Game #17: Lightning strikes for Rangers in humiliating fashion, Chytil and Panarin bright spots along with a point on Georgiev


Ondrej Palat celebrates his goal that made it 4-0 as the Rangers were embarrassed by the Lightning 9-3. AP Photo by Chris O’Meara via Getty Images courtesy Newsday

This one was ugly. If it were the old days in elementary school, the Rangers would get a ‘U’ for Unsatisfactory. Loose Translation: They got a lousy F in a uncompetitive mismatch that saw the Lightning do whatever they wanted in a 9-3 drubbing at Tampa.

They played without Kaapo Kakko, who had the flu. Jacob Trouba also left sometime in the second period with an “upper-body” injury. His status is uncertain for Florida.

It was embarrassing. If you thought the awful nightmare against the Bruins was bad, holy moly. It was over quick. Poor Alexandar Georgiev was hung out to dry. Prior to the game, I told Sean (@NYCTheMic) of BlueCollar Blueshirts not to take the Under. He believes Georgiev is the better goalie than Henrik Lundqvist. At this point, I’m inclined to agree.

However, I knew the Lightning would come out ready following their two game sweep of the fading Sabres. Don’t forget the 4-1 win the Blueshirts posted at home on them. A game they easily could’ve won by a lot more. I figured it would be an offensive mindset with plenty of open ice and a plethora of scoring chances. Boy, was I right.

It’s the way they lost that disappointed me. Almost as if they couldn’t be bothered to defend. I’m not going to say there was no compete from all 18 skaters. That wouldn’t be fair or accurate. Not everyone mailed it in. Structurally, they stunk. They knew it. I’m sure the blame Lindy Ruff crowd will pin it all on the unpopular assistant coach. Though I have no idea what he does to help David Quinn. So, you got me there.

Following a rare goal from known sniper Luke Schenn that Georgiev should’ve had, the first period took a turn for the worse. An undetected Alex Killorn elbow on Brendan Lemieux set the Rangers off course. What followed were some dubious calls including a Lemieux retaliation for a cross-check on Killorn along with a garbage slash on an irate Tony DeAngelo, handed a dangerous power play a full five-on-three.

It took that gnat Killorn all of five seconds to score on the first half of the man-advantage. Quinn was really upset at the bench. His mood didn’t improve much when Brady Skjei screened his own goalie to allow Nikita Kucherov to fire a bullseye off the far goalpost and in that increased the Bolts lead to 3-0 at 6:20. By then, Quinn told Lundqvist to get ready. He knew where this unmitigated disaster was headed.

Before he could even get loose, Ondrej Palat made it 4-0 only 22 seconds later. There was zero defensive coverage on this one. Adam Fox got burned by the speedy Palat. He took a Ryan McDonagh pass in the neutral zone and blew past a flatfooted Fox before blowing one by a shell shocked Georgiev to force him out of the net.

It happened that quickly. The Bolts got the first four goals within a 4:03 timespan. Only the Schenn goal was bad. The other three were a direct result of lousy penalty killing and poor defensive coverage. Joe Micheletti called them out on it after Georgiev was chased. It was hideous.

When Lundqvist relieved him, it didn’t get much better. Immediately, the Lightning went for the kill only to have the veteran make a couple of key saves. At the time, they were due to how early it still was in the game. What if the Rangers woke up and rallied?

As putrid as they were in getting outshot 16-5 including a lopsided 12-1 at one point, they did get one back courtesy of Chris Kreider on a mini break. Artemiy Panarin made the play possible by waiting patiently before finding a cutting Kreider, who was in on Andrei Vasilevskiy. He went to his signature move where he likes to deke and go backhand. However, as he made his move, Kreider lost control of the puck. Having been unlucky most of the first part of the season, he got a lucky break when it worked as a perfect decoy shot that fooled Vasilevskiy for his sixth of the season.

That made it 4-1. They did get a late power play on a actual call on Killorn for hooking with 1:20 left in the period. But like their first attempt which was too predictable, the Blueshirts didn’t get anything accomplished. Had they been able to score on it either at the conclusion of the first or start of the second, maybe it could’ve changed the complexion. Instead, they took the collar literally and figuratively.

They no showed most of an uncompetitive second period. Undisciplined penalties were the theme. Frustrated by the refs’ inconsistencies, they only hurt themselves on the scoreboard. A poor line change resulted in a bench minor. The worst penalty you can take when you’re getting your asses handed to you by a very skilled team that does a lot of damage on the power play.

It took all of 35 seconds for Victor Hedman to get the puck across to captain Steven Stamkos in his favorite spot for a one-time and a bang short side on a frozen Lundqvist. It was textbook passing by both Kucherov and Hedman for Stamkos, who’s money from that left circle like Alex Ovechkin.

All night long, there was too much space left for the talented Lightning to do what they wanted. The Rangers left way too many gaps. They may be able to score goals. But you cannot get into a track meet against Tampa. Even with Panarin still playing a good game in the blowout loss, it didn’t matter. With two assists, the Bread Man extended his point streak to a career high 10. During that hot stretch, he has four goals and 11 assists. In a awful game, Panarin somehow managed to go plus-three while setting up Kreider and one of two from Filip Chytil. That’s not an accident. It’s a credit to how hard he competes.

