Game #15: Outclawed by the Panthers in a Texas Holdem style shootout, disappointing Sunday


Ryan Lindgren is pumped up after scoring his first NHL goal. The Rangers lost to the Panthers 6-5 in a crazy game that lacked defense, but had plenty of excitement. AP Photo via New York Rangers courtesy Getty Images

Rather than do a traditional game recap, I’m gonna break down today’s dizzying 6-5 loss to the Panthers in a shootout a bit differently. If you’re a poker fan, then this game was for you.

It felt like a Texas Holdem style shootout that broke out at MSG. Not a hockey game. Both teams threw all their chips in. It was the visitor playing for a second consecutive day that won the pot.

There’ll be no Lou reference from Major League regarding an actual “winning streak.” It didn’t happen for the Rangers, who were just too loose defensively. They played into Florida’s hands by getting into a track meet. To hear David Quinn describe it, he summed it up best.

One thing he said is his team has a lot of scorers. That is true. The problem is you can’t play like that and expect to win. He felt that the defense has been lulled into a false sense of security due to the goaltending of both Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev. Go look at their save percentages. Though Hank’s was hurt by Sunday’s shootout. He entered play with a .921 save percentage despite still being over a 3.00 goals-against-average.

The amount of scoring chances this team gives up is absurd. After having the Hurricanes fire the kitchen sink at Lundqvist, who bailed them out with 45 saves, the Rangers didn’t play well. How can anyone argue? They vacated their assignments and made life difficult again on Hank. He was sharp in a first period that unraveled late. He was making the stops on good Florida shots until the 18-minute mark.

A period that started out promising thanks to a splendid passing play between Artemiy Panarin and Ryan Strome to get rookie Ryan Lindgren his first career NHL goal, became a disappointing one due to a pair of Panthers goals in only a 30-second span. Consecutive goals from Aleksander Barkov and Dominic Toninato (who?) turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit after one period of play.

I’m not going to go crazy over Lundqvist finally giving in on a very good Barkov low snipe from the circle. He’s got that kind of talent. That’s five games in a row with a goal for Sasha after not scoring one. He’s a superstar on a good roster that still hasn’t figured out how to play under Joel Quenneville. The goal from Toninato was a total breakdown. They let MacKenzie Weegar and Dryden Hunt (who?) get in on Lundqvist, who went down to make a stop but couldn’t recover on the rebound by Toninato.

It was brutal. Maybe not quite like that disgrace from the Giants that I predicted when everyone had them beating the Jets in the Toilet Bowl. I listened to the radio call from a perplexed Bob Papa and Carl Banks while having the hockey game on mute. That way I could get both of worst best worlds.

I’ll be honest. As fun as it was to watch each team go goal for goal in a second that saw the Blueshirts win the old fashioned shootout 3-2, it was a bit frustrating. Filip Chytil scored a nice goal on a delayed call to tie it up. It was his fourth goal in six games. But a phantom hooking minor on a exasperated Strome, who also took a legit tripping minor in period one, resulted in a pretty play from Jonathan Huberdeau to Barkov to Evgenii Dadonov for a tic-tac toe power play goal that made it 3-2 Panthers. That was the goal of the game.

Then, Brady Skjei skated in and fooled Florida backup Sam Montembeault with a backhand from a crummy angle to tie it again 49 seconds later. A scrap between Greg McKegg and Toninato led to an extra two for roughing on the Panthers forward. A real good power play followed with Tony DeAngelo and Strome combining to set up an open Kaapo Kakko, who wisely skated into space before firing home his fourth at 7:31. It came two minutes after the Skjei goal.

Less than a minute later, the mystifying play continued. The lack of Rangers defense allowed Frank Vatrano to sneak behind and receive a Dadonov pass for a breakaway goal. He went forehand deke and backhand shelf on Lundqvist. As good a move and finish as you can have. Vatrano flies under the radar on that team. He’s good.

At that point, maybe it was due to all the craziness of both the football game on the radio and what felt like the longest period of hockey I’ve ever watched. I turned it off and fell asleep. I just figured both the Giants and Rangers were losing. I knew it. I didn’t miss much.

Chris Kreider scored a power play goal by neatly deflecting in an Adam Fox point shot for a 5-4 lead late in the period. Panarin drew the other assist. That gave him two more points. Both helpers. He’s a point machine. It doesn’t matter who he plays with. That’s why I say keep him with Strome and Jesper Fast whenever Mika Zibanejad returns. Let Kakko and the underrated Brendan Lemieux work with Zibanejad. Lemieux had a tough day. He took two shots on nice diving blocks and was in pain. Also was on for a couple of goals against. The Brett Howden line struggled at even strength. Howden lost 11 of 15 draws.

Speaking of Mika, they insisted it wasn’t a concussion when Patrice Bergeron reverse hit him two weeks ago. Does anyone believe the Rangers? They lie about almost everything when it comes to injuries to players. The timeline is never what it seems. It’s kinda ridiculous. And the NHL allows it. They let teams pull this crap due to the UBI and LBI abbreviations that every fan and reporter knows. It’s complete crap. That’s all I’ll say on that.

In the third, I caught the highlight of old friend Brian Boyle’s goal that forced extras. His third was what else but a good redirection while parked in front of Lundqvist. Keith Yandle took the shot. Boyle did what he does best. A smart signing by the Cats. Boyle also destroyed the Rangers on face-offs going 14-for-17. How dominant was Florida on draws? They embarrassed the Blueshirts by winning a ridiculous 76 percent (41-and-13).

That cannot happen in any game. You lose that amount of face-offs and you’re usually going to lose in regulation. The Rangers got lucky. They faced a bad backup and took advantage to score five times on him. You score that many and you should win. The blame Lundqvist crowd will be out in full force. Go and look at the goals and the highlights. He wasn’t perfect. Neither was Georgiev against Ottawa. But it wasn’t the goalie.

I haven’t even looked at the shootout until now. Vincent Trocheck picked his spot after going in deliberately. He beat Lundqvist glove side with a good shot to win the skill competition in Round Three. Hank allowed two goals on three shots. If you want to criticize him, you can there. Especially against Montembeault.

That’s a game you should win. But until the defense plays better, this is what you’ll continue to get. A mixed bag. And by that, I don’t only mean the six defensemen which apparently were down to five due to Lindgren missing some shifts. But also the forwards.

Don’t believe me? Watch how the Islanders play under Barry Trotz. Nobody says anything about the assistant coach either there. Trotz gets all the credit. This is basically for the Fire Lindy Ruff crowd. Let’s say they do can him. It’s still a young defense. There will still be issues. Anyone who thinks otherwise is out of their mind.

The Rangers got the Pens on Tuesday at home followed by the Florida trip with stops in Tampa Thursday and Florida Saturday. They get a day between each game. That’s not bad. I wonder if Quinn will go back to Georgiev against the Pens. We’ll see.

AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy New York Rangers

Battle Of Hudson 3 🌟

3rd 🌟 Evgenii Dadonov, Panthers (1-2-3, +1 in 19:38)

2nd 🌟 Chris Kreider, Rangers (4th of season on PPG plus 🍎, +2 in 20:28)

1st 🌟 Aleksander Barkov, Panthers (5th of season plus 🍎 in 24:27, 11/15 on draws, 4 shots)

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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