Rangers follow up win streak with awful shutout loss at Ottawa

Henrik Lundqvist

After finally winning two straight games, the Rangers couldn’t summon up the strength in a awful 3-0 shutout loss at Ottawa. They were outskated and outhustled by a bad Senators team. The defeat keeps them just one point up on the Islanders and two ahead of the Devils for second place in the Metro Division. Their final game before the All-Star break is tomorrow at MSG against the Sabres.

Craig Anderson stopped all 35 shots for his 32nd career shutout. Honestly, it didn’t feel like that many. The Rangers generated little consistency at even strength. Without Rick Nash, the top line was useless. Even with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello combining for 12 shots, they weren’t effective. Brassard got victimized on Bobby Ryan’s game-winner at 19:40 of the second period. He watched Ryan outmuscle Kevin Klein to the front of the net for a rebound of a Jared Cowen shot set up from Mike Hoffman.

Following MSG rover John Giannone’s second intermission report in which assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson said, “We need to play a lot harder than we are,” instead they continued to sleepwalk through the third. On a bad pinch by Ryan McDonagh that caught the fourth line deep, Hoffman took a Mike Zibanejad feed and waited for Dan Girardi to go down for a block, wiring a shot top shelf past Henrik Lundqvist’s glove off the bar for his 22nd making it 2-0 at 2:40. It was a great shot by Hoffman. One that was too much to overcome.

For the most part, only one line was effective. Whoever played with J.T. Miller. He was their best forward again. Very active and involved, he continues to improve in his third season. He spent the first two periods with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan. They were the only line that forechecked. In the third, Alain Vigneault mixed and matched sticking Miller with Brassard and Zuccarello. Jesper Fast moved up to Stepan and Kreider. Viktor Stalberg, who started on the top line, went down to the third line with Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg. The fourth was Dominic Moore, Daniel Paille and Tanner Glass.

The Rangers’ last gasp was a Mark Borowiecki slashing minor drawn by who else but Miller with 3:23 left. However, the power play teased with nothing substantial. Again, Vigneault went with McDonagh and Dan Boyle on the top unit. It’s not like they could’ve used Keith Yandle. He did receive 3:21 of power play time but wasn’t out when Vigneault decided to pull Lundqvist with over two minutes left for a 6-on-4. It backfired completely when McDonagh flubbed a pass right to PK specialist Jean-Gabriel Pageau who fired from center ice for his fifth shorthanded goal with 2:22 left.

Afterwards, this came out of the locker room:

Pretty telling. That’s the leader of the Rangers calling out his teammates for another craptacular effort. Through 48 games, they are a mediocre and unpredictable team. The 26-17-5 record is what they are. And also a bit generous due to the great start which Lundqvist covered up. Otherwise, they’d be out of the playoffs.

Most troublesome was Vigneault’s reluctance to use Lindberg more. He took 16 shifts and got 11:09 including 1:03 shorthanded. That’s what he usually gets. Eleven minutes. He had four shots. Not that the third line was any good. Hayes had one of his bad games giving away the puck which led to a 2-on-1. He also fanned on a shot with a empty net. Fast didn’t have a strong game either.

A final point. Why when you’re down two goals with five minutes left do you not shorten the bench and double shift your best forwards? Not Vigneault. Never. He still had the fourth line out. They were already partially responsible for Hoffman’s goal and nearly victimized again on the following shift. At that point in the game, the Rangers needed offense. They did get the power play and as usual, failed miserably. But why does this coach always play the fourth line at inopportune moments?

I’m done. Tomorrow’s a new day. The 31 inches of snow dumped on Staten Island hopefully are a thing of the past along with this miserable weekend. Congrats to Peyton Manning. At least he gets a chance to go out on top in the Super Bowl.

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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