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Rangers Vs. Lightning: Their Own Worst Enemy

Notes from the Rangers Game 2 loss to the Lightning.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

- I think it's impossible to look at a game like that and think the New York Rangers got beaten rather than the New York Rangers lost. And trust me, there is a difference. The Rangers were their own worst enemy Monday night; taking stupid penalties, not taking care of the puck and generally making the wrong decision at the wrong time. The Rangers made, say, 10 blatant mistakes in Game 2 and the Lightning scored on five of them. The Lightning made, say, 10 blatant mistakes in Game 2 and the Rangers scored on one of them. That's the difference right there.

- And what more can you say, really? The Rangers have had a finishing problem all year, and when veterans have bad games it's a major problem. Martin St. Louis, two assists aside, had another atrocious game. Dan Boyle - who should shoulder serious blame for a very stupid pass on the 5-on-3 goal against - made a critical error that cost the Rangers a goal. Marc Staal, who has been exceptional this postseason, had a really bad game. Derick Brassard had a night to forget. Just ugly all around.

- Now, about Henrik Lundqvist. Let me preface this little paragraph with this: Lundqvist has been beyond exceptional this postseason and of Tampa's six goals he could have maybe done a better job with one of them. With that being said ... At the start of the third period with the Rangers somewhat controlling play and trying to parry their momentum from the end of the second, Lundqvist made the catastrophic error  of senselessly coming out of his net to try and play the puck to stop a 2-on-2. Chris Kreider got discombobulated by Lundqvist moving the puck to the corner, chaos ensued, the Rangers took a penalty in that chaos and Tampa Bay scored right as that power play expired. That is a critical error at a critical point in the game. I'm sorry, but that can't happen. It just can't.

- You know what else can't happen? Stupid penalties. Lazy penalties is actually a better description of whatever it was the Rangers were doing. Couple that with bad clearance attempts, poor defensive reads and really bad turnovers and you have a pretty fantastic soufflé of ways to lose a big playoff game.

- At what point is Alain Vigneault going to admit that St. Louis is costing the Rangers and pull him from crunch time. Move him to the fourth line and move J.T. Miller up. Do something. But St. Louis should not be playing in big moments right now. My boss, who played hockey at the junior level, explained something he went through when he struggled and he thinks St. Louis is going through it, too. He think St. Louis is playing with the intention to not make a mistake, all the while hoping he doesn't need to actually do much of anything because he's afraid of making a mistake. Makes sense.

- Kreider, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast, Carl Hagelin, James Sheppard, Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass all had really good games. I thought Kreider was the Rangers best player by a mile, and I'm not even talking about the goal. How can that many players have a great game and the Rangers still get slaughtered? The other players who were bad were really, really bad.

- Tampa was 3-for-6 on the power play, but scored a goal right after one power play ended and Tyler Johnson's first goal was shorthanded. That's four (and basically five) special team goals for Tampa. The Rangers scored two power play goals. Not enough.

- The good news? There is no way to back away from a 6-2 loss. If the game ended 2-1 the Rangers could probably talk themselves into the fact that they played well enough to win and they didn't get a bounce (and, actually, they kind of did anyway but that's another story). But 6-2? No way. Everyone in that locker room can feel the heat of that. Everyone needs to be better. And if they're a team worth of the Stanley Cup they will be.

- The other strange thing? I'm sort of more confident after that loss than I was before the game. The Rangers - when they weren't taking penalties or being stupid - sort of dominated the game.  McDonagh threw a lot of heat after the game, saying the Rangers needed to stop taking stupid penalties and basically said they needed to get their heads out of their collective asses. That's something I love to see. McDonagh has the C, and sometimes that means calling out your teammates when you have to. I love the move, I really do.

- Final note: Vigneault talked about how his "top guys" needed to step up like Johnson. That's a shot across Nash's bow to me, and I think that's a mistake. How St. Louis avoids these playoff preforming crosshairs is beyond me. Look I love St. Louis a lot. It's impossible not to root for the guy. But if this is a bottom line league - and just look at Nash to confirm that it is - then he needs to be better. At this point, I don't think Oscar Lindberg or Ryan Bourque would be a major downgrade and that's a problem. A serious problem.