(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
If you missed the first period of the game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, the Rangers did as well. In fact, 21 shots were thrown at the net by the Lightning and had a 2-0 lead. In a game that the Rangers were playing without captain Ryan McDonagh (out indefinitely) and Dan Boyle (rest) the Blueshirts worst period by far was on full display.
A 24-hour turn around from clinching a playoff spot that took three games to do, the Rangers looked flat and the same old problems kept happening. Tampa Bay players were able to walk right in and get opportunity after opportunity against Henrik Lundqivst. It seemed as if all the same problems that came back from about a month ago where the defense was nowhere to be found.
Something must have been said in between periods because the Rangers came out strong and got their game back quickly. As usual it was number 30 that kept them in all the way considering he was playing the second of a back to back. Not many thought he’d play considering the Rangers clinched their spot but head coach Alain Vigneault still feels home ice advantage is within reach. With two games left, the Rangers trail the Penguins by three points for the number two spot.
“As long as you keep it a two-goal game, you know you can turn it around,” Lundqvist said. “You just want to get that goal on the board and get some momentum. I felt like it was important to keep it at two. You get energized too when we play the way we played, especially on the penalty kill. You see guys blocking shots. I thought the timing was really good, the pressure was really good. It was such a big part of this game because of all the penalties.”
If you go back to the Buffalo game last week, Derek Stepan had said after a dismal first period that if the Rangers had played the way they did from the second period on they were a dangerous team. The Rangers showed the same thing in the game against the Lightning. That is the new question now, for the 3rd time out of 4 games the Rangers start hasn’t been great. Sure the old saying goes, “it isn’t how you start it’s how you finish” but in this league it can cost you. You will bury yourself quickly if that is how the Rangers think they can approach the remaining games and even into the playoffs.
A full 60-minute effort is required. If you have a guy like Lundqvist, maybe once in awhile he’ll bail you out but it shouldn’t be thought of like that. We discussed whether the Rangers are ready for the playoffs now we have to discuss putting together a full effort from start to finish. Fans may have to hold their breath as late in the game defensemen Dan Girardi was driven hard to the boards and was down for a few minutes and then helped off. For Girardi, whose season hasn’t been the best has been better as of late and another core defensemen loss could spell the end for the Rangers before the playoffs even start.
“Well it means an opportunity for some of the younger guys to get some quality ice time, some important minutes,” Vigneault said. “Brady [Skjei] tonight was jumping up in the play. You’ve got to pick your spots and I think the more he plays the more he’s going to understand when it’s time to go in. For Dylan [McIlrath] he hadn’t played in such a long time, and we had so little practices so far as a team. I thought he did a good job tonight coming into these circumstances.”
Nonetheless, the Rangers fight back and get their win and maintain their third place spot in the Metropolitan division and we now wait to see the fate of Dan Girardi who is a warrior and expect him to be okay when all is said and done. We can complain about all the faults we’ve seen by the Rangers but at the end of the day they are nearly complete on another successful regular season (6 straight playoff appearances) and as of tonight have 99 points. You really can’t ask for more in a regular season.”