Hartnett: The Rangers Need To Raise The Bar — Right Now
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‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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The Anaheim Ducks are a dominant group, even if they’re currently wounded by key injuries to hard-shooting defenseman Sheldon Souray, dynamic winger Jakob Silfverberg and aging Finnish icons Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
Despite the Ducks’ depleted arsenal, you can’t gift this team scoring opportunities. The Rangers did exactly that in the first period and paid the price by handing Anaheim two points in Monday night’s 2-1 defeat at Madison Square Garden.
Rangers center Derick Brassard lazily lifted a pass from the corner directly to Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa, whose shot from the point was blocked before Dustin Penner spun and shoveled a puck that rebounded off Henrik Lundqvist in front of a darting Corey Perry.
The former Hart Trophy winner was able to take three whacks at the loose puck, eventually giving Anaheim a 1-0 lead at 2:29. Three Rangers failed to recognize the dangerous Perry sliding behind them to find precious space at Lundqvist’s doorstep.
Nearly nine minutes into the contest, Rangers alternate captain Brad Richards inexplicably backhanded a pass directly to Ducks defensenan Francois Beauchemin, who then picked out teammate Kyle Palmieri.
The Montvale, N.J., native snapped a shot off the pipe and past Lundqvist to increase Anaheim’s advantage to 2-0. With just 9:09 gone, the Rangers dug themselves into a hole.
Blueshirts head coach Alain Vigneault had the right to be dissatisfied with the Rangers’ shoddy start. He noted that Richards’ intercepted pass had a “very small chance of being successful.”
Vigneault remarked that his team failed to capitalize on a number of scoring chances and did not make the Ducks pay nearly enough. Michael Del Zotto scored the lone goal for the Blueshirts with 84 seconds remaining in the second period.
“In the first period we had a couple of neutral-zone turnovers that led to them capitalizing on some mistakes,” Vigneault said. “After that, I thought in the second we had some opportunities to make them pay. We only made them pay once. In the third, they’re a good team and they showed it tonight; why they’re in the upper echelons of the NHL. They don’t give you a lot, they play tight.”
A.V. DISSATISFIED WITH NUMBER OF SHOTS ON NET, CRITICIZES STAAL AND GIRARDI
Vigneault pointed the finger directly at stalwart defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, as the duo failed to register a shot on net.
“We needed something from our back-end,” Vigneault said. “Those guys need to be able to jump up in the play and get some of their shots through. We had two defensemen that didn’t have shots on net.”
If you could split the game into two equal halves, the Rangers were the dominant team for the second half of Monday night’s defeat.
“We were trying a lot of plays that weren’t there in the beginning,” Staal said. “We were causing our own problems with turnovers and they made us pay. Once we straightened that out, and started playing a little more north-south, chipping pucks and getting it behind them, I thought we did a pretty good job the rest of the game with getting opportunities to score.”
Yet, at the very end, the Rangers shot themselves in the foot when Benoit Pouliot took a high-sticking penalty shortly after Lundqvist skated off the ice for an extra attacker. The Rangers followed Pouliot’s penalty with an undisciplined too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty with 49 seconds remaining.
A.V. SENDS MESSAGE TO HAGELIN AND POULIOT
Vigneault benched wingers Carl Hagelin and Pouliot for roughly eight minutes during the second period.
“I just thought some other guys were giving a little bit more,” Vigneault said. “The guys that I thought were pushing a little harder gained up more ice time.”
PENGUINS INVADE MSG ON WEDNESDAY; RANGERS MUST SHAPE UP
The Pittsburgh Penguins visit Madison Square Garden on Wednesday riding a four-game winning streak.
There’s a lot of room for improvement for the Rangers. They’ll have to quickly stamp out their glaring mistakes from Monday’s sour defeat.
They can’t gift-wrap opportunities for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. If so, they’ll get burned by the Penguins, even if James Neal is weeks from returning.
To come away with a victory over the mighty Pens, the Rangers must figure out how to add more of a cutting edge to their offensive game that was lacking against Anaheim.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey.
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