Gerard Gallant says Rangers ran out of gas, but not happy with defensive play

The New York Rangers completed their first week of the 2022-23 season by going 2-1-0.

It began with a dominant 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, and ended with a back-to-back set on the road that the Rangers split.

Although the season just started, playing three games in four nights with travel isn’t easy. The Blueshirts looked like world-beaters in their first two games against the Lightning and Minnesota Wild. Both teams are considered contenders for the Stanley Cup.

Last night, the Rangers found themselves down 1-0 after the first and put forth their most dominant period of the three games played so far by posting 21 shots to the Jets 7. Connor Hellebuyck’s goaltending heroics ultimately were the difference as he allowed none in the second period and just one on 41 shots.

“We were not great in the first, played great in the second and then in the third we ran out of gas,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We made a lot of mistakes in the defensive zone, which usually happens when you’re mentally tired.”

Gerard Gallant disappointed with the defense

new york rangers
Oct 14, 2022; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; New York Rangers goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) stops Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers (27) during the third period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first period was relatively even, but the Jets took the early lead 10:29 in after Nikolaj Ehlers got to a loose puck behind the net and centered it to Mark Scheifele, who beat Halak with a great shot from the slot.

From that point on, the Rangers started to find their legs but were thwarted time and time again by Hellebuyck.

In the third period, Dryden Hunt tied the game off a nice passing set up from Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck at 3:55. However, the energy expended to get the equalizer would take its toll for the remainder of the contest.

“I think we had some real good chances and [Hellebuyck] made some real good saves,” Gallant noted. “I wasn’t disappointed with our offensive output, I was disappointed with our defense. And that’s not defensemen, that’s defensive game.”

It started with losing puck battles and missing defensive zone assignments that led to the eventual game-winner.

Winnipeg’s David Gustafsson won a loose puck behind the Rangers net dishing it to Saku Maenalanen. He quickly passed it across the slot to Sam Gagner. Despite Halak making the first save, Gagner was able to put home his own rebound as Vincent Trocheck missed backing up both K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba, who wound up behind the net on the play.

The Rangers were looking to tie the game but a tired Trouba shot the puck over the glass in the defensive zone for delay-of-game penalty with 2:34 remaining.

Scheifele would quickly end any Rangers hope with his second of the game, this time on the power play. Kyle Connor added the empty netter for good measure.

“Unfortunately for us we made some bad mistakes after that and gave them two goals,” Gallant lamented. “We battled back (to tie it) but it was a tough night for us and we gave up a lot of Grade A chances. We probably didn’t deserve the points.”

New York Ranger looking ahead

If the Rangers taught as anything last season, it’s that they are resilient.

“It got away from us tonight,” captain Trouba said. “I definitely like our first two games but we’re not going to play perfectly every game. We’ll learn from it and address it going forward.”

Mika Zibanejad, who has been the Rangers unquestionable best two-way player echoed similar sentiments.

“I think we could’ve done a better job around the net,” Zibanejad explained. “I think the second and third chances we could’ve done something better there. It’s not the result we wanted today but we go home and get some rest looking forward to Monday’s game (vs Anaheim).”

The Rangers will now have two days off before facing two familiar faces in Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano. Both players signed with the Anaheim Ducks over the summer via free agency. Strome spent 4 years with the Rangers and is off to a fast start with the Ducks registering 3 points (1G-2A) in the team’s only game to date.

Traveling back from Winnipeg, the Blueshirts will be off today and will resume skating on Sunday. That will give them time to recharge and heal some wounds as Sammy Blais and Vitali Kravtsov are close to returning. It comes just in time, as Ryan Carpenter suffered a bad facial laceration after falling on to a Jets player’s skate blade. All our considered day-to-day.

“It’ll be nice to get home and get a little rest for our group.” Gallant concluded.

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