New York Rangers have a stinker in Vegas, Gallant unfazed
Mark Stone and Mattias Janmark scored in a span of 4:55 in the second period as the host Vegas Golden Knights cruised to a 5-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Despite the loss, head coach Gerard Gallant was unfazed even though he admitted his team stopped competing for a good portion of the game.
“When they scored that second goal everything went the wrong way,” Gallant explained. “We didn’t compete anymore. We didn’t have the hard work. I’m really disappointed in the last 35 minutes.”
“I loved our first 25 minutes, I thought we played great. I was really happy with the way the game was going,” Gallant continued. “Thought it was going to be a 3-2 game for somebody and it’s too bad it fell apart on us. We’ll regroup.”
Rangers turnovers fueled Golden Knights offense
Stone returned from missing four games with an undisclosed injury and scored the tiebreaking goal with 11:46 remaining. Janmark scored the fifth time in as many games with 6:52 to go as Vegas avoided a third straight loss and spoiled the return of former coach Gerard Gallant, who led the Golden Knights to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
The final score was 5-1, which is the fifth time the Rangers have lost by a margin of four or more this season. New York’s other 4 losses on the season have been by two or less, 3 of those by one goal. For context, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a 9-3 loss to their name this season and have 5 losses by four or more as well.
Every team has a stinker from time to time, and over the course of the 35 games played this season the Rangers haven’t had many. However, in everyone of those big losses the team gets away from sound hockey and are caught forcing plays causing turnovers.
“We had a good start to the game, played a good first period,” Jacob Trouba said. “I think in the second we kind of fueled their transition a bit and they’re a good transition team. They made us pay and things just fell apart after that.”
Indeed they did as Jonathan Marchessault scored twice, and former Ranger Brett Howden also tallied for Vegas who beat the Rangers for the sixth time in eight all-time meetings.
Robin Lehner made 18 saves after missing five games with a lower-body injury and won his sixth straight decision. It was an easy game for him to come back to since the Rangers posed little threat after Chris Kreider scored his 21st goal in the opening minute of the second.
Rangers COVID and roster issues
New York began its season-high five-game road trip without Artemi Panarin, who missed his third straight contest in the NHL’s COVID-19 health protocol. About a half hour before the opening faceoff, the Rangers announced goalie Igor Shesterkin was placed in the protocol.
Alexander Georgiev replaced Shesterkin as the starter and allowed five goals on 35 shots.
“There’s nothing he could have done, there was just too many shots and too much pressure around the net. I thought he was fine,” Gallant acquitted his goalie. “He wasn’t the issue at all.”
In truth, he kept the Rangers in it for two periods before the no-show final frame.
One player in particular struggled mightily last night and that was defenseman Libor Hajek, who finished with a -4 rating. His partner Zac Jones played very well but was a -3.
Hajek has been steady since being inserted in the lineup on December 29th against the Florida Panthers. He simply didn’t have it yesterday as he was routinely beat one-on-one, made unforced errors, and looked lost in coverage.
The question now will be which defenseman will come out of the lineup when Patrik Nemeth returns from “personal reasons”? And if he isn’t ready to go on Saturday, will Nils Lundkvist return to the lineup for Hajek? Lundkvist and Jones paired together in the Blueshirts 4-0 shutout victory over the Lightning.
On the COVID front, Panarin is expected back on the trip and eligible to return against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Shesterkin would need to complete his five days of quarantine and could be back for the the matchup against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
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-Field Level Media contributed to this report