(Photo: Twitter: @NYRangers)
As he waited for to field the first question from the media, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault smiled and said, “Go on, ask me about the power play!”
The coach was in a playful mood after the Blueshirts beat the Devils 2-1 for their third in a row and an all-important two more points between the two clubs fighting for a playoff position.
But about that power play. Even though Vigneault was in a playful mood, the Rangers were 0-5 on the man advantage and allowed a shorthanded goal to Travis Zajac late in the third. The power play has been a sore spot for the club essentially all season and doesn’t seem to be getting better.
And the Rangers will need to endure, as captain Ryan McDonagh is out with concussion like symptoms after taking a left to the head from the Flyers Wayne Simmonds.
Without their best defenseman, the Rangers needed to adjust the lineup and hope that the rest of his teammates could raise their games.
Start with Kevin Klein, who was supposed to be out indefinitely with a broken thumb and then took to the ice the next morning. He stepped up with the first goal of the game on a feed from Mats Zuccarello.
“He’s a tough player, no question,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “You get to know him over the years and he always plays hard. It doesn’t matter what he goes through. He’s out there battling. Lots of credit to him, being out there fighting for the team now. And he’s been doing it for a while, playing with a sore thumb.”
Losing McDonagh also leaves the Rangers unbalanced on defense with four righthanded and two lefthanded defensemen. Dan Boyle needed to move over to pair with Dylan McIlrath, which didn’t do too much damage tonight, but could in the future.
And because the Rangers want to save some cap money, they will probably continue to go with these six.
“I didn’t talk to Jeff (Gorton) after,” Vigneault said. “Without talking to him, I’d probably say yes. Money-wise it gives us a little more leverage. I think tonight what we saw from Boyle on the left side, I didn’t think he looked out of place. I thought he and Dylan had a pretty good game. We are definitely going to be tested on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, so we will see how we respond there.”
These are the tough games for the Rangers with a game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and then the Kings and Flyers at the Garden. Looking at the schedule, there are no “gimmes” the rest of this month, so they will need the same forecheck the Devils saw tonight.
“We definitely, no doubt, put a lot of pressure on their defense tonight,” Vigneault. “We forced a lot of turnovers, got some good looks. Again, another great goaltending performance. I really like the way we played. We put a lot of heat and pressure on and used our speed. It was overall a good game for us. We had two defensemen down that play on the same side, stuff happens.”
And maybe it will happen on the power play. But not tonight.
“At least our penalty kill was good,” smiled the coach after his team didn’t give the Devils a power play chance.
Things may be turning for the Rangers, after all.