New York Rangers lack of grit obvious in listless loss

rangers kings
Jan 10, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) plays for the puck against Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) and defenseman Mikey Anderson (44) during the first period at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Cal Petersen made 22 saves and the Los Angeles Kings won for the fourth time in five games by beating the visiting New York Rangers 3-1 on Monday night.

The loss wasn’t due to the fact that the Kings goalie was spectacular by any means or that L.A. put on a defensive clinic.

No, the real issue was the lack of grit and energy in the Rangers game from the top line to the bottom pair. It showed in their inability to produce any kind of forecheck offensively. It was even more glaring in their compete level in the defensive zone as they were outshot 39 to 22.

Rangers struggled in all three zones

After a scoreless first period, the Kings tallied twice in the first four minutes of the second.

Moore tipped away a side-to-side pass from K’Andre Miller in the neutral zone, allowing him to slip between Miller and Jacob Trouba and get off a backhand shot from in close.

Georgiev made the save, but Danault came in behind the play and chipped the puck high in the net for a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the period.

Moore set up the second goal as well, driving down the right side and backhanding the puck toward the net. Georgiev bobbled the save and Lizotte came in and swung and missed at the bouncing puck, but kicked it back in front and scored for a 2-0 lead at 3:41.

rangers vs kings
Jan 10, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) helps goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) defend the goal against Los Angeles Kings center Blake Lizotte (46) during the second period at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

“We talked about before the game what they do in the neutral zone, and we just decided to work hard and not smart,” Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “We need to come with speed, support each other, and we made it really easy on them walking out of the zone, and then ultimately trying to get our feet going a little bit too late, and getting beat and giving them rushes and letting them advance the puck up the ice.”

The Rangers made it 2-1 at 11:27 of the third period when Filip Chytil spun and shot the puck from above the right circle, and Zibanejad tipped it past Petersen for his second goal in two games.

Kempe scored into an empty net with 1:17 left to re-establish the two-goal lead at 3-1.

“I think that’s what you saw at the beginning of the second period, and ultimately, it’s on us to settle down and regroup and commit to doing the right things to advance the puck and play the right way,” Kreider said. “We did that a little bit too late when we’d already given up the lead at that point. You didn’t nip it in the bud early in the game, so it’s on us. It’s on me.” 

Rangers missed Goodrow and Reaves

While it was nice to have Artemi Panarin back from the COVID list, he struggled with his timing and was likely feeling the after effects of being symptomatic.

The leading point scorer for the Rangers the past two seasons, returned after missing four games while in COVID-19 protocol and was a minus-3 in 21:30, but Barclay Goodrow was added to the protocol list on Monday.

Igor Shesterkin, Ryan Reaves and Julien Gauthier remained in protocol, and the Rangers were also without Dryden Hunt, who sustained an upper-body injury in the opener of the five-game road trip on Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Without Goodrow (70), Reaves (135), and Hunt(74) the Rangers were missing three of their top five hitters. It was evident all night as the Kings had an easy night moving the puck out of their zone and clearing the crease. Their absence was even noted by MSG Analyst Steve Valiquette in the postgame.

“They do a pretty good job with their system,” Zibanejad explained. “It wasn’t just that. It was a trickle down effect and we don’t get in– we just play in our d-zone trying to get it out. Can’t get that momentum and time in their d-zone. It’s frustrating obviously.”

Mika Zibanejad scored his 8th goal in the last nine games, and Alexandar Georgiev made 36 saves for the Rangers, who had won four of their previous five.

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–Field Level Media contributed to this report