didn’t look like Miller got anything on the actual shot.

Just a little over two minutes later, Chris Kreider found the rebound of a blocked Marc Staal shot and then did this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020497-92-h

Watching goals like that really makes me wonder what has been going on with Kreider this season. That’s the player we keep hoping to see.

The Rangers were playing well until that point but that really woke them up. They had a couple of chances over the next minute and a half which led to their second power play of the game. This one they didn’t kill as Ryan McDonagh found Dan Boyle in the slot to make it 3-1. Three goals in 4:21 of playing time. There are just certain teams the Rangers appear to wake up to play.

Of course the good feelings didn’t last as the Caps hit the crossbar just 19 seconds into the second period and then 34 seconds later, Oscar Lindberg headed to the box. Probably not what he wanted to do after being a healthy scratch last game. (Viktor Stalberg was the lucky party tonight to get that role. No surprise since he didn’t play in the third period Friday night.) It wasn’t easy but somehow the Rangers killed it and even had a chance to extend their league as Lindberg came out of the box. They didn’t and the Caps took another penalty, which the Rangers proceeded to kill.

Like the Rangers, the Caps would get a chance right after the penalty ended. Unlike the Rangers, they would actually score on that opportunity to make it 3-2. That score wouldn’t last long as just 1:36 later, the Caps would tie the game. Maybe confidence really is an issue on the Rangers bench. It’s the only explanation I have for all these back to back goals recently (eight times this season, five times in last six games).

It didn’t get better as the period went on as Chris Summers took a dumb penalty halfway through the period. It took thirty seconds for the Caps to regain their lead and Ovechkin to get on the board. After another power kill of their own, Lindberg would head back to the box with a little over two minutes to go in the period. It took the Caps a little longer this time but they still capitalized to extend their lead to 5-3 before the period ended.

I’ve seen the Rangers have bad second periods but that might have been one of the worst. The result? Magnus Hellberg got to play the third period.

I feel bad for him because the first shot he got to face was a little over two minutes into the period – a shorthanded goal by Rangers killer, Jason Chimera. The second shot he faced went past him too to make it 7-3 just a couple of minutes later. I don’t blame Hellberg at all. I just don’t get what is going on with this team right now. I’ve never seen an entire team with absolutely no ability to make any plays. What makes even less sense is the first period was one of the best periods they have played all season. Then the next forty minutes happened.

Anyway, the boys have one more game before a five day break they honestly don’t even deserve at this point. We just need to hope they somehow use it to refresh. I mean, this can’t continue the rest of the season, can it?

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Comings + Goings For Rangers Before Game Vs Jets

The Rangers got some good injury updates before their game in Winnipeg against the Jets. First, the big news:

Welcome back, Derek Stepan!

It’s not a secret the Rangers have missed their first line center as they went 3-5-2 since he was injured. He will probably be playing with Chris Kreider so here’s to hoping that helps wake up the slumping winger. As for who is out, Vigneault said a couple of guys have bumps and bruises so one would be taken out. Looks like the lucky party is Oscar Lindberg. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vigneault just wanted to rest him as the rookie has been off the past few games. (UPDATE: I was right as after game they announced he was a healthy scratch. Not sure anyone could argue it wasn’t deserved.)

In other injury news, Vigneault gave an update on Antti Raanta saying the goaltender was feeling better and is day-to-day. The thing with head injuries is you just never know. While the Rangers clearly need their backup, I’m just hoping they wait until he is fully recovered.

As for the defense, Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi are still out. Klein was placed on IR retroactive to November 30th (meaning he can play whenever he’s ready) because the Rangers needed a roster spot. And why was that?

The big discussion last night was how would the team replace Raanta without any cap space. The solution?

I had a feeling no matter what Brady Skjei was headed down in the next 24 hours so as to be in Hartford when the roster freeze came into place. While it was clear he needs a little more seasoning, the main reasons he was sent down was his cap hit ($925k) and the fact he played five games in seven days after last night. Since Klein and Girardi aren’t ready, the Rangers needed another defenseman so up comes Chris Summers at $600k. That extra space allowed the team to bring up Magnus Hellberg ($625k) to back up Lundqvist. You know the saying “every penny counts”? Well they really do for the Rangers right now.

The good news is the team should be getting almost all of their regulars back by the Christmas break. Here’s to hoping no one else goes down any time soon. Oh and that a full roster gets the boys back in the win column on a regular basis.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Raanta Hurt As Rangers Have Another Third Period Collapse

During the first three months of the season, the Rangers always have one month that has everyone jumping off the ledge. In 2014, it was November. 2013 had the horrible October road trip. I guess December is the lucky month for 2015. We just have to keep hoping they snap out of it soon.

