It seems like the Rangers are not going to learn their lesson. After Ottawa generated a lot of chances on the power play in game one, the Rangers take three minor penalties in the opening 20 minutes. On one hand, the Senators are giving up golden chances on their own power play to the penalty killers. Ottawa really seems to go deep and sell out for the offense on their man advantage. Grabner and Fast burn them on the first one, with a 2 on 1 that Grabner finishes off. Fast has been outstanding in all facets of the game the entire postseason, and Grabner has been very dangerous in his own right. But, like clockwork, JT Miller takes a needless hooking penalty. Again the Rangers PK is on point (they are getting plenty of practice), but shortly after the Miller penalty ends, Chris Kreider is called for elbowing. The Rangers kill it off but have no momentum at 5v5 from killing so all those penalties. Dan Girardi tries to make a ridiculous, no look pass to Ryan McDonagh and is not even close to accurate. JG Pageau gets to the puck at full speed, flies down the right wing and fires a shot over Lundqvist’s shoulder. The shot was certainly stoppable and could be considered the first bad goal on Hank’s record this postseason. Before the period ends, Miller makes another blunder, with a bad giveaway at center ice that leads to an Ottawa chance. Miller, Kreider, Hayes and Stepan, again are awful. Miller and Hayes seem to want to stay on the perimeter and pass only. And there is zero offense being generated by Stepan and Kreider. After three Senators man advantages, it would seem the Rangers may have some of their own coming their way. But, , while the officiating was tight on calls against New York, they resisted making just as obvious calls against Ottawa in the first period.
As the play starts in the second, coach Alain Vigneault has made some line changes. Miller is now with Lindberg and Fast, and Zuccarello is with Mika Zibanajad and Kreider. Off a faceoff to Craig Anderson’s left, Miller feeds Oscar Lindberg for what looks like a tap-in. Anderson makes a big stop, though Lindberg did him a favor by shooting it back into him. The Rangers get a man advantage almost half way through the period. During the power play, Miller gets a golden opportuni and is robbed by Anderson’s glove hand. Miller is extremely frustrated, but it’s a good sign seeing him getting such chances. Just after the power play ends, Kreider fires a “just put it on net, good things will happen” shot that finds a way past a screened Anderson. Great sign to see Kreider finally get off the shneid. But shortly after the goal, the Rangers take another penalty. Maybe they think it will lead to some instant offense? Well, it does actually. The Senators are extremely loose while on the man advantage. Rick Nash and Derek Stepan take off on a 2v2. One of the defenders jetting back on defense was Derick Brassard, who we know was as soft as marshmallows on the backcheck. Big game Brass whiffs on Derek Stepan, and allows him to fire a high shot past Anderson. The Rangers though are playing with fire on this afternoon. Brady Skjei allows Mike Hoffman to blow by him and Henrik is forced into a big stop, but the rebound was knocked in by Marc Methot. The structure is shot to pieces. You feel like, at any time, any Ottawa player could blow by any Ranger. Brady Skjei did redeem himself by blasting home a PP goal through a Kreider screen. So the Blueshirts went into the third up 4-2.
The teams start the period 4v4. On a harmless looking faceoff to Lundqvist’s right, the Rangers on the ice do everything wrong. Stepan loses the draw cleanly, the puck goes to the point. The shot misses the net and rebounds right back in front off the lively boards. It goes past one Senator, who is behind Staal and Holden, who are somehow chasing the puck and not fronting the wide open forwards, and goes to a wide open Mark Stone. Stone fires it in to make it a 4-3 contest. The puck had eyes finding only Ottawa players, but every Rangers player did something wrong or failed to do their job. Then on a play that seemed destined to tie the game, Brendan Smith made a bad decision to pinch, and the Sens came in 3v1 on Brady Skjei, who made a sensational play to break up the pass. The puck was picked up and sped the other way by Smith on a 4 on 2. Smith dropped to a wide open Skjei, who toe-dragged and fired through a Grabner screen, and past Anderson. Think the two goal lead is safe? Think again. Mistakes and loose play are rampant. But time is ticking away, as it remains 5-3 with four minutes left. Then the lack of urgency the Rangers have exhibited, reared its’ ugly head when Ottawa made it 5-4. They ran around their zone clueless, losing every battle. The puck finding wide open Senators players until a shot from the point drastically changed direction off Pageau’s stick, and into the net. McDonagh, this time, was guilty of weak coverage on the goal scorer. The Rangers are fragile and very indecisive and resort to icing the puck repeatedly. Their luck runs out when Kevin Hayes breaks his stick, the puck zipped around the zone from one Senator to another. Karlsson gets it to Turris, who one-times it. Pageau, completely unchecked in front, deflects it by a stunned Lundqvist. Blown assignments, bad luck, and a total lack of smarts and urgency; all ingredients to a blown two-goal lead in less than three minutes.
The Rangers control play for the most part, but do not inspire any confidence with the type of chances they are getting. And the chances they are giving up are downright scary. The Rangers get an early power play, but show zero urgency and basically kill it off themselves. Alain Vigneault is not playing Lindberg, Vesey, and Buchnevich up front, and Brendan Smith and Skjei are barely playing on the back end.
Well, mercifully this ends quickly after a horrendous choice by Nick Holden to pinch in the offensive zone. That man again, Pageau, is racing down the left wing on a 2 on 1. He has the golden stick in this one and never thinks of passing. He fires a shot over Lundqvist’s glove to end the game. Hank was not as good as he had been over the previous seven playoff games. He seemed to be off-balance and out of sorts all game. The Rangers structure was inept, to say the least. They are making coverage mistakes that are inexcusable at this time of year. Kevin Hayes and JT Miller are barely noticeable and are being outplayed by inferior players. Buchnevich seems overmatched. A lot has to turn around for the Rangers to get back into the series.