Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rangers Inconsistency Continues In 4-1 Loss To Penguins

For much of the first half of the season the New York Rangers found ways to win games even when they did not play their best hockey for a 60 minute game.  Those results are not coming right now as the Penguins came into Madison Square Garden Thursday night and handed the Blueshirts their third loss in five games by a score of 4-1.  Evgeni Malkin led the way with two more goals to push his league leading point total to 54. 
Most surprising about the outcome of the game is the Rangers after struggling for much of the first period where they fell behind early on a Chris Kunitz goal, they dominated the second with Carl Hagelin netting the tying goal to send it to the final period even at 1-1.  The Rangers have dominated the final stanza much of the last two seasons, but tonight it was the Penguins beating the Rangers at their own game with three goals in the final 20 minutes to take the two points in the standings. 
Entering the third tied 1-1 the Penguins took the early advantage just 2:23 into the period when Richard Park scored the eventual game-winner.  The Rangers had all three forwards below the goal line, but Marc Staal still tried to pinch along the wall, leading to the Penguins breaking out for a 3-on-1 odd-man rush with Cooke, Engelland and Park leaving Lundqvist exposed.
Staal’s struggles in the third period continued when Evgeni Malkin took advantage of his turnover to stretch the Pens advantage to two.  Staal misplayed the puck along the wall by stepping out in front, walking around a sliding Michael Del Zotto and roofing a beautiful backhander under the bar to beat Lundqvist.  Malkin added the empty-netter with 1:40 left to give him 24 goals on the season and the Penguins the final 4-1 margin.
Hagelin’s goal in the second showed what the combination of speed between him and Marian Gaborik can provide the Rangers, if they stay together.  Ryan McDonagh fed the puck to Gaborik up the ice, where Gaborik flipped an area pass in front of the speedy Hagelin to skate into.  Hagelin collected the puck and fired on Marc-Andre Fleury watching the puck trickle through Fleury’s five-hole and over the goal line for the tie.
  • Bickel's fight in the first woke the team up, but this team has to be better early in games and it should not take him dropping the gloves to spark them.
  • Staal is clearly still a work in progress as he varies from showing signs of his former self and being a player who missed half the year and is looking for his game. Playing 24:58 tonight is certainly a step in the right direction for his conditioning, but he is still off in reading the play at times.
  • Hagelin is doing everything that the team can ask from him and then some.
  • Richards, Callahan, Gaborik and Dubinsky need to step up and lead this team offensively right now by putting some pucks in the back of the net.  Supporting players have been doing much of the work when the team actually scores.