Rangers earn a point in overtime loss to Flames

In what looked like a repeat, the Rangers found a way to earn a point in a wild 5-4 overtime loss to the Flames at The Saddledome. Even though they lost again, at least they were able to salvage a point in an otherwise frustrating winless road trip.

Trailing by three with 15:03 left in the third period, they staged a three-goal rally against a defensively challenged opponent. Tanner Glass started the comeback by hustling to a loose puck and beating Jonas Hiller for his first of the season. The goal came 16 seconds after Joe Colborne gave Calgary a 4-1 lead. That it was Glass was fitting. Since being recalled from Hartford, he has worked his tail off. A nice reward for a great team guy.

Glass’ goal breathed life into an otherwise dead team skating. After playing a perfect road game for the first 37 minutes, bad habits crept back up. Ahead one on a J.T. Miller put away in the first period from Viktor Stalberg and Kevin Hayes, the Rangers reverted to the careless play that cost them dearly a night before in Edmonton.

First, Keith Yandle gave away the puck to Johnny Gaudreau allowing the dangerous sniper to go top shelf on Antti Raanta at 17:41. Yandle felt pressure from a Calgary fore-checker and gave it away to the wrong guy. On the next shift, the struggling Dan Girardi threw a dying quail for Ryan McDonagh that was easily intercepted by Michael Frolik. It became a two-on-one with McDonagh unable to catch Mason Raymond in time for his finish that gave the Flames two goals in 17 seconds.

Just like that, they trailed. It worsened early in the third. Gaudreau again victimized a sloppy D for his second of the game. Marc Staal got caught pinching and Girardi was way out of the play making a feeble attempt as Gaudreau whistled in on Raanta and went five-hole for a 3-1 lead. The implosion continued when Colborne was the trailer on an odd-man rush in which Hayes failed to pick him up. Kris Russell and Matt Stajan perfectly set him up for another Calgary goal 2:25 later.

At that point, it looked like a lost cause. Alain Vigneault sent out his fourth line. Most of us would ponder what good it could do. But sometimes, your energy line can give you a lift. In this instance, Vigneault was right. Dominic Moore beat out an icing which was controversially waved off. Glass got to a rebound and scored with 14:47 remaining cutting the deficit to 4-2.

Encouraged, the Blueshirts controlled most of the play afterwards. Similar to their comeback against the Oilers, they were able to sustain a fore-check. It paid dividends thanks to some diligent work from Miller and Chris Kreider. Their board work allowed an active Dan Boyle to come around the Calgary net and score on a beautiful backhand with 4:54 left. It was a great move by a skilled veteran defenseman who also has their only successful penalty shot and a cool shootout winner. For as much crap as I give him, he’s been better the past couple of weeks.

With the Flames nursing a one-goal lead, they basically tried to give the Rangers the game back. The worst ranked penalty kill was forced to kill consecutive Ranger power plays. After killing the first, a Markus Granlund hi-stick on an on-rushing Mats Zuccarello put the Flames back on the penalty kill.

This time, the Blueshirts made them pay. Off a clean face-off win from the very reliable Derick Brassard, Boyle got the puck to an open Zuccarello at the left point. Instead of passing, he let go of a long wrist shot that beat a screened Hiller for the game-tying power play goal with 1:12 left. Kreider did the job in front taking away Hiller’s vision which allowed Zuccarello to snipe for a second consecutive game.

After a nice celebration between Kreider and Zuccarello, there was still the matter of the final 72 seconds. Especially on the heels of that awful conclusion a night before. Somewhat comically, Vigneault again had his fourth line out on the next face-off. That included Glass. Following a short shift, he got his reunited top line on. There would be no last second goal.

When it went to 3-on-3 derby, everyone knew how lethal the Flames are. They are devastating. With talented one-on-one players such as Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and dangerous rovers Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, you figured this would be over quick.

It was a total mismatch. Especially with our team which has yet to score a goal at 3-on-3 since preseason. They’re one win came via a 4-on-3 power play. So, when Gaudreau nearly ended it twice which included a total undressing of Ryan McDonagh before Raanta did just enough to keep the puck out, it was only a matter of time.

Off a Kris Russell outlet, out came Brodie with a full head of steam on Boyle. It was a two-on-one with Kreider doing his best to hustle back. Brodie didn’t hesitate using Boyle perfectly for a great shot against the grain that beat Raanta for the overtime winner at 2:09. I have Brodie in fantasy hockey. He’s done that to other opponents. So, it was another game-winner for my team which leads that category. I also have Gaudreau. It’s part of the reason I’m in first. 

As far as this game, there’s still a lot to dislike. The Rangers continue to look fragile. They played a great road game for nearly 40 minutes. But once Yandle had that giveaway, they imploded. Even with Vigneault telling MSG’s Sam Rosen that he doesn’t think his team is fragile, that doesn’t look like the truth.

Their defensive structure is unraveling. The wear and tear is showing. Girardi looks like a beaten player. He really could use a night off. I don’t know what they’re waiting for. If he does have a knee issue, he can use a break. It doesn’t make sense keeping him in there. Especially with McDonagh.

Updating the two injured players, both Kevin Klein and Derek Stepan have begun skating. Klein can’t get back soon enough. As for Stepan, ditto. Though I wonder what Vigneault will do with the lineup. With Dylan McIlrath continuing to improve, I can’t think of one good reason to scratch him. And what happens with Glass? Does he go back down? Emerson Etem needs to play. He played in two straight. Stalberg returned in place of Jarret Stoll.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Mats Zuccarello, Rangers (team-leading 13th at 18:48 of 3rd, 27 shifts-21:19-the definition of clutch)

2nd Star-Dan Boyle, Rangers (2nd of season, assist, -1 in 31 shifts-22:51-starting to produce)

1st Star-Johnny Gaudreau, Flames (2-1-3, 6 SOG, +1 in 28 shifts-21:54-the heir apparent to Patrick Kane)

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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