The funny part is the game started well for the visitors. They controlled play the first couple of shifts and even got a penalty shot just 49 seconds into the game. Unfortunately while Keith Yandle made a nice move on the shot (after getting hooked by Scandella on a breakaway), Dubynk was able to make the save.

It didn’t take long after that for the Wild to find their game and the rest of the period saw the Rangers spending a lot more time in their zone than anywhere else. Eight and a half minutes into the game, the Rangers had a chance to move the puck out of their zone and Viktor Stalberg…well, Stalberg might be the only one not happy there is a chance Derek Stepan might play tomorrow because I would say he’s the front runner to return to the box, although a new injury might play a big part in that. (But it is a close race.)

Anyway, Stalberg handed the puck over in the neutral zone, the Wild came back and the scrambling Rangers had no chance of stopping them from scoring. Oddly enough, the defense looked similar to that of a certain pair who had a forgettable game in Edmonton this past weekend. While Ryan McDonagh was on the ice (with Marc Staal), I think it was Oscar Lindberg who lost the actual goal scorer. Either way, the home team had the early lead.

Five minutes later, Scandella took a hard slap shot from the circle that hit Antti Raanta square in the head. Raanta immediately dropped and play stopped as Jim Ramsey ran onto the ice. After a couple of minutes, Raanta slowly skated off with help and didn’t return the rest of the game. If they call this an “upper body injury”, I will seriously give up. He was clearly taken off to be tested for a concussion and from the way he went off, I’m going to guess he has one. It’s beginning to look like that type of season.

As for the second period, again I had every intention of just saying other than Jarret Stoll trying to help his old team by tripping Lindberg, “it happened”. (Obviously it didn’t help because a team that supposedly needs help penalty killing looked like a great penalty killing team to me. And both teams hit the post during the two minutes he was in the box rather than the back of the net. Yes both teams.) But with less than five minutes to go, Dan Boyle took a hooking penalty. The Rangers almost killed it but with ten seconds to go, the Wild doubled their lead.

Then with roughly thirty seconds to go in the period, Vigneault put his fourth line on the ice. They rewarded him by doing this:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020472-469-h

Honestly, the way this game had been played through forty I wasn’t surprised in the least the Rangers goal was by Dominic Moore from Emerson Etem and Tanner Glass, especially since that line had 6 of the Rangers 14 shots until that point. No one else was getting any space.

Anyone remember what happened the last time the Rangers entered the third period down 2-1? It took a little longer for the wheels to come off this time but it was the same result. First Brady Skjei would take his first NHL penalty nine and a half minutes into the period. (This isn’t meant as an insult but Skjei definitely looked like he was playing his second NHL game tonight. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just the reason he will be back in Hartford as soon as the defense is healthy.) It would take the Wild 18 seconds to make it 3-1. Exactly 40 seconds later, Henrik Lundqvist would let in a softy and it was 4-1.

I keep saying it but I really don’t get it. This is the same team as we’ve watched the past two years. These guys didn’t forget how to play defense over a three month summer break. It’s not possible for that to happen. And there is no one who can convince me this is how these players should’ve been playing the past two years. I’m not buying it.

The Rangers would get a power kill a minute after that but unlike the “find a way” Rangers last year, the outcome of this game was basically decided. Ryan McDonagh would get the Rangers one more with four and a half minutes to go but it was too little, too late and the boys would lose another one. Three wins in their last 12 games. When this team slumps, they really slump.

They get another chance to get points in just 24 hours. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing with this team at the moment. And while I’m not rushing him back, I really wonder how much Derek Stepan returning would help them. It sounded like there is a possibility he plays tomorrow. I’m guessing after watching this game he is going to do everything he can to make that a very high possibility. Although the Rangers need a backup goaltender and right now have roughly $25k in cap space…

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)

Rookie D Highlight As Rangers End Streak

With one minute to go in the first period and the Rangers holding on to a 1-0 lead, I saw something on the ice I never expected to see – a defense pair of Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei. Guess Vigneault figured might as well see what they could do. He must’ve liked what he saw as the two were a penalty killing pair later in the game.

There is going to be a lot written about the pair in the next few days. I’ve thought all along that McIlrath has been solid, and honestly wasn’t worried when Kevin Klein went down. As for Skjei, he didn’t look out of place in his NHL debut. I still think he will be in Hartford as soon the defense gets healthy but you can see the talent everyone talks about and he is definitely going to be a major part of this team next year.

As for the game itself, sometimes you just take the two points and run.

