SO MUCH talk from the Rangers heading into February was centered on improving their play at the Garden, when at the time they had lost five of their last six at home. They then swept a four-game home stand against Western Conference opposition and added a victory against the Capitals to make it five straight home wins. The Broadway Blueshirts appeared back on track in familiar territory.
Only now things have turned south again at MSG, their 3-2 home loss to the Lightning on Monday night after a successful road trip giving them five consecutive Garden defeats, including four straight in regulation. The Rangers (44-24-2) are 19-15-2 at home.
This one happened after a dominant first period in which the Rangers outshot Tampa Bay (33-26-9) 13-3, but the period finished tied 1-1 as less than two minutes after Steven Kampfer scored his first goal as a Ranger, Brayden Point leveled it with a power-play goal. Point went on to score the winner with 6:39 left in the third, splitting Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal, both of whom had just hopped over the boards, to tip in a feed into the slot from Ondrej Palat.
“It’d be nice,” Staal said of capitalizing more early when they should have. “Especially at home if you can grab that momentum and carry it and try to bury a team, you want to do that. Their goalie (Peter Budaj) made some big saves, they weren’t giving us all that much.
“Got to figure out a way to do it at home here.”
Who knows how differently things would’ve turned out if Chris Kreider could’ve scored on a breakaway just 43 seconds into the game. He went backhand and Budaj came up with the huge left-pad save.
McDonagh took responsibility for Point’s winner.
“I came on for a late change and didn’t have a lot of speed, but I’ve got to take the most important guy there and that’s the guy driving to the net,” he said. “I didn’t get a good position on him and he was able to have his stick free and get a piece of that shot, so it’s one mistake for me that I wish I had back.”
Michael Grabner tied it midway through the second with his team-high 27th goal after Gabriel Dumont’s goal. The Rangers fell to 9-3 in the second game of back-to-backs after their game slipped over the final two periods.
“With the pace that we had carried in the first period, we should’ve been able to do that and make the same plays in the second and the third, which our guys didn’t do,” Alain Vigneault said. “It obviously wasn’t good enough.”
GIRARDI ON MEND: Dan Girardi’s Monday meeting with a specialist to have the wound on his right ankle examined went well, and weather permitting he’s expected to resume skating today, per Vigneault, who expects Jesper Fast (upper body) to take part in the team’s Thursday practice.
Published at Tue, 14 Mar 2017 03:28:02 +0000