Heading into their match against the Montreal Canadiens, the Rangers had already lost their previous four games, allowing 13 goals in just their last two. And with news that Rick Nash and Micheal Grabner would sit (so they wouldn’t get hurt before being traded), there wasn’t a lot to expect from the club. The Rangers’ playoff hopes were killed a while ago and they entered into the game missing a lot of key members of the team. What could you expect when you ice a lineup like this?
And yet, the Rangers put worth an absolutely atrocious performance against the 28th best team in the league. If there’s one thing that summarizes the game nicely, it’s the total shots for each team near the end of the second period. At one point, the Canadiens had 31 shots on goal while the Rangers had 11. Only 11.
Thomas Plekanec scored the first goal for the Canadiens, as Rob O’Gara lost his man and allowed a pass from Paul Byron to go right across the crease to a wide open Plekanec. The second goal was more of the same, as Jeff Petry was able to tap the puck into the open net on the three on one. J.T. Miller had stepped up for a big hit in the neutral zone but left Brady Skjei all by himself to defend the three Canadien players coming down on the rush.
Overall, it was a horrendous game for the Blueshirts (and a terrible game to watch). By far one of the biggest issues of the night was defensive coverage and allowing chances in the defensive zone. Besides both goals coming off poor defensive play, there were countless times throughout the game that the Canadiens were able to find giant open spaces in the offensive zone and get chances directly in front of the net. There were way too many breakaways and odd man rushes by the Canadiens, forcing Alexandar Georgiev to make a lot of high-quality stops and bail out the team. There were several breakaways and countless mistakes in attempting to get the puck out of the zone. For long stretches of time the Canadiens controlled the puck in the Rangers’ end and hammered them with shot attempts.
On the other side of the puck, the Rangers had absolutely no offense through the first two periods. They couldn’t sustain any pressure and failed to gain the zone with control, dumping the puck down the ice only to see the Canadiens retrieve it seconds later and bring it back. There was also the fact that the Rangers took five minor penalties and didn’t play with a lot of discipline throughout the first two periods.
But the game wasn’t without its positives (even if there were just a few). Towards the final five to 10 minutes in the third, the Rangers finally came to life with some offense. Pavel Buchnevich was one of the few Rangers players who was creating some offense the entire night and he had a lot of good plays, setting up Miller with a good opportunity on the power play in the third. Miller also had a gorgeous breakaway chance where he dangled around a Montreal defender and almost slid the puck past Antti Niemi.
Finally, Georgiev had a fantastic night, stopping 38 out of 40 shots for a .950 save percentage. The Canadiens could have easily had four or more goals if Georgiev wasn’t standing on his head. The Canadiens flooded the area right in front of him and pounded him with shot after shot but he held strong, making a lot of saves look very easy. He did allow two goals but there was nothing he could have done to prevent either of them.
The Rangers are set to play again on Friday, February 22nd. They’ll be going against the Minnesota Wild and will be trying to break their now five-game losing streak.
MONTREAL — The Rangers are now choosing precaution over competitiveness.
In doing so, they kept healthy Rick Nash and Michael Grabner out of the lineup for the team’s 3-1 loss to the Canadiens on Thursday night at Bell Centre. The two forwards are more than likely to be traded before Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline, but nothing was imminent in the lead-up to game time.
The Rangers (27-29-5) came in having lost four in a row and eight of the past 10, while management announced on Feb. 8 that they were going to sell assets with an eye to the future. Their depleted lineup also had goalie Alexandar Georgiev making his NHL debut.
The Canadiens (23-29-8) weren’t in much better shape, also in sell mode and announcing Thursday that starting goalie Carey Price has a concussion, therefore putting backup Antti Niemi in nets.
The third period started with the Rangers down, 2-0, but they got a late bolt of life when Kevin Hayes got a power-play goal, a review showing that he kicked it and then it hit his stick on the way in, making it 2-1 with 3:00 minutes remaining in regulation.
But with Georgiev on the bench for the extra attacker in final two minutes, Phillip Danault scored an empty-netter to make it 3-1 and essentially end the game.
The Habs had held the play for most of the first 40 minutes, starting with a goal from Tomas Plekanec at 6:59 of the first period. That came when another new Ranger, defenseman Rob O’Gara — recently obtained in a trade with the Bruins and playing his first game for the Blueshirts — left Plekanec wide open on the back post.
Montreal doubled the lead at 3:50 of the second when the Rangers had a poor line change and poor rush coverage, allowing Jeff Petry to easily finish a cross-ice pass, giving his team a 2-0 lead going into the third period.
The New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens meet at the Bell Centre on Thursday in a battle of two teams playing out disappointing seasons and waiting to see what other changes are looming before the NHL trade deadline Monday at 3 p.m.
The Rangers (27-28-5), an Eastern Conference contender for the last few years, made it clear Feb. 8 they were shifting into a rebuild mode and shipped out defenseman Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for defenseman Rob O’Gara and a 2018 third-round draft pick Tuesday.
Rangers forwards Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and David Desharnais, who are all on expiring contracts, could be playing their last game for the Blueshirts.
“It’s tough to really express what’s going on right now,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault told the New York Post on Wednesday. “This is a little awkward, in the sense that we came out and we said it. A lot of times teams do it but don’t say it. So it makes it a little bit more challenging as far as team dynamics.”
Rangers president Glen Sather and general manager Jeff Gorton had a press conference Feb. 8 and announced to the New York faithful the goal had shifted to the long term and away from trying to save this season. The Rangers have lost four in a row in regulation and given up 19 goals in those games heading into their game against the Canadiens.
The Rangers will be getting some help against the Canadiens. Veteran defenseman Marc Staal will return. He has been out since Feb. 3 when he sustained a cervical strain, missing eight games.
“It’s been hard to watch. We haven’t had very much success so it’s not easy to sit there and not be in the room with the guys,” Staal told the team’s website. “I’m glad to be back in and get some good feeling in the room, knock out a couple of wins and go from there.”
The Canadiens goaltending situation is up in the air heading into the game against the Rangers. Montreal goaltender Carey Price will not play, according to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, after Price was hit in the head with a shot by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere during the Canadiens 3-2 loss in overtime Tuesday.
Price appeared stunned after the puck deflected off the right side of his head, but he stayed in the game.
The Canadiens (22-29-8) called up goaltender Charlie Lindgren from their AHL farm team in Laval. Lindgren, 24, is 3-4-1 with a .924 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average for The Rocket this season.
It’s not known if Lindgren or Antti Niemi will start against the Rangers.
The Canadiens also called up defenseman Noah Juulsen from Laval after the Habs traded defenseman Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round draft pick in 2019 on Wednesday.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien said defenseman Shea Weber, who has been out for two months with a left foot injury, was to see a specialist Wednesday.
The Canadiens will be looking to put all the injury and trade distractions to the side and end a six-game winless streak.
“Everybody comes to work and everybody comes to try and get better,” Canadiens defenseman Joe Morrow told montrealcanadiens.com. “That’s just kind of the main mindset of people, is that you individually come in and try to progress in your hockey career and try to progress this team and enjoy the time you have here together. That’s all you can do.”
Said Julien: “They’re frustrated, but they’re still working hard and I think they still have the right attitude to try and improve things. When you see that from your players, it shows their character. We’re still hungry even if the losses might not show it. The guys are competing hard.”