The Rangers came out dominating the Stars and got on the board first via Pavel Buchnevich. The goal itself was a low-percentage shot that Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin completely botched, but the ends justified the means, as the Rangers dominated the start with multiple scoring chances and registered eight of the game’s first nine shots.
Then things got weird.
Brendan Smith took an unnecessary interference penalty and Joe Pavelski scored a redirection on the ensuing power play. The Rangers immediately challenged the goal, claiming that the puck hit the netting above the glass prior which should have killed play.
While replays were overwhelmingly conclusive, circumstantial evidence indicated the puck may very well have exited play. Multiple Dallas skaters stopped playing, with Tyler Seguin specifically pointing to the netting as if to confirm play should be stopped. The Dallas’ broadcast crew also seemed confident that the goal should and would be overturned. However, the refs reviewed the play and stood by their call.
Joe Pavelski PP 1-1 pic.twitter.com/IQEeK1WMeg— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) February 4, 2020
The Rangers were assessed a minor penalty for the failed challenge and Pavelski scored again in quick order.
Dallas was then called for too many men and the Rangers tallied their second power play goal of the game. Kaapo Kakko directed a puck towards the net and it hit Brendan Lemieux in the shoulder and found its way into Brett Howden’s glove and then the back of the net. The refs initially ruled it no goal but overturned it when the review clearly showed that Howden got his stick on it before it crossed the goal line.
Brett Howden PP 2-2 pic.twitter.com/X3AdvsTN9m— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) February 4, 2020
The Rangers were the better team for 98-percent of the first period and had one off their best defensive showings in a long time. But the two power play goals against undermined that effort as the teams headed to their locker rooms level.
The Rangers didn’t have a horrible second period, as they had their share of the puck, but the chaotic, undisciplined defensive issues that have plagued them for most of the season yet again emerged.
Marc Staal turned the puck over in the neutral zone, leading to an extended Dallas shift in the offensive zone. Their cycle eventually found defenseman Stephen Johns at the point, and he blasted a puck through a layer of bodies and into the net.
A few minutes later, a familiar nemesis in Blake Comeau extended Dallas’ lead to 4-2. This goal featured a more collective, systematic breakdown. With the puck in offensive zone, Jacob Trouba pinched but lost the battle for the puck. Phil Di Giuseppe rotated back but wasn’t quite aware enough of his surroundings, as he was caught once the puck was sent off the glass into the neutral zone, spring Dallas on a two-on-one. Lindgren defended the rush decently and Di Giuseppe tried to get back and cover the pass, but Comeau beat Lundqvist with a shot.
Alexandar Georgiev replaced Lundqvist in net and Head Coach David Quinn switched up the lines. Roughly five minutes into the period, the Rangers allowed an extremely easy zone entry. Dallas moved the puck and eventually settled on a shot from the point. Georgiev made the kick save but gave up a far-side rebound while Greg McKegg lost Corey Perry on the backdoor. Perry slotted it into the net to make it 5-2 and put a once fairly even game more or less out of reach.
The Rangers did get one back. On the power play, Brendan Lemieux dug a puck out from a faceoff and sent it back to Adam Fox. Fox directed the shot towards the net, with Lemieux deflecting it past Khudobin.
It was too little too late. The Rangers had a few chances towards the end of the game but Dallas finished the third period having fairly comfortably protected their lead.
The Rangers can feel pretty good about a lot of things they did against Dallas. It was a fairly even game overall. The power play was clicking. A few isolated penalties that had nothing really to do with the flow of the game hurt them big time. They were playing their third game in four nights and without one of their top players in Chris Kreider.
None of that earns them points in the standings, where the Rangers have almost zero margin for error. This loss, compounded by Monday wins for Florida and Philadelphia, make a longshot run at a Wild Card spot look even less likely.
The Rangers are back in action on Wednesday at home against Toronto in what is effectively, even if not officially, a must-win game for their playoff ambitions.