This New York Rangers sure does like to tease us after we finally think they are getting back on the right track. Following two straight victories over the Carolina Hurricanes, and New Jersey Devils, the New York Rangers followed up with a loss to the 15th seeded Florida Panthers. While the effort was there, the Rangers have been victims of absolutely terrible puck luck. A puck will either bounce over their sticks on a wide open net, or a great scoring chance will ring off the post. The main issue right now with the Rangers isn't a lack of effort, it's a lack of confidence.
It's not really fair to compare this year's team to last year, as the makeup and identity of the team has a completely different feel to it. This team is offensively powered, and built to score goals, unfortunately, they just aren't getting anything going at the moment. Tonight was another prime example of how this team just can't get goals at the right times. When you pour 45 shots on to any goaltender, there is absolutely no excuse for coming away with only a single goal.
The Rangers terrible luck started out pretty early tonight, as the Florida Panthers were able to jump out to an early 1-0 lead, with a power play goal coming from Brian Campbell. The puck cycled around to Campbell up near the left faceoff circle, and he fired a shot on net. Ryan McDonagh was in the shooting lane, dropped down the block the shot, only to have the puck redirect off of his stick and fly right past Henrik Lundqvist. Those are the types of bounces the Rangers are faced with, but they can't get a single bounce like that to save their lives.
After an absolutely miserable first period, it became a lot worse later on in the second period. With the Rangers taking some heavy pressure from the Panthers in their zone, Scotty Upshall drove the puck to the net, but Henrik Lundqvist was about to get just enough of it to keep the initial shot out of the net. The puck than took a strange bounce, flipped over the back of Lundqvist, and found it's way in the back of the net for the 2-0 lead. These first two goals, followed with handfuls and handfuls of missed scoring chances, pretty much sums up how the Rangers season is progressing thus far.
Marian Gaborik finally gave the home crowd something to cheer about with under four minutes remaining in regulation. Rick Nash made a slick pass right through the middle of the ice, split both Panthers' defensemen, to spring Marian Gaborik on a partial breakaway. Gaborik somehow found a way to fight off the pressure, and flip a backhand over the right shoulder of Jacob Markstrom.
Than shortly after the goal, Tomas Fleischmann took a late hooking call which gave the Rangers the 6-on-4 advantage with Henrik Lundqvist pulled for the extra attacker. After setting up on the power play, Marian Gaborik wound up for a slap shot from the left faceoff dot, but it was blocked away, which allowed Tomas Kopecky to flip it down ice and into the empty net.
It was definitely a buzz kill, considering the Rangers still had a whole 45 seconds to create some movement, and find the open man for the scoring chance. Unfortunately, the power play absolutely stunk it up again, and there's no signs of it getting much better unless something drastically changes. Either way, these are the exact type of games that come back to bite later on down the stretch, when you are sitting out of playoff position by a measly two points.
If this game doesn't light a fire under everyone in this locker room, there's is something wrong. The Rangers will take on the Washington Capitals this upcoming Sunday, and maybe, just maybe we'll get a similar effort to the Devils game earlier in the week.