Rangers hopefully learned their lesson on how to hold leads
The New York Rangers suffered losses after blowing two straight multi-goal leads. It began on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers and again on Monday versus the New Jersey Devils.
However, in their last game they were able to hold the lead to beat the Ottawa Senators 3-1 on Wednesday night. These three games should be a learning experience. The differences in pace and effort between these games largely contributed to the outcomes.
New York Rangers need to keep pace
In the first period against the Oilers, neither team clearly dominated. However, the Rangers outshot the Oilers 10-9 and brought a sense of urgency. Alexis Lafrenière snapped his goalless streak, scoring in the first to give the Rangers an early lead. It was a solid start, but the Oilers came out stronger in the second period and the Rangers did not match their pace until the late stages of the period. However, they recovered late to score two goals, giving them a 3-0 lead.
The third period highlighted the biggest issue which, aside from Igor Shesterkin’s dip in play, was a lack of urgency. Using prevent defense to win at this stage of the game with a 3-0 lead is important, but even defense requires energy. The Rangers ultimately demonstrated a shortage of effort, experiencing defensive lapses that were a major issue earlier in the season. This, accompanied by a significant decrease in offensive pressure, allowed the Oilers to score four goals in the third to win the game.
There were also three reviews in this game that all went in the Oilers’ favor which may have been deflating for the Rangers. But overall, that cannot be allowed to derail the entire game.
Against New Jersey, the Rangers experienced the same issue of having a strong start where Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad scored within a minute and 41 seconds of each other but then lacked urgency for the remainder of the first period.
The Devils took over and tied the game before the first period ended. The Rangers could not match the Devils’ pace in the second period which led them to take a 4-2 lead. While the Rangers undoubtedly dominated the third period, outshooting the Devils 17-5, they were unable to fully recover. Losing this game 5-3 presented the same problem as the previous game: last year they often found ways to win games they should have lost, and this year they seem to be doing the opposite.
“Too many big mistakes,” Jacob Trouba said on the MSG postgame. “Those are the things that are biting us right now. We turn the puck over and it ends up in the back of the net.”
Protecting the lead against Ottawa
Going into the game on Wednesday night, it was important that the Rangers snap their three-game losing streak and get Jaroslav Halak his first win of the season. They accomplished both of these goals in their 3-1 win which looked quite different from the previous two games. While the Senators dominated the first period, outshooting the Rangers 13-7, the shots were not of high quality and the Rangers were more diligent in the defensive zone. They also got the first goal of the game from Jimmy Vesey off of a gritty play in front of the net.
The major difference presented itself in the second period when the Rangers matched the Senators’ energy and outshot them 13-11, albeit by a narrow margin. Both teams had a goal in the period with the Senators scoring second. This could have easily followed the trend of the previous two games. However, the Rangers dominated the majority of the third period, pressuring the Senators continuously and scoring a third goal to secure the win.
“I don’t think it was out best game of the season,” Zibanejad said on the MSG postgame. “We kept it simple and didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We were aware what happened before and responded well.”
Consistent pressure and defensive zone diligence made the difference on Wednesday night. The Rangers were able to protect their lead and close out the game strong. Overall, these three games contained examples of how to win and how not to which should serve as a lesson going forward.
Note: All stats come from nhl.com
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