Tonight’s 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche was, beyond shadow of a doubt, the worst game of the season so far for the New York Rangers. They were outskated by a young Colorado team, their goaltending was shaky, and they did not generate much offense at all. Luckily for them they will be right back at it on Saturday in Minnesota, but this is a tilt that the team needs to forget and move on from. But first, we shall recap the disaster of a night that this actually was.
The first period had a great pace to it. The two teams were back and forth and the shot count was close. Goaltending on both ends was magnificent and there was great physicality. The Rangers came out with energy and were applying a forecheck and creating pressure. They played a solid road period to open this game. Unfortunately that would all go down the toilet in the second stanza.
The second was arguably the worst twenty minutes the Blueshirts have played all season. Just 1:04 in David Jones banged in a rebound to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead. Six minutes later Kevin Porter would split the defense and deflect a Matt Duchene backhander up and over Henrik Lundqvist to quickly go ahead 2-0. And then came Duchene’s floater from the slot that Henrik should have stopped, which he did not, and this is when head coach John Tortorella decided to yank him and put Marty Biron in goal. That did not help much, though, as Kevin Shattenkirk would sneak one through Biron’s legs to give his club a 4-0 advantage heading into the second intermission.
The Rangers had a big powerplay opportunity to begin the third, but they did not capitalize and that was when it was pretty clear they were going to lose this one. To affirm that, Daniel Winnik would maneuver his way around a sliding Girardi and beat Biron on the breakaway, making it 5-0. Derek Stepan would later scored his first goal since opening night in Buffalo on a wrister from the high slot, but it did not even put a dent into the Avalanche lead at that point.
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Brandon Prust suffered an injury late in that third period when he was pushed down by Matt Duchene and went face-first into Ryan O’Reilly’s knee. No one could really make out what was actually causing Prust so much pain, but between whistles, when trying to skate around outside of the bench, he just couldn’t do it. He later would go the locker room. Told the media following the game that his injury was a "charley horse", but is hopeful he will play tomorrow in Minny.
Henrik Lundqvist has now had back-to-back disappointing performances, but I do not think that is the direct reason for Torts pulling him in the second. I think Tortorella was looking to wake up his team and also preserve Henrik knowing they play again in 24 hours. So it wasn’t only the fact that Hank was sub-par in the tilt that he got yanked, there were other factors coming into play.
Michael Del Zotto’s season from hell continued, and accelerated to a whole new level on this night. I cannot count how many times he turned the puck over, but at least two of the Avalanche goals were partly his fault. For the most part, the sophomore curse has not haunted the Rangers much over the years, but it is full force with Del Zotto right now. We’ll see what actions Tortorella plans to take to turn that around, if any at all.
I liked what I saw from Derek Stepan between Frolov and Gaborik. He finally buried a goal for the first time since his hat trick on October 9th and also began to show his tremendous passing abilities. Unfortunately Frolov was on the other end of many of those passes, and as we know, finishing has not been his specialty this year by any means. And for the love of God, stop with the wraparounds, Alex!
In a nutshell, the Rangers lost tonight because they were outskated all night long. They were beaten to every loose puck, they were constantly being caught flat footed and multiple times were caught chasing the puck in their own zone. They had yesterday off, so fatigue is not an excuse here. They did not deserve to win and they didn’t. It is as simple as that.
They will put this one behind them and jump on a flight to Minnesota tonight. Hopefully there will be a better result in that game, but the Wild defeated the Red Wings in a shootout earlier today, so they will be coming in amped up. For Marian Gaborik and Derek Boogaard, it will be their first return to Minnesota as a New York Ranger.