NYR 1, TBL 0 (OT) - Tougher Rangers Win Ugly

NYR 1, TBL 0 (OT)
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Call it grit. Call it sandpaper. Call it chutzpah. No matter the name, the Rangers (84 points), losers in three of four, haven’t had it. On Monday night against the Lightning (68 points) with much-maligned Tanner Glass in the lineup for the first time this year, New York had more of an edge to their game, but the offense continued to sputter as the Rangers edged out a gutsy but disjointed 1-0 OT win.

In was an ugly first two periods with neither team scoring. While Andrei Vasilevsky was Tampa’s best player in the first period, Antti Raanta bailed the Rangers out in the second with a strong 16-save performance. Both teams generated a handful of good chances through two, but neither was able to get many second chances, deflections, or screened shots on net for grade-A scoring opportunities.

Despite their NHL-leading 78 third-period goals, the legless Rangers looked tired in the final 20:00. They mustered no offense and were outplayed in a lifeless final regulation frame. The Lightning owned a 12-8 shot advantage in the period but Raanta, who finished with 38 saves total, was strong if unspectacular to get the game to overtime.

Mika Zibanejad, who has just two goals in his last 20 games has made the most of them. His last goal came in overtime against the Devils and, tonight, his ninth of the year came on a breakaway with just over one minute remaining.


Physicality aside, the Blueshirts’ biggest problem remained their inability to score goals. As Phil Kocher wrote about this week, the offense has gone cold. That has materialized not just on the scoreboard, but in New York’s skaters having slow trigger fingers. Case in point:

Both on paper and in practice this year, the Rangers’ center depth has been a key to their success. When healthy, Zibanejad, Derek Stepan, and the resurgent Kevin Hayes have spurred New York’s deep attack. But with the offense struggling, their production has plummeted to absurdly low rates. Through their last combined 51 games after tonight, the three have totaled just two goals.

Glass, playing in is 501st NHL game, had a tough but irrelevant fight in the first but only played 5:17 overall. His presence, meant to give the Rangers a jolt of life, failed to stop them from getting pinned in their own zone for long periods or help them put the puck in the night. It’s easy to like Alain Vigneault trying to mix things up after calling his team out last week (he also benched Adam Clendening), but giving Glass the nod hardly seemed the right move.

Overall, there won’t be complaints about New York’s engagement level or effort, but the speed and skill didn’t come along for the ride. By and large, the Rangers skaters looked lethargic and they aren’t playing with much confidence. And, despite the score, this was not a goaltending duel as much as it was two offenses struggling in a flat contest. It’s a good two points for the Rangers and Raanta’s shutout is noteworthy, but this type of play won’t aid in any postseason success.

The Rangers have no time to find their game, as they visit the Panthers tomorrow night in their first of four back-to-backs in March.

Notes: This was Derek Stepan’s 500th NHL game; Raanta is now 9-1-0 on the road this season; The Rangers were 0-3 on the power play and are 1-36 in the last 14 games; The Rangers were 6-6 on the penalty kill; Steven Kampfer played just 8:40 in his second game with the Rangers; Raanta got his third shutout of the year; Rick Nash had a game-high eight shots on goal.

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