Another MSG debacle for Rangers


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Columbus had Henrik Lundqvist and the listless Rangers seeing blue again in another disturbing home loss. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Blue Jackets.

This wasn’t the way to restart the season. Not after a five-day break. Once again, the Rangers stunk on home ice. In falling to the Blue Jackets 6-4, it was another ugly reminder that while this is a good team, it has some big question marks. The first being why can’t they play a 60-minute game and string together wins at MSG. What a debacle.

I could care less that they never gave up. It’s not in their DNA. So, credit them for at least showing some backbone in the third period scoring the last four goals to at least make Columbus sweat. I can’t understand why they can’t be consistent at home. The loss was the fifth in their last six at MSG. That is indescribable. It shouldn’t happen. Not after extending Alain Vigneault.

I will admit I missed the first two periods but caught the third when I got back. I know after Seth Jones’ goal in the first, the Rangers had the better of the play. They had good chances but couldn’t beat Columbus backup Joonas Korpisalo. It all fell apart in an awful second. The Blue Jackets scored four goals including twice during a pair of four-on-four’s to chase Henrik Lundqvist. If this sounds like a broken record, it isn’t. It’s a recording.

Antti Raanta was rudely greeted in his return by two more Columbus goals on four shots in the remainder of the period. To hear Steve Valiquette tell it on MSG, they took too many chances down 3-0. Why? This team is more than capable of coming back from that margin and did so at Columbus. The style Vigneault plays emphasizes more offense. Sometimes, this team takes too many risks and gets burned defensively. So, 3-0 became 5-0 and led to boos.

It’s funny how when you are going bad, it just gets worse. They went from down a goal after one when I picked up some stuff at CVS to down three. Then by the time I got home, it was Zach Werenski having a shot redirected in front by Matt Calvert at the start of the third to make it a touchdown deficit.

Then, Jimmy Vesey scored his first goal in 12 games to break a drought. Following Michael Grabner’s team-leading 22nd on a neat deflection from Brady Skjei, Chris Kreider tallied number 19 making it three goals in 3:21 to suddenly cut it to a field goal. You can’t make it up.

The Blueshirts spent the rest of the third chasing a deficit they couldn’t recover from. Columbus sat back and defended relying on Korpisalo to make the key saves. Even though he allowed four on 19 shots, he made some good stops to give John Tortorella’s club a win. You have to wonder what he was thinking on the bench when Kevin Klein notched his first with 67 seconds left to make it 6-4.

There’s really no explanation for it. The Rangers have to be better at MSG. They fell to 14-11-1. Simply not good enough. When you’re at home, you play in front of your fans. You’re supposed to have more energy and consistency. This team hasn’t been a lock down home team since those nightmarish shutout losses to the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. Why is that? They have the last change. Is it complacency? Or is it wanting to put on a show? There’s no rational explanation.

Why does this team implode in second periods? Lundqvist only answered one question in the postgame. Frustration is creeping in. He did allow another bad one which sent him to the bench. Was it the break? He played well prior to it. Is he ever going to be the same goalie? This is a serious question folks. Because if the answer is no, then extending Vigneault is a waste. They can’t win without superior goaltending from Lundqvist.

Following the next game at dreaded Buffalo on Thursday (should we pencil that in as a loss), the next four are all at MSG against Western teams. Calgary, Anaheim, Nashville and Colorado visit. They have to figure it out soon. If not, then they won’t be locked into the first wildcard. But fighting for their playoff livelihood.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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