Well, the New York Rangers found yet another way to beat themselves tonight as they fell to the New York Islanders by a score of 5-3. Yes, the officiating was absolutely horrible tonight, but the Rangers did have their fair share of chances to break through with a lead. They did actually have the lead for a short amount of time, before the Islanders finally bounced back with the tying goal.
Henrik Lundqvist only turned away 15 shots tonight, which may seem like a fairly low amount considering he gave up four. However, the blame cannot solely be placed on him, but more on the team that is playing in front of him. There's only so much a goaltender can do when his team is playing poor defensively in front of him. The first two shorthanded goals? Purely on the guys manning the points during the power play. The Islanders are a very aggressive team on the power play, and the Rangers didn't anticipate them nearly as much as they should have. Two mistakes, and there's only about a 50/50 chance that Lundqvist makes the save on a breakaway.
That's no disrespect to Lundqvist either, you put any goaltender in between the pipes with two back-to-back breakaways, and let's see how good their chances are. Either way, this game was basically a mess for both teams, and it was just a matter catching a break at the right time.
With the Rangers receiving the first three power plays of the game, you'd figure that given the circumstances, the puck would have a better shot at going in the opposing team's net. However, the Rangers gave up two shorthanded goals in the final five minutes of the first, and they found themselves in an early 2-0.
The first goal came courtesy of Cal Clutterbuck, which was the result of a phantom penalty shot call. Ryan McDonagh made a great stick lift on the back check, where he got nothing puck stick, and cleared the puck aside. However, for whatever reason, the trailing referee thought McDonagh made contact with Clutterbuck's hands and called a penalty shot. The call wasn't even close to being correct, but there's not much we can really do about it at this point. On the ensuing penalty shot, Clutterbuck came right down the ice, and quickly snapped the puck between the arm of Henrik Lundqvist to make it 1-0.
Then a little over two minutes later, Michael Grabner gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead as he completely picked McDonagh's pocket at the blue line, which gave him a breakaway from the blue line. With a few a few nifty moves Grabner was able to fake out Lundqvist, and tapped home the puck on the far post to give the Islanders a commanding 2-0 lead.
At this point, this has been nothing new to Rangers fans as we've seen the Rangers fall behind in all of the last six games at home. However, the Rangers have been fairly good at bouncing back and were able to leap right back into this game. Just 30 after Grabner gave the Islanders the 2-0 lead, Benoit Pouliot chipped home a power play goal to bring the Rangers back within a single goal.
Chris Kreider made a beautiful pass from behind the goal line to find Pouliot wide open in front, and Pouliot wasted no time getting the one timer off from the slot. The goal clearly gave the Rangers some life as they came out absolutely flying in the second period. Eventually, Derek Dorsett and Derek Stepan both chipped in a goal to give the Rangers their first lead in quite a while.
But, just as things have gone for the Rangers this season, that lead only lasted for about four minutes. Brian Straight wound up blowing a shot past Henrik Lundqvist for his first career NHL goal, and it knotted the game back up at 3-3. At this point, given the Rangers track record with inferior opponents, it was nice to see them tied up heading into the third period.
Of course, the Rangers found a way to beat themselves yet again in the third period, and they gifted the Islanders two goals which eventually locked up the game 5-3. Thomas Vanek was the recipient of the first goal as he made a spectacular redirection at the top of Lundqvist's crease, and it slipped right under his glove yet again. Then it was Michael Grabner picking up his second goal of the game as he scooped up the loose puck in the neutral zone, and deposited it into the empty net to seal the deal.
It was an overall tough outing for basically ever Ranger not named Mats Zuccarello. Everyone struggled at some point, and even though the Rangers were able to put up three goals, they weren't able to prevent any coming back the other way.
The Rangers will have an off day tomorrow before they prepare to take on the Minnesota Wild this coming Sunday at 7:30 PM. Maybe we'll be able to scrape up a win of some sorts because this home stand has been absolutely brutal.