“Play a full 60 minutes.” It’s a sports credo that differs in chronological ways, depending on the sport, but it means play a complete game from start to finish.
“Every team talks about it,” Jacob Trouba said after a game in which the Rangers only played the first 40 of those 60.
The Rangers failed to play a complete game as the Florida Panthers rallied with three goals in the third period to score a 4-3 victory in the first game after the extended post-Christmas break.
“Name of the game, especially playing this many games at this level in this league, you gotta find a way to play the whole game,” the Ranger defenseman said. “If you don’t, teams are good, they’re gonna take advantage of it.”
Florida took advantage with a dominant third period where they dictated play and used their high powered offense to post their 15th home win in 18 games.
“In the third we got away from it. Made a couple of mistakes, ended up in the back of our net,” coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.
The Rangers had a 2-1 lead heading into the third, but after killing off a Panthers’ power play, Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar took a pass in the slot and fired it past Rangers’ goaltender Igor Shersterkin to tie the game at two.
Shesterkin was making his first start since December 3rd when he got hurt against San Jose at the Garden and stopped 28 of 32 shots.
Shersterkin looked a little out of sorts in the third period as he let in a soft one that gave Florida a 3-2 lead. The Ranger goaltender failed to make a stop on Carter Verhaeghe’s shot from just above the left face off circle that squeezed through the five hole.
Former Ranger Anthony Duclair made it 4-2 with his 10th goal of the season with a little over five minutes remaining.
With Shersterkin on the bench for the extra skater, Chris Kreider slammed in a loose puck for his 19th goal with :45 seconds remaining to make it a one goal game, but the Rangers could not get the tying goal past Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 30 saves.
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal that should merit a spot on “Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays.”
Artemi Panarin returned to the lineup after missing the game before the lay off with an injury and picked up where he left off. The Rangers left wing, who has 19 points in his last 13 games, came down the left side and put the puck between his legs, before attempting to put a back hand shot on net. Panarin, who had a goal and an assist, whiffed on the shot but Bobrovsky’s timing was thrown off and it slid into the net.
Florida rookie center Anton Lindell scored his sixth goal of the season to tie the game just over five minutes into the second period, but the Rangers took a 2-1 lead thanks to a nifty play by Panarin that led to the go ahead goal.
Panarin literally pick-pocketed Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas and stole the puck in the Florida zone. Mika Zibanejad was streaking down the right side and took a pretty back hand pass from his linemate and put it in the open net for his 8th goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
“I practiced it [the move] the last three days,” Panarin said.
After coincidental minors carried over into the third period, the teams played 4-on-4 hockey. The Panthers seemed to gain some momentum and started to take control of the play.
“The third period didn’t start real well,” Gallant said. “That 4 on 4, I thought we were a little loose.”
The Rangers were playing their first game in 12 days but the Panthers had not played since December 16th, but the amount of time off did not provide an advantage for either team.
“Every team’s going through this right now with different types of layoffs, so, it is what it is,” Trouba said. “It’s part of something you deal with this year, especially with the Covid situation, so I thought we felt fine.
Rangers have dropped five of their last seven games and they’re in the midst of brutal stretch of games. Beginning on Friday night in Tampa with the first of a home and home against the Stanley Cup champion Lightning, followed by a home game against Edmonton on Monday and a five game road trip that takes them to Vegas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Philadelphia.
The Rangers are third in the Metropolitan Division but the Pittsburgh Penguins have won seven in a row and are only three points behind.
It’s a pivotal portion of the schedule for the Rangers, who don’t want to waste all that they’ve accomplished up to this point.