Game #42: A better effort not enough as Rangers lose fourth in a row to Golden Knights, 4-2

The second half officially began the same way the first half ended. It’s not going to get any better. At least they competed tonight in Vegas. Unlike the past three losses with the previous two unwatchable, the Rangers gave a better effort against the Golden Knights. It wasn’t enough in a 4-2 defeat at T-Mobile Arena.

Alexandar Georgiev made his second straight start. He was okay finishing with 27 saves on 30 shots. The backup goalie didn’t have much chance on the three Vegas goals. Each came due to mistakes with two on breakaways, and the third on a power play. Goaltending is the least of their troubles. Though I’m sure Henrik Lundqvist didn’t mind getting an extra day off before the team returns home to host the Islanders. An opponent he never beats.

Tony DeAngelo returned to the lineup for a change. He replaced an ineffective Brendan Smith. The whole idea of having two extra D now that Adam McQuaid is healthy doesn’t make a lot of sense. But they want to give each veteran a chance to play with the trade deadline six weeks away. DeAngelo hasn’t played much lately, which doesn’t make sense. But it is what it is. This is the same organization owned by James Dolan, who actually thinks they can sneak into the playoffs due to Lundqvist. In related news, he also believes in the tooth fairy, and I believe in Peter Pan.

DeAngelo was pretty feisty throughout getting physically involved during the match. He took two minor penalties including boarding William Karlsson from behind during the second. He wasn’t pleased about something that I missed in the first. All I saw was him angrily go off to the locker room. So, the boarding penalty was a retaliation. For good measure, he lost it in a heated exchange with Max Pacioretty, earning a misconduct. It easily could’ve been a extra minor for roughing or unsportsmanlike conduct. The refs did him a favor giving an extra 10 minutes to cool off.

Unfortunately, one-time Blueshirt Brandon Pirri (remember him) made DeAngelo pay by depositing a Pacioretty rebound that beat Georgiev off the goalpost for a gimme that made it 2-0. Pacioretty took a good Nate Schmidt feed and blasted a one-timer past Georgiev off the far post. The puck took a favorable hop right to Pirri, who scored his seventh goal in just his eighth game. He’s gotten a opportunity to play due to both Reilly Smith and William Carrier being out with injuries. Smith is a top six forward and Carrier is a key part of their tough fourth line that includes Ryan Reaves. The Knights have a tough decision to make once Pirri reaches game number 10. He then has to clear waivers to be sent down.

While that’s a nice problem for Vegas to have, the Rangers have much more serious ones. Kevin Hayes missed his third consecutive game. The team went 0-3-0 on the road trip being outscored 15-3 by Colorado, Arizona and Vegas. Only the Knights look like a playoff lock with the one line Avalanche coming back to the pack due to starter Semyon Varlamov being out. Oh BTW. In their 7-4 loss at Winnipeg, former Rangers draft pick Ryan Graves scored his second goal on a wraparound. Funny. He never got a crack here last year, but already has one more goal than Kevin Shattenkirk. You really cannot make this stuff up!

In four straight losses, the Rangers have been outscored 22-5. Without Hayes, they’re much worse. What’s going to happen after Feb. 25 if they trade him? It’s really gonna be hard. Watching these games is a chore anyway. I’m letting my father go to the Islander game. Ironically, his buddy bought him a seat at the rematch in Brooklyn on Saturday. I bet that’ll be more fun than the World’s Most Shameless Arena. I actually look forward to hearing him tell stories about the atmosphere at Barclays Center for the rivalry. It might be the final time they play in Brooklyn.

Even though I didn’t watch last night’s game in entirety, I somehow managed to catch all six goals in between The Sopranos marathon on HBO. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Tony Soprano.

Cody Eakin got the Golden Knights on the board in the first when he got behind the defense and beat Georgiev on a mini break. Alex Tuch chipped a pass by Marc Staal to send Eakin in where he found enough wiggle room to score the game’s first goal on Georgiev. The forward backing up Staal was late.

At one point in the game, the Rangers had only nine shots. I chuckled along with my Dad about it. It’s basically turned into a bad comedy. They did come on the final part of the second. Following Pirri’s 10th goal in 10 games with the Golden Knights (over two seasons), they got a couple of good opportunities to score. Marc-Andre Fleury, who never loses at home, made two consecutive big saves on that golden sniper Cody McLeod. I wish I was making it up. First, he got behind the Vegas defense and took a Pavel Buchnevich feed and was stopped by Fleury in tight. Then, he got a breakaway and made the right move, but his forehand deke was denied by a sliding Fleury.

After those two stops, Mika Zibanejad centered for a pinching Staal one-timer that missed the net wide. A no no. Of course, it led to Jonathan Marchessault breaking out behind the D for a beautiful goal unassisted for a 3-0 lead. He made a perfect shot by going just over the right arm of Georgiev to the short side. It was his 14th. It’s hard to believe that the Panthers gave him and Smith away to protect current Oiler defenseman Alec Petrovic. What were they thinking? Probably the same thing both the Rangers and Blue Jackets were not giving Marchessault a chance.

Fleury has an amazing home record at T-Mobile Arena. He leads all goalies in home statistics. Tuesday night was his 15th victory in 21 starts. He entered 14-3-3 with a 2.04 GAA, .928 save percentage and five shutouts. It’s amazing how well he has played there. They’re an extremely tough team to beat there. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if they beat out the Flames and Sharks for the division.

In the third, there was this prior to Zibanejad breaking Fleury’s shutout.

Reaves is as tough as they come. McQuaid did well early before losing the decision on the knockdown. Reaves also has eight goals. That’s one more than Buchnevich. No wonder he found himself on the fourth line. More of a playmaker, he doesn’t shoot the puck enough. It’s probably why he’s not getting rewarded by David Quinn. Quinn rewards guys who bring it every shift such as Vladislav Namestnikov. He was emotionally involved throughout, giving and taking against a few Knights. His production isn’t there, but the kind of yeoman effort he brings is what Quinn’s looking for. It could wind up resulting in a trade to a contender.

Mats Zuccarello recently admitted to Post scribe Larry Brooks that he hasn’t been the same player due to all the scrutiny about his future. He knows it’s coming to an end on Broadway. He’s loved being a Ranger. So, I understand why it would be hard for him to focus. However, he didn’t make any excuses for his disappointing play. He blamed himself.

Zuccarello was better in this game. He worked hard during his shifts and got moved up to the top line with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. That hard work paid off when he was directly involved in Zibanejad’s goal that came with 8:17 left. A nice passing play started by Kreider resulted in Zuccarello getting the puck across to an open Zibanejad on the doorstep for his 12th goal. That ended a nine-game drought for Zibanejad, whose plus/minus has suffered lately. He’s minus-six during the four-game losing streak.

The Blueshirts nearly made it a one goal deficit. But Fleury robbed Boo Nieves on a good backhand. The rebound was cleared away. Eventually, the Knights got a empty netter from Ryan Carpenter with 80 seconds remaining. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare dug a loose puck out of the corner and centered for a Carpenter one-timer into a vacated net for 4-1.

To their credit, the Rangers didn’t give up. A hard working shift by Nieves and Jimmy Vesey allowed Jesper Fast to get his sixth on a rebound with 23 seconds left. That was it.


3rd 🌟 Brandon Pirri, VGK (power play goal for 7th of season in 8 games)

2nd 🌟 Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK (27 saves including 12 of 14 in 3rd)

1st 🌟 Jonathan Marchessault, VGK (breakaway goal for 14th for game-winner)

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 Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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