Telling quote from Gallant following third period debacle leaves more questions than answers for fragile Rangers

The Rangers lost a game today to the Oilers 4-3 at MSG. It’s the way they lost that drew plenty of boos from the capacity crowd and criticism ln social media circles.

Blowing a three-goal lead after two periods on home ice is inexcusable. The fashion in which they did was mind-numbing. Even in a game they got screwed out of a goal (Braden Schneider goal overturned on a very tacky incidental contact on Ryan Carpenter via a coach’s challenge) and lost Ryan Lindgren to a possible concussion, there’s no way they should’ve lost this game.

But here we are. After somehow losing to the basement dwelling Ducks in a game that had several goalposts and John Gibson having his one huge outing while Jaroslav Halak stunk, they found a new way to lose a game.

Despite a better showing from Artemi Panarin, who also had a power play goal wiped out by an offsides challenge (apparently the Oilers’ coaching staff paid attention) along with a host of other key players, it wasn’t enough to prevent a third period collapse on home ice.

An early goal from Alexis Lafreniere off an Adam Fox set up was a good way to start the afternoon. It ended an 11-game drought. The 21-year old left wing is one of those young players who must find more consistency.

With Gerard Gallant continuing to keep the First Round Pick Line together, they should be able to contribute more offense. Especially if he’s going to increase their shifts at even strength. Hopefully, that’ll bode well for Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.

When they got consecutive five-on-five goals from Chris Kreider and the suddenly emerging Julien Gauthier late in a second period where Igor Shesterkin made some big saves, it looked like they’d win comfortably. However, nothing comes easy for the ’22-23 New York Rangers.

Having already blown a two-goal lead to the Islanders in an ugly regulation loss at The Garden, this one was even worse. While it is the Oilers, they got support from other players not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. They don’t win often when their dynamic duo doesn’t dominate.

Instead of finishing the game off, the more passive Blueshirts let the Oilers hang around. Evan Bouchard scored twice over a 2:52 span to swing the momentum. The first one was a good high shot with a player screening Shesterkin in front. He never saw it.

It came just after a K’Andre Miller penalty expired. His second came due to a bad turnover from Libor Hajek. He lost a battle behind the net which allowed the Oilers to pull within one.

Before you could look, Jacob Trouba had another sloppy turnover that led to rookie Dylan Holloway scoring his first NHL goal. A Rangers tradition. With Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow changing in front of the bench, a rushed Trouba pass missed both. Instead, Ryan McLeod made a lead pass for Holloway, who moved around Trouba to beat Shesterkin short side to suddenly tie the score with 9:39 remaining.

It was the only goal Shesterkin should’ve had. However, it’s hard to fault him. He bailed their asses out in the second with 15 saves when the Oilers most dangerous stars created opportunities. Of course, he’d want that tying goal back. It wasn’t a good period for the Rangers’ franchise goalie. But he was blameless on three of the four goals Edmonton scored on just eight shots.

This was a team effort. After Lindgren left the game following an awkward collision with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that likely sent him into concussion protocol, they fell apart. Down to five defensemen, that forced Gallant to rework his pairings. It still isn’t a good enough excuse to lose a game you once had a three-goal lead in.

The coach came under fire for not calling a timeout after Holloway tied it. His team could’ve used a breather to regroup. Perhaps even halted the Oilers’ momentum. Not Turk.

Instead, he watched as a Lafreniere minor penalty resulted in Draisaitl finishing off a nice passing play from Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid to give Edmonton the lead with 2:02 left in regulation. A play where Kreider was late covering Draisaitl on an easy backdoor go-ahead goal.

Of course, they didn’t tie it. That’s who they are right now. A fragile team that lacks confidence. Something Mika Zibanejad alluded to in a postgame interview in the locker room. He was one of a few players who felt they sat back too much. It cost them. While the guys on the ice are accountable, what about the coach? He didn’t take any responsibility.

So, let’s get this straight. He can’t explain how his team blew a three-goal lead when they had the last change in front of a sellout crowd. He has no answers. Only to put it all on the players. The same core he rode to within two games of playing for the Stanley Cup. I’m sure that quote will go over well.

Is Gallant kidding? He is behind the bench. This isn’t the first time his team not only let a lead in the third period slip up. But they didn’t even get a point. This was as bad a defeat as he’s had coaching the Rangers.

It’s Year Two. You can’t just take no responsibility for what happens in these games. Maybe that’s why Turk has worn out his welcome in other stops. When you have half the fan base already sick of his act this early into the second season, you know how much is expected.

Why should we care if he uses Vincent Trocheck as a checking center between Goodrow and Vesey. It was his brilliant decision to do so. They wound up minus-eight for the game. Though neither Goodrow or Vesey were culpable on the Oilers’ third goal. That was on Trouba, who now is minus-six with only five assists in his first year as captain. The mistakes are piling up. He must be much better.

If they are without Lindgren for any significant time, that isn’t reassuring. The glue of the defense who makes a huge difference as he proved last Spring in providing the warrior-like mentality for the first round comeback against the Pens. Without him, the Rangers haven’t fared well historically.

Whatever the news is on Lindgren, they’ll likely be without him for the first big match-up against the rival Devils on Monday. A first place team that entered Saturday with only four losses in 21 games. They’re much improved under Lindy Ruff, who was once a punchline. No more.

They’re a very fast team that plays well defensively. They are more explosive too. In other words, the Rangers better get it together for Monday’s showdown at MSG. They seem to fare better away from the World’s Most Expensive Arena. That won’t please customers. They deserve better than this circus.

It starts at the top. Maybe it’s time for Gallant to become more accountable before he loses the room. Time is ticking.


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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