Did the Rangers play poorly? No, especially considering the disaster of a trip they just came home from. But this was an Oilers team who flew cross country over the weekend and then played an overtime game in Boston last night. The Rangers should’ve been all over them. Instead they managed a measly 21 shots, and the 21st was an empty net goal. But at this point, a win is a win.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect since it was the Rangers first game home and the Oilers had played last night meaning both were probably expected to have slow starts. To be honest, I watched the entire first period and really don’t remember any of it.

I know Oscar Lindberg was called for a penalty just two minutes into the game that the Rangers managed to kill. (I never saw the penalty and seeing how the refereeing was the rest of the night, there might have been a reason for that.) A minute after it ended, Keith Yandle got the puck to Mats Zuccarello who rifled a nasty shot into the top corner of the net to give the Rangers the lead. Other than that I know, from looking at stat sheet, that each team took a penalty before the end of the period but I honestly couldn’t say if they were power kills or good penalty kills. That’s how exciting the first period was.

Oh one more thing – halfway through the period, the Rangers showed “the plays of the week” from around the league during a TV timeout. The last play? A save by Cam Talbot last night. Fans started to give an ovation, then they showed Talbot sitting on the bench as the Ghostbusters theme played. It took him a minute to realize why fans were cheering but he did give the crowd a waive.

I thought it was a nice touch and still have no clue why the Oilers didn’t play him tonight instead of last night.

Four and a half minutes into the second period, the Rangers lost the puck allowing the Oilers to break in and forcing Lindberg to take his second penalty of the night. I’m not sure I would consider it one of those “good penalties” but it was basically hook Korpikoski or allow him a free shot all alone in on Lundqvist. Basically, he didn’t have a choice.

Usually those are the ones a team kills but this is the Rangers so of course the Oilers tied it 35 seconds later. For some reason the Rangers like to forget Taylor Hall is on the ice. The good news is they won’t be seeing him again until next season.

The Oilers would take a penalty 30 seconds after their goal which the Rangers would promptly kill for them. I realized the power play was over when I saw Dylan McIlrath and Tanner Glass on the ice for a face-off in the offensive zone. Then this happened:

http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=2015020455-125-h

Congrats McIlrath on your first NHL goal!

Best part was as they announced the goal in the building, they showed McIlrath sitting on the bench trying not to smile. They also caught Keith Yandle standing up next to him and knocking his stick against the boards applauding his defense partner. I’m guessing that didn’t help McIlrath in trying to keep a straight face.

Honestly, it really was only a matter of time. He has been shooting the puck a lot recently so one of them were bound to go in. I really am curious what the Rangers plans are when the defense gets healthy. With the goal, McIlrath was the first Rangers rookie defenseman to score a goal since McDonagh did back in 2011. That stat sounds great as long as you ignore the fact McIlrath is the first rookie defenseman to play for the team since McDonagh was a rookie five years ago.

Things were going great for the Rangers until with two minutes to go, Brady Skjei had his “welcome to the NHL moment”. Okay, it wasn’t exactly that but it wasn’t a great moment for the rookie as he fanned on a pass at his blue line allowing the Oilers to come in all alone on Lundqvist. It went as you would expect. Does Lundqvist need to learn to stop those shots? Yes. But I can’t really blame him for that goal.

Less than a minute later, the Oilers got caught with too many men on the ice. My response was that’s a waste of a power play since it would be a split one and I figured the Rangers would need their usual minute to set up. They made me eat my words as it took them 12 seconds to regain the lead. Even more surprising was it was Rick Nash standing at the net to put home the loose puck. Which reminds me, guess who had an A on his jersey tonight with both Stepan and Girardi out of the line up? So now we know who is next in line if that time ever comes.

And with that the Rangers took a lead into the third period. Rather than put a tired team down, the Rangers chose to play with fire by taking three straight penalties over the first half of the final frame. That probably should say “penalties” as I know for sure one of them was the right call. The others? Well even MSG played a clipped that basically said “I think you made a mistake there” after Marc Staal was penalized for “slashing”. The high-sticking penalty he took as he left the box was legit. Then J.T. Miller got called for a high-stick that I know where it took place but I never saw the actual high stick.

Anyway, the Rangers killed all of those, as well as two power plays of their own. They would add an empty net goal with three seconds to go to stop the bleeding at three. Is everything great now that they got a win? No, they still aren’t playing close to good enough and it will probably be obvious in these next two games against Minnesota and Winnipeg. I don’t get it as this team is very similar to the one we watched last year. Players don’t just forget how to play hockey over the summer. It’s still early but they really do need to figure this out soon. In the mean time, I’m sure the boys will take the two points…and run.

 

(Photo: Melissa Andus)