The Rangers made some interesting lineup changes coming into tonight’s game, which saw Pavel Buchnevich and Brendan Smith scratched in favor of Vinnie Lettieri and Steven Kampfer. It’s not yet known if any of these changes were due to injury or illness, but it was clear that the Rangers would have their work cut out for them this evening.
To make matters worse, Kevin Hayes exited the game early in the first period with an apparent injury and remained in the locker room. Despite some early chances against, the Rangers found a way to come away with the first goal, courtesy of Mika Zibanejad. The goal came off of an absolutely blistering shot from just outside of the hashmarks, and Zibanejad beat Marc-Andre Fleury over the glove hand.
Unfortunately, the Golden Knights would respond a few minutes later with James Neal scoring in a similar fashion to Zibanejad’s goal. Neal seemed to fool Ondrej Pavelec with quick shot to the left side of the net, and it sailed in just under the crossbar. Neal’s goal would close out the scoring for the first period, which set the stage for a dominating second period by Vegas.
Pavelec was easily the MVP of the second period, as he faced four 2-on-1 opportunities during the middle frame, and turned away every single one of them. The Rangers were simply outclassed in every single category but thanks to some spectacular goaltending, they remained tied at one heading into the third period of play.
The third period was a much more tightly contested period, as both teams clamped it down defensively in hopes of not making the next mistake. The stalemate would remain until the 8:58 mark of the period with William Karlsson capitalizing on the Rangers lone defensive mistake. Riley Smith did an excellent job of drawing the defender into the corner, however, the three Rangers trailing the play failed to cover the front of the net.
That defensive miscue proved to be a costly one, with the Rangers failing to locate the tying goal during the dying seconds of the game. Karlsson’s third period goal held up as the game winner, and the Rangers fell to the Golden Knights by a final score of 2-1 in regulation. The Rangers will have a schedule bye week coming up, and will return to action next Saturday against the New York Islanders.