For the second time in 48 hours, the New York Rangers were severely outplayed by their opponent and were defeated 5-2 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Rangers were without Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Hayes for tonight’s contest, questionable coaching decisions (again) and poor play doomed the Rangers for the second straight game.
The Rangers got off to a pretty rough start early in this game, and found themselves trailing 1-0 just 3:14 into regulation. Patric Hornqvist was the recipient of the Penguins’ first goal after driving hard to the net and slamming home the loose puck. Henrik Lundqvist argued for a goaltender interference call on the play, and surprisingly, Alain Vigneault valued his timeout over a review that could have potentially went in either direction.
It took the Rangers some time to recover, but Michael Grabner was able to pull the Rangers even at the 15:17 mark of the first period. Grabner made an excellent defensive play to strip the puck off of Evgeni Malkin, and broke down the ice on a breakaway. A quick move to the backhand was enough to fool Tristan Jarry, and Grabner cashed in on his 19th goal of the season.
With under a minute remaining in the first, the Rangers found a way to take the lead into the intermission with Brendan Smith’s first goal of the season. Both Paul Carey and Vinni Lettieri did excellent work below the goal line to setup the eventual goal, and Smith capped it off with a perfectly placed shot.
Much like the Islander game, though, the Rangers completely collapsed following the first period and the Penguins took complete control of the game. Dominik Simon and Phil Kessel scored in quick succession during the second period, and the Penguins regained their one goal lead heading into the third period.
Sidney Crosby ended the Rangers hopes of a comeback just past the midway point of the third period, and buried a snap shot from just inside the hash marks. Carl Hagelin eventually closed out the scoring with less than two minutes remaining and tallied his third of the season on the empty netter.
Since returning from their bye week, the Rangers have looked completely disoriented and lifeless at times during games. In a crowded Metro Division, the Rangers will have to get their act together pretty quickly, or a painful plummet down the standings is inevitable. The Rangers will have a scheduled practice day tomorrow before returning to action on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.