For half of regulation, the first 10 minutes of the game and the third period, the Rangers exercised their will and created quality chances with their speed game. The 30 minutes between saw them pinned too often in their end while failing to generate.
In the end they had a chance Friday night at the Garden but fell in a shootout, 4-3, and their home losing streak was extended to six games, two coming in the skills competition.
“I think it gets in guys’ heads when the streak goes on like this,” Rick Nash said. “The one thing that always comes to me is when we’re simple on the road. We get the forecheck, two guys around the puck, we play direct, play off the goalie’s pads. I think at home — eight shots after half a game, I think we just try to be too cute.”
If it has become a mental issue for the Rangers at the Garden, they have four games left at home to try to play that simpler game and feel good about themselves on their own ice before the postseason begins.
The Rangers (44-25-2) managed to break through their lull in the third, when they had 15 shots. Mats Zuccarello scored the second of his two goals with 8:15 left in regulation to tie the game 3-3 off a feed from Brendan Smith, the trade-deadline acquisition who earned his first two points as a Ranger, both assists.
They led 2-0 after a dominant start, similar to their opening against the Lightning on Monday before that game went south. Zuccarello scored on a power-play and J.T. Miller had a shot trickle through James Reimer’s legs. Jonathan Huberdeau and Jussi Jokinen tied it for Florida in the second.
Jokinen’s power-play goal came after a terrible interference call by an official on Brady Skjei, and the officiating only got worse as Alex Petrovic wasn’t penalized extra for punching Nash in the head after a whistle with 3:30 left in the third. Miller went after Petrovic after the cheap shot and the two got matching roughing penalties.
“Do I have to sell it?” wondered Nash, who took an extra swing at a loose puck before the whistle was blown.
“He took a punch right to the face,” Alain Vigneault said. “You’d expect a player with that stature to get the benefit of the doubt.”
Nash has only four goals in his last 26 games but has been working hard to get to the front of the net and create chances. He is often playing well but the goals aren’t coming.
“Really frustrating,” Nash said. “Tonight was a tough night, but I feel like my game’s there; I feel like my skating’s there. I feel like I’m around the net; I feel like I’m going to the net and playing on the inside. It’s one of those things where you feel like you should be getting rewarded a bit more, but that’s the game and we’ve got to battle through things like this.”
Published at Sat, 18 Mar 2017 03:26:30 +0000