Rangers fans left T-Mobile Arena tonight with the same sinking feeling they’d have after a bad night at the casinos. Even though the game started off with glowing tributes to both Ryan Reaves and Gerard Gallant, Vegas quickly overwhelmed the Blueshirts, skating to a decisive 5-1 victory with the Rangers delivering one of their worst defensive outings of the season. With Shesterkin being added to the Covid Protocol at the very last minute, Georgiev was given the nod in net. While not putting up stellar numbers, the young Bulgarian was far from the reason the team couldn’t overcome the odds tonight.
In the beginning, things weren’t so dismal for the team. They were one post away from heading into the first intermission tied 1-1, but it was during the second period where their luck and play began to sour quickly.
While mostly bitter the middle period did however start off on a couple of sweet notes. First off, Chris Kreider scored his team leading 21st goal of the season to tie the game. This puts him on pace for an astounding fifty goals this season. Second, regardless of your opinion on the infamous Potvin jeer normally heard at MSG, it was surreal to hear it during the second period in Vegas as Rangers fan prove they truly are everywhere. However, it was shortly thereafter, where following several defensive breakdowns, the Golden Knights were able to strike twice and carry a 3-1 lead going into the third period.
As the final period started, bad became worse and Vegas began padding their lead. Any Rangers’ fan worth their salt would have put money down on former Ranger Brett Howden scoring a goal tonight, and after the third period that is one bet they would have won. In the final forty minutes of the game the team gave up far too many odd man rushes as poor defensive decisions plagued the whole roster. Libor Hajek in particular, was on the ice for all four even strength goals by the Vegas Golden Knights. Most nights the Rangers win the special teams battle, but tonight that wasn’t in the cards. They would have finished off each period shorthanded had the Golden Knights not converted on their Power Play at the end of the first.
update with Hajek on the ice at 5-on-5:— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) January 7, 2022
NYR out-attempted 3-25
8% of the xG share
Jonathan Marchessault (17) - Reilly Smith (16) & Nicolas Roy (12) - (18:35)
After Ryan Lindgren is sent to the box for tripping Chandler Stephenson, the Vegas Golden Knights were given the first power play of the game. It took them less than a minute to score as they cycled the puck around the Rangers’ zone leading to a shot from the top of the left circle by Marchessault. Georgiev saw the shot the whole way through and was able to make the initial stop and fought off rebound chances by both Roy and Smith. Marchessault followed up on his shot and was able to find the loose puck before both Miller and Zibanejad and sent a backhand over the sprawling Georgiev for the first lead of the game.
Chris Kreider (21) - Mika Zibanejad (20) & Kaapo Kakko (7) - (0:58)
Less than a minute into the second period Kakko and Zibanejad pressured defenseman Brayden McNabb into turning over the puck at the blue line. Kakko moved the puck to Zibanejad who sent a backhand pass to Kreider on his off wing right before the Vegas blue line. Kreider carried the puck into the zone and while seemingly looking for a pass, he rifled a shot on net glancing off of an unsuspecting Lehner’s glove into the top corner.
Mark Stone (7) - Evgenii Dadonov (8) & Chandler Stephenson (25) - (8:14)
Hajek made a play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, but his bank pass was easily intercepted by Stephenson who started the rush up the ice. As they passed the Rangers’ blueline, Stephenson initiated a tic tac toe play sliding the puck over to Stone who then moved it to Dadonov only for Stone to receive a pass right back as he was able to redirect the puck into the net with his skate. Georgiev was emphatically waving the goal off, but after a quick review the refs confirmed the call on the ice and Vegas took a 2-1 lead.
Mattias Janmark (11) - Keegan Kolesar (11) & Ben Hutton (6) - (13:08)
Zac Jones pinched up the ice and was sent a bad pass by the offensive blue line that was deflected by Janmark right to Hutton. Janmark then turned up the ice and was hit in stride with the puck by Hutton. As he carried it down the right wing, Janmark made a move cutting into the slot and burned Hajek right before roofing the puck right under the crossbar over Georgiev. Janmark has now scored five goals in his last five games.
Brett Howden (4) - Nolan Patrick (1) & Dylan Coghlan - (13:08)
As the Golden Knights skated into the Rangers’ zone, Patrick and Howden crossed paths. Patrick left a drop pass for Howden, who then grabbed the puck and cut towards the net. Skating alongside Hajek he sent a wrist shot right past Georgiev. This was one Georgiev may want back as the shot beat him on the lower far side. Brett Howden has now scored more goals in two games against the Rangers than he had all of last season while playing for them.
Jonathan Marchessault (18) - Reilly Smith (17) - (12:59)
Hajek pinched into the offensive zone as there was a battle for the puck in the corner. Smith winning the puck battle, noticed Marchessault hovering well behind Hajek. Smith was able to make a lob pass that created another odd man rush as both Karlsson and Marchessault were off to the races. Coming into the Rangers’ zone, Zac Jones took away the pass option which forced Marchessault to take the shot. He beat Georgiev’s glove cleanly with a perfectly placed wrist shot in the top corner.
The Rangers will want to forget this one as they move on to face the Anaheim Ducks this upcoming Saturday. You can definitely anticipate Gallant making some roster changes as the team struggled mightily on the back end. Hajek should absolutely be the one to draw the short end of the stick and come out for any replacement not named Jarred Tinordi, as it’s high time Nils Lundkvist is inserted back on to the roster, regardless of what side he would have to play. The team may also have to adjust their forward lines as well, with hopes of Artemiy Panarin returning and Dryden Hunt coming off the ice and heading straight to the locker room after battling Nolan Patrick for the puck late in the third period.