After a strong start to their California road trip, the New York Rangers finished it off with a rather lousy performance today against the San Jose Sharks. Early in this game, the Rangers held court with the Sharks for a majority of the third period, and limited the scoring high-quality scoring opportunities. After that though, the Sharks completely dominated the game in every facet and thoroughly abused the Rangers defenders.
Despite giving up four goals, three of which came in a three minute span, Henrik Lundqvist had another strong outing this afternoon. He didn't get much of anything from his defense today, and more often than not, he was completely left out to dry in the crease. If not for Lundqvist's strong play, this game could have easily been out of hand in the second period.
Throughout the first period, both the Sharks and Rangers combined for 27 shots on goal but neither team was able to find the opening goal. After totaling 16 shots on goal through 20 minutes, the Sharks went to work during the second period and finally found the goal they were looking for. Joonas Donskoi got it all started with a power move behind the net, and finished it off with a ridiculous behind the back pass out in front of the net.
Joel Ward was left all alone off to the side of the net to receive the pass, and absolutely ripped one of Lundqvist's shoulder to make it a 1-0 game. With the way the Rangers started the period, you could sense that a goal was coming, and it took just even minutes into the middle frame. Even though the Rangers only tossed nine shots on net during the second period, they eventually found the tying goal just ten minutes later.
After Marc Staal and Derick Brassard connected to generate a 2-on-1 opportunity, Dan Boyle cut to the net after jumping up to join the rush. Brassard hit him with a crisp pass across the slot line, and Boyle tucked it home with a beautiful move to the backhand. As a result, the Rangers carried a 1-1 tie into the third period and a lot of that was due largely in part to Lundqvist's strong play.
As fortunate as the Rangers were during the second period, everything came crashing back down to earth during the final 20 minutes. In about a three minute span, the Sharks were able to rattle off three consecutive goals on Henrik Lundqvist, and essentially put this game in the bag. Joe Thornton got the scoring started in the third period, after he slammed home a rebound generate by Tomas Hertl. Right after that, Joel Ward converted on his second goal of the afternoon, and beat Lundqvist through the legs after having all the time in the world to pick his spot.
The Sharks finally closed out the scoring at the 9:05 mark of the period, and made the Rangers pay for their poor play on the back end. Antti Raanta came in to relieve Henrik Lundqvist after the Sharks fourth goal, and closed out the remainder of the game. With the standings being as close as they are, the Rangers cannot afford to keep giving up crucial points at this time of the year.
There are only 10 games remaining on the schedule after today's game, and the Rangers playoff hopes are anything but guaranteed at this point. The Rangers will have a day off on Sunday after playing three games in four nights, and will return to action on Monday night against the Florida Panthers.