The New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers had their final meeting of the regular season at Rogers Place on Tuesday night. It was a rather intriguing contest between these two squads and there were some pretty big momentum-shifts throughout. Also, there were some rather disturbing factors in this game, as well as a few bright spots. Below we will discuss a few key areas that had an impact on the outcome of Tuesday’s clash between these two clubs.
Alexandar Georgiev is becoming more and more of a regular starter between the pipes for the Rangers’ organization. With fellow teammate Henrik Lundqvist playing in the twilight years of his career, it only makes sense that the Blueshirts would start leaning on someone else for their future. Georgiev has shown signs of progress and looks like he can be a reliable starter for the time being during New York’s rebuild process. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s outing against Edmonton was one that he would like to forget.
Right from the start of the game, Georgiev did not look sharp at all. He immediately allowed a goal on the first shot faced as James Neal ripped one past him 11 seconds in. This was only the beginning of his struggles for the game. The Oilers looked fast and were peppering the young Rangers goalie with shots from all angles.
Then about eight and a half minutes later, Neal struck again with his second of the game as he deflected a shot by teammate Oscar Klefbom on the power play. We can’t fault Georgiev too much on this one considering that the Rangers were on the penalty-kill and he was being screened by Neal with no help from any of his defensemen out in front. Nevertheless, the Oilers found themselves up 2-0 with still more to come.
Then less than three minutes later, the Oilers found the back of the net for the third time in the first period as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins buried his eighth of the year. If you thought that was bad, Georgiev continued to flounder in the second period of action as he surrendered three more goals, which allowed the Oilers to obtain a 6-0 lead over the Blueshirts. At this point, head coach David Quinn had seen enough and pulled his young goalie from the crease, sending in Lundqvist.
Even though the Rangers tried to mount a comeback by scoring five unanswered goals, it was not enough to dig themselves out of the hole they were put in. Georgiev’s struggles to keep the puck out of the net on just 24 shots faced cost New York dearly in this final game of the decade.
Rangers’ Defense Was Non-Existent
Aside from Georgiev not playing well at all, by no means was the defense absolved from this poor overall performance. Through the first period, the Rangers were completely dominated by the Oilers as they were constantly generating chances in their zone. The rink looked tilted as the Oilers appeared to constantly be possessing the puck by the Rangers’ end of the ice.
As I had previously mentioned after the Rangers had lost to Philadelphia last Monday night, they once again failed to apply pressure on the opposing team’s offense. Too many times, I saw the Rangers’ defense back in and not pick up the extra attacker on the rush from the Oilers. This, in turn, led to way too many chances that should not have happened if they were more diligent defending.
It has been an ongoing issue this season and has resulted in New York sitting within the bottom-10 in goals allowed (132). The Rangers need to simplify their game-plan and get back to the basics of defending the puck. Maybe it’s the inexperience, but I find this current defensive corps way too unorganized and it showed in Tuesday’s loss to Edmonton. It became a recurring theme throughout the night where the Rangers got caught chasing after guys and not committing to their assigned position on the ice.
It’s a work in progress and something that the coaching staff has to desperately address as the season progresses. It will be interesting to see how they respond in Thursday’s matchup against the Calgary Flames. Hopefully corrective measures have been taken and these mistakes won’t be made again so often as they look for a redemption win in their Western Canada trip.
Offense Did Too Little Too Late
Another culprit to this disappointing loss was the team’s lack of offense through the first two periods of play. Particularly in the first period, the Rangers’ offense looked non-existent as they were only able to get nine shots on net against Mikko Koskinen. The big playmakers of this squad were failing to generate any chances to get their team back into this contest.
The second period rolled around and the same story-line occurred at least during the first half as the Oilers continued to apply pressure with little to no answers by the Blueshirts. Then finally it was as if a light switch got flipped on. Suddenly the Rangers began throwing more shots on net during the final five or six minutes of play in the period.
Koskinen was beginning to feel the pressure and the Rangers finally cracked the code with 26 seconds remaining. Chris Kreider was the man to finally pull through after a wonderful pass by teammate Artemi Panarin on the wing. Koskinen was out of position and Kreider took advantage of the situation to at last get the Rangers on the board and end the shutout bid.
This score prompted a four-goal surge by the Rangers in the third period. About 4:38 in, Ryan Strome buried his 11th on the year on the doorstep to cut Edmonton’s lead to 6-2. The Rangers looked like a completely different team in this period and it was finally paying off. Even though it got a little quiet in terms of scoring after Strome’s goal, the Rangers were still applying the heat on the Oilers’ defense.
Shots were finally being thrown accurately at the net and they looked like they had some life in their skates after sleepwalking nearly through two periods of actions prior. Marc Staal then tipped one in off of a shot from Strome to cut Edmonton’s lead in half to 6-3. Next, things got very interesting as Panarin sniped one less than a minute later, pulling the Rangers to within two and plenty of time remaining on the clock.
Was it actually possible for the Rangers to pull off this comeback after such a poor start to the contest? It was pretty unlikely but one could only hope. The comeback started to become even more of a reality when Mika Zibanejad continued his hot-streak with a goal 16:15 into the period making it a 6-5 game. The defense had tightened up and the goalie change looked like a great move, as Lundqvist had not allowed a goal since he came in to relieve Georgiev.
Unfortunately, the dreams of an epic comeback were dashed as Kailer Yamamoto buried an empty-net goal with 1:07 remaining to give the Oilers a 7-5 lead. The clock then quickly burned out and the Rangers left Rogers Place empty-handed heading into the New Year.
While it was quite a valiant effort by this young group to come back from 6-0 down, I am quite perturbed at how they put themselves in that position in the first place. The lack of defense, offensive firepower, and poor goaltending led to their demise in this one. They will have to shake it off quickly and prepare for another tough opponent in Calgary Thursday night. Let’s see if this game will yield better results.