Nothing good about latest frustrating loss to Kraken for Shesterkin, Rangers

When you lose the way the Rangers did last night to the Kraken 3-2 in overtime, it’s frustrating. The 71-second postgame interview Chris Kreider gave at his locker indicated that disappointment.

He spoke of how they get away from what they’re doing in the first period. Second periods have been a problem. After controlling most of the play in a strong first where they held a 14-6 edge in shots even though they came out only tied thanks to Mika Zibanejad’s league-leading seventh power play goal which tied Connor McDavid, a lethargic second period saw the Kraken storm Igor Shesterkin’s net for 16 shots. They out-shot the Rangers 16-5.

If not for some brilliance from Shesterkin during the Kraken onslaught, the Rangers lose the game in regulation. He made some great saves to give them a chance. That included stoning Morgan Geekie and Daniel Sprong in succession on a break ins.

Both got open behind poor Rangers defense. Geekie’s opportunity followed Alexis Lafreniere getting taken off the puck inside the Kraken zone. All Shesterkin did was make the big glove save. Then, a quick up for Sprong as the Rangers were changing allowed him to break in and fire a pea at Shesterkin who again snapped it away to keep the game tied.

After facing only six shots in the first, Shesterkin was at his best turning away all 16 Kraken shots in a hectic middle stanza. How bad were the Rangers? They looked sleepless in Seattle. They were penalized three times during the nightmare period. That included a bench minor and two offensive zone minors on Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin.

Fortunately, the penalty kill was the only team strength. They easily killed all three Seattle power plays. In fact, it was the very aggressive Blueshirts who created the better opportunities shorthanded. The best came when Kreider quickly skated into the Kraken zone and had his wrist shot clang off the far goalpost. That close to stealing the lead.

The penalty kill certainly gave them a lift. Why they couldn’t pick it up at full strength was puzzling. With the exception of a Lafreniere lead pass that sent Kaapo Kakko in on Jones where the rejuvenated journeyman stuck out the right pad to rob him of a goal, the Rangers did nothing at five-on-five.

As for Kakko, he made a strong move going forehand deke, but got beat by Jones. That’s how it goes for Kakko, who despite overall improvement remains stuck with three goals in his fourth season. He has seven points in 18 games. So does Lafreniere, who looks to have lost his confidence. How else do you explain the two goals and few shots he gets in Year Three. He was a number one overall pick.

Both Kakko and Lafreniere must improve their production for the team to be successful. It can’t keep being the same five or six top players. At least Filip Chytil has shown signs. He didn’t have a particularly strong night. He was caught on for all three Kraken goals against including Schultz’ winner with 1:21 left in overtime.

If not for the top power play which basically is coach Gerard Gallant’s recipe for most of the offense, they get shutout by Jones. A goalie who not long ago looked done. The former Sharks netminder has been rejuvenated this season. He made 28 saves on 30 shots to improve to 8-4-2 with a 2.34 GAA and .912 save percentage. Jones was the backup behind currently injured starter Philipp Grubauer.

The game didn’t start off well. The Kraken struck first less than three minutes in. Jared McCann had a Will Borgen point shot deflect off him by Shesterkin to put them ahead. Jordan Eberle set up the play.

In a period where they controlled most of the play, Jones made some good stops to keep the home side ahead. It wasn’t until Barclay Goodrow drew a second power play on Brandon Tanev (hooking) that the Rangers vaunted top unit was able to get even.

Earlier in the period, an uninspired two-minutes by the five-man unit of Trocheck, Mika Zibanejad, Kreider, Adam Fox and Trocheck only lead to one shot. A late set up for Zibanejad that didn’t get past Jones. If they’re going to play for two straight minutes, there needs to be more urgency. An issue that has plagued the team so far.

At least on the second power play, they moved the puck around well until a Trocheck soccer style pass for Kreider allowed him to slip the puck just by Adam Larsson for a Zibanejad finish into an open side for his team-leading 10th at 14:58. All five players touched the puck. Fox started it with a pass to Panarin. He then tried for a Trocheck redirect which he was able to kick towards Kreider, who set up the Zibanejad tying goal.

The second was a nightmare. Right away, Lafreniere was checked off the puck leading to a great chance for Geekie. But Shesterkin denied his bid. Then in came Sprong on a horrible broken coverage. But Shesterkin reached back to make the glove save.

When the Kraken weren’t peppering Shesterkin, they were on the power play due to undisciplined play from the Blueshirts. Whether it be too many men which Sammy Blais served, or a ridiculous trip Trocheck had on Matty Beniers, or even the lazy Panarin takedown of Yanni Gourde, it was ugly.

At least the penalty killing unit got it done. They went 4-for-4 only allowing three Kraken power play shots while attacking shorthanded. Kreider came close with a speed burst up the left wing. But his wrist shot drew iron. There were other looks due to Seattle sloppiness. On one, Vince Dunn recovered to break it up.

After getting out-shot 16-5, the Rangers blew a power play after Carson Soucy elbowed Fox in the offensive zone. A ridiculous penalty. But the first unit could do nothing. Believe it or not, the little used second unit came out for a rare shift. A Kakko retrieval up to Jacob Trouba over for a Lafreniere shot on Jones that he stopped. For some reason, he wasn’t credited with a shot. Jones made a good save too due to traffic.

