Recap: Rangers Get Shutout in Monotonous Game 1

Well, we all know the Rangers love a comeback and they haven’t dropped the first game of a series yet in these playoffs so, let’s hope for the best there. I have to be honest, this was easily the most boring game of the playoffs for the Rangers so far and perhaps that will become a lesson for them in the series that they can’t pass up on shots. Nevertheless, there’s enough reason to believe this is far from the Rangers worst effort of these playoffs and with plenty of hockey left, this team has to move on knowing they are fully capable of regaining control of the series. 

1st Period:

As it typically goes in the playoffs, the majority of Game 1’s opening period was much of a feeling out phase. Not a ton of action going either way but both sides exchanged a fair amount of possession and chances despite a pretty low shot total. Florida came out as expected playing quick and physical and all things considered, the Rangers did a solid job of matching that. Just over the midway point of the period, Jacob Trouba took the first penalty of the series for hooking Aleksander Barkov after another atrocious giveaway in his own zone. 

The Rangers penalty killers again did an outstanding job fighting off their opponents man advantage which kept the pace of this one moving along. While the Panthers would have the edge in shots and attempts, the Rangers were right alongside them in generating offensive zone possession as well as scoring chances. Their best one came on a Braden Schneider breakaway that beat Sergei Bobrovsky but rang off the post. 

The lone goal of the period came from a Matthew Tkachuk shot from high out in the slot that may have taken a redirect off a skate or some other traffic in front that was enough to fool Igor Shesterkin to put the Panthers up 1-0. Despite being down in the game, the Rangers had a solid period and were right there with their opponents, they just needed to take it up a notch and find a way to get the puck in the net. After the first twenty, shots were 9-5 in favor of Florida with face-offs and high danger scoring chances even. The Rangers were giving the puck up more and getting slightly out-hit by the Panthers 12-9 but otherwise, it was still anyone’s game.  

2nd Period:

The Rangers had a golden opportunity to get on the board early in the second as Will Cuylle found himself on a breakaway that wasn’t far off from sneaking through Bobrovsky’s five-hole. The problem with that? This became the Rangers only shot on goal for practically the entire second period. I hate to say it but this was an incredibly boring period, even more so than the first one. The Rangers had a couple of shifts where they looked like they were buzzing but they weren’t getting shots nor were they doing anything that really indicated they were going to have an answer here. 

As the period went on, Florida was shifting more into shut down mode but eight minutes in, a weak high-sticking call on Jack Roslovic sent them back to the power play. As has been the trend here, no harm with the foul as the Rangers penalty killers took care of business. A big kill is always a great time for a momentum shift but again, the Rangers just couldn’t get the puck to the net. We started to see some line juggling as Filip Chytil was seeing some reps with Zibanejad and Kreider with Goodrow and Vesey moving up with Kaapo Kakko, leaving Roslovic and Wennberg with Cuylle. Given how this game was going, it was worth a shake up. 

Finally with a minute and a half to go, Sam Bennett took Florida’s first penalty of the series for holding the stick of Adam Fox. This sent the Rangers power play out there for a crucial end to the period where they needed to get something going. Despite winning the face-off, the Rangers couldn’t keep the zone and struggled to get the top unit going. With the clock running out, they had a quick flurry of a chance to end the period but it wouldn’t be enough. Another twenty came and went with the Rangers unable to get themselves on the scoresheet. 

The three shots on goal for the Rangers, two of which coming on that late power play, was the difference maker here in the second. While Florida was getting some great efforts from Barkov and several other forwards to break up plays in their own zone, the Rangers weren’t doing themselves any favors with their lack of scoring chances. Florida now had 18 shots on goal and just as many scoring chances as they continued to lead in the high danger count and now face-offs. The Rangers would need another big third period and plenty more shots on goal.

3rd Period:

It was much of the same story for the Rangers heading into the third and final period. They needed to show some urgency, they needed to find something, anything to start clicking and they just couldn’t come up with anything. The shots weren’t there, the chances weren’t there, no life whatsoever in this game. Just over the midway point, Alexis Lafrenière was called for another weak penalty, this time for hooking. Another strong kill for the Rangers but what good does it do if it doesn’t lead to something greater? 

With about eleven minutes to go in regulation, the Panthers nearly made it a 2-0 game as a shot from Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent the puck to the back of the net. However, Ryan Lomberg who was right in the crease made contact with Shesterkin which prevented him from being able to make the save. The Rangers opted to use their challenge and believe it or not, the call actually went in their favor. The game would stay 1-0 but the Rangers were running out of time to do something about it. 

As if getting that call wasn’t helpful enough, the officials gifted the Rangers another power play as the Panthers were briefly caught with too-many men on the ice. Up to that point, the Rangers only saw one power play and it was broken up by the first intermission. This was as good a chance as they were going to get. And sure enough, they had some of their best chances of the game there, they just could not, for the life of them, manage to get it past the goal line. 

About a minute after the power play came and went, Igor Shesterkin made a downright atrocious decision to play a loose puck which directly led to a Carter Verhaeghe goal to officially make it 2-0. Look, I used to be a goalie, I’m all for goalies playing the puck and most of the time, Shesterkin is excellent in doing so. But this was a prime example of him doing too much. Gustafsson, granted, has not been super trustworthy, however was right there. He could have easily taken the puck out of harm's way but alas, Verhaeghe threw the puck towards the net and an unfortunate break sent it off of Lafrenière’s stick throw Shesterkin, 2-0 game.  

I mean, that pretty much did it right there. The way this thing was going and with how unbelievably brutal that play was, this team didn’t stand a chance. They pulled Igor with plenty of time left but couldn’t get it done. Sam Bennett found the back of the net and the Rangers would give up the series lead in Game 1 for the first time in these playoffs. 

Metaphorically speaking, burn the tape but realistically, this team has a lot they need to learn from this one. You can’t pass up any chance to shoot the puck against this team and it’s going to take a lot more urgency to get the upper hand against this pesky Panthers squad. They’ll be back at it in New York Friday Night for what will undoubtedly be a crucial game for the Rangers to bounce back.