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Rangers Vs. Penguins: Sleeping In Pittsburgh

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Notes from the Rangers loss to the Penguins.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

- That's a game where you shouldn't be upset that the Rangers lost, but you should be upset at how they lost. The Rangers outplayed the Penguins the first 40 minutes of the game before they made three mistakes and the Penguins were smart enough to make the Rangers pay for all three of them. Down 3-1 going into the third period the Rangers needed to find a spark to prove they are the Cup contenders they claim to be. And then ...

- Here's the deal with that third period: I have no idea how the Rangers could come out so listless. The Rangers took one shot on net in the first 13 minutes, skated like it was a pre-season game and had no intensity. How does that happen? And more importantly, how does Alain Vigneault not try to do something about it? Maybe calla timeout. Maybe change up the lines. Maybe shorten the bench. Speaking of ...

- I don't know when questioning Vigneault or the decisions he makes turned into asking for his head. Last night in the third period Tanner Glass played 1:40 more than newly acquired Eric Staal did in the third period 5v5. The common excuse was "Staal is still getting acclimated to the team, you can't look at his usage." I'm sorry, but that's a nonsensical argument. Down by two in a divisional game where the Rangers are trying to secure their playoff spot and you're not upset about Glass playing more than Staal in a critical third period? Staal is an elite player in this league, if the honest argument from the coach is he can't handle playing with guys who he's not totally comfortable with yet and Glass playing more is a better option then that's insane. Especially since said player was worth two second round picks and a top prospect. If Staal is supposed to be the missing piece to a Stanley Cup run, it doesn't bode well that he isn't playing as much as a spare part enforcer in the third period of a big game. I'm sorry, but it's true. And that no one thought enough about it to ask Vigneault after the game what the hell the thinking was (if Staal is hurt that would be a good thing to know, but I doubt it) is equally crazy.

- By the way, how exactly is Staal supposed to get acclimated with his new team if he's not getting those reps? If you're one of the many who sent me nasty e-mails or tweets about how Vigneault has won before (or gotten close to winning) and thus can't be questioned then why do you read this anyway? Stop reading my site, other blogs or beat reporters since there's no need to see anything further than what Vigneault does on the ice. Go to the games, ask no questions and then sit back and enjoy. The point of this website is to be an insightful place for Rangers news and analysis that's been cultured into a fantastic place for debates and discussion. Blueshirts United has all the news and facts you need if that's all you're looking for because you don't think asking questions is appropriate. If that's the way you want to enjoy hockey (and all the power to you, root for the team how you want to) then this isn't the place for you.

- Not only that, but the fourth line got regular shifts in the third period. Because when you only have one shot on goal in 13 minutes, you have to make sure your defensive/grinding line (I'm being kind here) is on the ice as much as possible.

- The biggest focus now turns to Henrik Lundqvist who, after a freak collision with Ryan McDonagh, had neck spasms that kept him out of the third. Lundqvist also sort of hulked out during the second period, throwing the net off the moorings and taking a two-minute delay of game penalty as a result. I have no idea what Lundqvist wanted (no one on Pittsburgh hit him so it couldn't be for a penalty). Maybe he was hurt? But if so then stay on the ice, rather than getting up and looking for a whistle. Anyway, he got unlucky, too. Not much he could have done about any of the goals against him.

- Which is what's frustrating, because I really don't think the Rangers played a bad game overall -- well, until the third period. In the first 40 minutes the Rangers dominated most of the play, one of their two power plays was genuinely dangerous and the Rangers kept the Penguins out of the dirty areas. Until those final two minutes when the wheels fell off the bus. But that happens. Move on.

- Chris Kreider is really breaking out of his funk, and I'm not just talking about the goal. His underlying numbers have been a topic of conversation for a long time this year, especially when he struggled because they were so strong. But he's continued to be a solid presence on the Rangers forward corps and was once again a big part of last night's offense. Same goes for Kevin Hayes. Same goes for a lot of the Rangers top players who had been struggling, actually.

- Dan Boyle and Dylan McIlrath led the possession train with a +15 and +11 differential respectively. Keith Yandle (who took the bad penalty that led to the Penguins third goal) had his worst game in a long time and Dan Girardi (on the ice for three Penguin goals -- at fault partly for two of them) was the biggest loser with a -11 differential (with 66% offensive zone starts to boot).

- Not really sure what else I can say. Hopefully Antti Raanta is starting tonight -- no need to rush Hank back in -- and hopefully the King is very simply day-to-day.

Thoughts?