Following a successful kill, the Kraken got into the Rangers zone and went to work. Andre Burakovsky and Jaden Schwartz combined to move the puck up top for Schultz. His point shot took a favorable bounce off of Braden Schneider to put Seattle back ahead 2-1 with 10:33 remaining.

There were a couple of scary moments during the game for Libor Hajek. Playing for a sixth consecutive game for Zac Jones, he twice let Kraken players get to the net where Shesterkin had to make tough saves. Hajek was better in the third, making a few subtle defensive plays. He was okay paired up with Schneider.

The question is when will Jones get back in. It seems like he’s been the scapegoat for one mistake. Not a lot of trust from the coaching staff. What would you expect when Lafreniere looks lost and Kakko had less than 13 minutes of ice time on Thursday? Chytil also had similar even though it wasn’t his best game.

A Zibanejad bad tripping minor in the offensive zone nearly cost the Rangers a point. Beniers hit his second goalpost when his shot rang off the crossbar. Fortunately, it didn’t go in. Otherwise, that lazy penalty with 7:19 left would’ve been more discussed. Especially from the top forward this team has.

Although he didn’t play a lot, Julien Gauthier made the most of his 10 shifts (7:09). As usual, his hustle lead to another bad penalty from Soucy. When Gauthier drove towards the Seattle net, Soucy hooked him to hand the Rangers their fourth power play with 2:56 remaining.

This was it. Do or die. After Jones made one good save on a tricky shot, finally the Rangers showed some urgency. Rather than handle the puck like a grenade with extra passes, they were simplistic. Fox took a low wrist shot with Trocheck in the vicinity and Goodrow in front. Trocheck found a loose puck and banged it in for a huge tying power play goal with 1:54 left. Of his six goals, four have come on the power play.

Goodrow was the extra attacker after Gallant finally lifted Shesterkin for a six-on-four. He picked up a secondary helper and was the net front presence on Trocheck’s goal that forced overtime.

In OT, there was a baffling decision by Gallant that had people talking. He had Goodrow with Jimmy Vesey and Trouba for a three-on-three shift. If the point was to have Goodrow win a face-off and Trouba deliver a check, fine. But why is Vesey being overused? Why is he getting more minutes (15:38) than Chytil, Kakko or Lafreniere? Even the Devils didn’t use him like that last year.

Luckily, Gallant got away with it. At the last split second on a Kraken rush, Vesey recovered. It definitely raised some eyebrows. Vesey has worked hard and been a solid penalty killer with a shorthanded goal. But he’s playing out of place on the top line. This is where they are. Until Vitaly Kravtsov gets back from his latest issue (toothache), there isn’t much balance. Playing both Vesey and Goodrow in the top six isn’t exciting anyone.

It’s kind of sad that Gauthier gets so little time despite busting his ass every shift. They talk up Blais and he barely plays. That Pavel Buchnevich trade just looks worse and worse. But Andrew Copp was here for a run. The salary cap error doesn’t help. But Chris Drury no longer looks like a genius when you think about the OFF-season he had.

The overtime goal Seattle scored was every bit to do with how putrid Panarin and Miller are. After Eberle went around Panarin, he wasted Miller to force Shesterkin into a tough save. The loose puck bounced to Schultz, who fired a shot from an angle that just beat an incensed Shesterkin short side for the winner at 3:39.

While it’s easy to say he should have had it, maybe if Miller stayed on his feet and didn’t screen his own goalie, Shesterkin makes the save. Miller continues to log big minutes (24:35). But his inconsistent defensive play remains an issue. He was minus-two in the game.

Partner Trouba played much better finishing even with three shots, five attempts, four hits and two blocked shots over 21:36. His game is coming back. The same cannot be echoed for Miller, who’s never held accountable. Why shouldn’t he sit out a game for Jones? They are afraid to do it due to the negative PR.

They only got the point due to Shesterkin and the top unit connecting late. Once again, they couldn’t score at even strength finishing 0 for 22 shots. The Kraken managed to get 3 on 29 to earn their ninth win. They’re much improved. The same cannot be echoed for the Blueshirts, who are going backwards.

It is very frustrating to watch them. The over passing and turnovers combined with lazy penalties are hard on the eyes. At least the power play did their part. So did Shesterkin, who finished with 29 saves on 32 shots. He showed his frustration by banging the wall near the locker room. Gotta be careful. They can’t afford to lose him for a stretch.

Next up are the Sharks late tomorrow night at 10:30 EST. They don’t win a lot. But Erik Karlsson continues his return to elite status. His goal and three assists came in a 7-4 loss to the Red Wings last night. He’s up to 11 goals and 28 points which pace all defensemen. The 28 points are now tied for second in scoring with Leon Draisaitl behind league leader Connor McDavid.

The Rangers already lost once to the Sharks. It was some Karlsson overtime magic that gave David Quinn his first win over his former team at MSG. Another example of a lost point. They need two points on Saturday. The competition picks up out West with the Kings next Tuesday.


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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