The Lightning continued to pour it on. They didn’t just do damage on the power play that destroyed the Rangers penalty kill by going a ridiculous 5-for-7. They also managed to get schooled at even strength on the next two Bolts goals. It was the Tampa fourth line that made it 6-1. On a Libor Hajek turnover and a blown assignment by Lias Andersson with way too much space between Skjei and Hajek, Kevin Shattenkirk got the puck over to a wide open Pat Maroon for a quick low snipe at the halfway mark.

Shattenkirk had himself a night against his former team. He wasn’t done. Less than four minutes later, Cedric Paquette and annoying pest Yanni Gourde got the puck over to him for a nice wrist shot and goal past Lundqvist for a 7-1 lead. On this one, Gourde moved around Brendan Smith and made a perfect feed for Shattenkirk’s fifth. With a goal and assist, he must feel like he went from Siberia to South Beach. Escaping New York for Tampa Bay is like going from the frigid November weather to nothing but sunny beaches and hot babes.

With frustration boiling over, Ryan Lindgren got into it with Tyler Johnson in front of Lundqvist. They went off for matching roughs. All hell broke loose when Lemieux was in tight on Vasilevskiy. He tried to stuff a backhand in, but the rating Vezina winner stoned him before being bumped into. To Lemieux’s credit, he did try to avoid him. But there was no way he could. What I didn’t like was Lemieux immediately dropping the gloves and catching McDonagh off guard with a couple of quick rights to the face before the ex-Ranger knew what hit him.

I understood Lemieux’s frustration. He’s a competitor and doesn’t half-ass it. He plays hard. But he could’ve shown some class by waiting for McDonagh to get his gloves off. McDonagh isn’t a fighter. So, it was dissatisfying. I wish it had been Killorn or Gourde. Two guys that acted like punks. Of course, the blind refs gave Lemieux an extra for goaltender interference.

Off a clean face-off win, Kucherov got the puck over to Stamkos for another rocket. Initially, it looked like his second goal with it seeming to tip off Lundqvist’s glove. However, as both Micheletti and Sam Rosen pointed out, Killorn somehow got his stick on it to put it in. The original Stamkos shot was going wide. That fourth power play goal took all of six seconds.

Judging from Lundqvist’s reaction, I got the feeling he’d ask out. Now, I don’t know for sure if he did. But sure enough, Georgiev returned for the start of the third period. I don’t care what the truth is behind that decision. I didn’t like it one bit. He was the backup tonight. But once Quinn went to him, our 37-year old veteran should’ve finished the game. It came off bad.

I’m really starting to wonder if Lundqvist is selfish. I don’t care what he did in 2012, ’14 or ’15. I don’t care about all the franchise records he has. All they do is make excuses for him. He doesn’t have to be here. He chose to be.

Seeing Georgiev forced back into the net bothered me. To the 23-year old netminder’s credit, he got back in and made some tough saves. That’s a good T-E-A-M guy. The only goal he allowed was to that fraud pansy Gourde, who again wouldn’t fight Lemieux. It was a fifth Tampa PPG. He caught Lindgren flat-footed and drove one far post and in.

Rather than focus on the Lundqvist story that MSG predictably ignored on their postgame with John Giannone, Steve Valiquette and Anson Carter, I want to praise Chytil for how he’s come back and played. A lot of young players get sent down and sulk after not making the roster. Instead, he went down to Hartford and played his butt off to finally get recalled when Mika Zibanejad went down to the mystery UBI.

All he’s done is score six times in eight games while looking like a totally different player. The best aspect is it’s at center. His natural position. He is in better position and making good reads and reactions due to a different confidence level. He put away his fifth goal early in the third by putting himself in the right spot to receive a good Hajek pass and fire home a beauty past Vasilevskiy that temporarily made it 8-2.

Following Gourde scoring on the man-advantage due to a Jesper Fast hi-sticking double minor, Chytil again was in the right spot to follow up a Buchnevich rebound for his second of the game. In a very bad game for the team, he wound up with two goals, won 7 of 12 draws and was plus-one in 15:08.

That tells me a lot about the kid’s character. He’s gonna be a good one. The chemistry he has with Buchnevich (team-leading 13 assists) is undeniable. I also like Kreider on that line. He’s starting to pick it up too. He nearly had his second of the game on a very good pass by DeAngelo. But he just missed. Definitely one he would want back. I also loved what he and Ryan Strome had to say in the postgame. Those are the only interviews I’m putting up.

Of course, it’s not even up on Rangers Twitter. What a waste. To summarize, Strome called it embarrassing and unacceptable. They hung both goalies out to dry and didn’t give themselves a chance. Kreider echoed similar thoughts along with them losing their structure and getting disconnected from how they have to play. That’s the best I can do.

No three stars. Unnecessary.

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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