Rangers fall apart in Oilers loss

Rangers Oilers Hockey

Former Edmonton Oilers coach Glen Sather is honored with a banner raising prior to the NHL hockey game between the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers in Edmonton, Alberta, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015 (John Ulan/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

On a memorable night for Glen Sather, it was anything but for the Rangers. Ugly would be one way to summarize a 7-5 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton. Another adjective would be putrid. Disgraceful.

This was like those games in the Dark Ages between ’97-98 thru ’03-04. It was a total mess. There’s no point in doing a full recap because it would take too long. So let’s cut to the chase.

The story was the horrible play from “top pair” Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. They went a combined minus-seven and were victimized on several Oilers goals. It was a truly awful display from a shutdown tandem that got exploited by one of the league’s fastest teams. I didn’t get why Alain Vigneault kept force feeding the match-up in his 1,000th career game. It blew up in his face literally.

There was a Chris Kreider sighting. On a night he still took two penalties including a phantom one that led to the first of three Lauri Korpikoski goals. Yes. He scored his first and only career hat trick against the team that selected him as part of the Brian Leetch deal. At least Kreider showed flashes of greatness when he broke in and scored a highlight reel goal at the start of the second period. Playing with Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes, he had a more active game tallying a goal and assist.

It was also the game where Vigneault kept changing his lines. At one point, he had Rick Nash with Jarret Stoll and Kevin Hayes. But eventually settled on Stoll back with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass. Derick Brassard played mostly with Nash and J.T. Miller. Oscar Lindberg with Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast. The lines looked good enough to keep them together for Calgary tonight.

Dylan McIlrath recorded his first NHL point. He made a smart pinch and threw a low wrist shot towards the net that Kreider deflected off Anders Nilsson right to Zuccarello for his team-leading 12th goal. It was another example of McIlrath showing he is capable of making good reads in the offensive zone. Along with partner Keith Yandle, he had another strong night. They are the one D pair who shouldn’t be touched.

Nash had a incomplete game. Despite finally getting off the snide tying the contest at 5-all with 1:46 left in regulation, he was guilty on three Edmonton goals. Ironically, McDonagh and Girardi were caught out of position behind the net on two with Girardi out for all three. Nash failed to take the man in front. The forwards did too much puck watching. On Darnell Nurse’s goal that made it 5-3, Miller watched him score instead of picking him up.

It really was an ugly display of how not to hockey. On goals from Kreider and Brassard in a better second, the Rangers recovered from a poor first to draw even at 3-3. But inexplicably, with Kreider just out of the penalty box for a selfish retaliation roughing minor Nash fell down with McDonagh and Girardi again behind the net allowing Taylor Hall to beat Henrik Lundqvist 18 seconds into the third. Nurse chased him from Hall and budding sophomore Leon Draisaitl 2:22 later.

Following the goalie change with Antti Raanta replacing Lundqvist (5 GA on 33 shots), the Blueshirts responded by carrying the play. They got the next seven shots. A Nash rocket went off the goalpost allowing Brassard to pot his second of the game. With Teddy Purcell off for a silly roughing retaliation on McDonagh with under two minutes left, Nash got to a Dan Boyle rebound and beat Nilsson for his 11th at 18:15. Brassard did a great job winning the draw back to McDonagh who set up Boyle for the shot.

But on the next shift, Vigneault opted to go with McDonagh and Boyle. He had two-thirds of the fourth line with Stoll, Moore and Fast against the Oilers top line. The conservative strategy backfired. McDonagh made an awful pinch in the neutral zone and then Stoll whiffed on a pass causing a 2-on-1 Oilers break-in. Draisaitl dished across for Hall, whose backhand beat Raanta with 12 seconds later for the stunning game-winner.

Korpikoski completed his hat trick when his turnaround shot from inside his own blueline found twine.

There’s not much left to say. It’s hard to believe how bad McDonagh and Girardi were. But this was always gonna be a bad match-up. It’s the responsibility of Vigneault and top assistant Ulf Samuelsson to adjust the defense pairings. They failed miserably.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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3 Responses to Rangers fall apart in Oilers loss

  1. hasan4978 says:

    Wow I didn’t realize the Rangers tied the game again in regulation and still lost. For all the Devils’ problems the last few years I can’t remember the last time we lost a 7-5 game lol. I’ll have a happier recap later of last night at the Rock.


    • Derek Felix says:

      They have issues Hasan. No Klein and AV continues to force feed McDonagh/Girardi even when it’s a complete mismatch. He finally changed the lines. I just don’t like his coaching. He misuses guys. Unless you really follow everything, you could miss it. I don’t see them ever winning a Cup with his style of coaching.


  2. hasan4978 says:

    To a degree it’s almost inevitable they’re falling apart. When you make that many deep playoff runs in a row it eventually catches up to you unless you’re the Blackhawks although they’re such in a brutal division they might have to work to make the playoffs this year. Even the Kings ran on empty last year.


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