In this afternoon’s showdown in Ottawa, the Rangers looked more like the team that entered with the third fewest points in the league, than the one that began the game just five points out of a playoff spot. The Blueshirts struggled again in this one, as they looked very sloppy, and seemed to be chasing the game all afternoon. Surrendering a goal just 1:03 into the game on Ottawa’s first shot-on-goal, the Rangers extended their streak, now yielding a goal within the first five minutes of their last four games. The Sens’ early tally also marked the 23rd time this season that the Rangers have allowed their opponent to find the back of the net in the first 2 minutes of a period. On this goal, Tony DeAngelo, David, Desharnais, and Nick Holden endured a three-way miscommunication, which left plenty of room for Mark Stone to sneak between the circles, and find twine on a blistering one-time slap-shot. As usual, Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t liable, but he continues to look a little shaky early-on in games.
With less than eight minutes left in the first period, the Sens would add to their lead. Matt Duchene out-battled John Gilmour on the side-boards, and sent a pass over to the always dangerous Erik Karlsson. Karlsson then found his defense-partner, Johnny Oduya, as he was streaking through the back door into the Rangers’ zone, where he easily potted it top-shelf into the gaping net. The defensive mishaps on this one were aplenty, as just about everyone seemed to be out of position. The Rangers would respond late in the frame, as Michael Grabner tapped home the juicy rebound from Ryan Sproul’s point shot. Grabner’s tally was his 24th of the season, and it also was Ryan Sproul’s first point as a New York Ranger. At the end of the first period, the Blueshirts only trailed by a score of 2-1.
— NHL (@NHL) February 17, 2018
The second period was not dissimilar to the first, as the Sens started off the scoring with Matt Duchene’s 15th goal of the campaign, coming just over halfway through the period. Minutes later the Rangers would answer again, as former-Senator, Mika Zibanejad, narrowed the deficit with a tally of his own. Johnny Oduya’s delay of game penalty sent the Rangers to the man-advantage, where Mats Zuccarello’s breakout pass would be deflected and take a fortuitous bounce to the stick of Zibanejad, who capitalized, beating Craig Anderson with a great breakaway-effort. However, the Senators weren’t done, as Derick Brassard was able to gain position in front of the Rangers’ net, and redirect Matt Borowiecki’s pass past Lundqvist, to extend Ottawa’s lead to 4-2. The second frame ended with Ottawa winning the period 2-1, just as they did in the first period.
Split 'em and go. 💨 pic.twitter.com/MukFJGWQY0
— NHL (@NHL) February 17, 2018
A careless start to the tilt, put the Rangers in position for another pivotal third period if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive. Again they failed to execute. Thomas Chabot struck first in the period, increasing the Senators’ lead to three, and resulting in yet another ax for Henrik Lundqvist, as he exited the game following Ottawa’s fifth goal. Replacing Lundqvist, was Brandon Halverson, a 2014 second-round draft pick of the Rangers, who made his NHL debut and stopped 5 out of the 6 shots he faced. The lone tally came from Magnus Paajarvi, who stuffed it past Halverson, to put the game completely out of reach. The most notable part of this goal, was the no-call for goalie interference on Ottawa. The play was ruled a goal on the ice, and challenged by Alain Vigneault, in what seemed would be an easy overturn for the crew in Toronto. But, the NHL referees surprised us once again, as the call on the ice was upheld as good goal, only worsening the already heated goaltender-interference debate across the NHL, which certainly is atop the list of discussion topics for this coming offseason.
Sandwiched between Chabot and Paajarvi’s tallies, was a goal by Michael Grabner, his second of the game and 25th of the season. Grabner one-timed home a beautiful spinning feed from Kevin Hayes, which at the time brought the Rangers within two, but the aforementioned dagger by Paajarvi, sealed the deal for Ottawa. Grabner continues to up his trade value, as he is now only 3 goals shy of surpassing last year’s total of 27 goals, and he is now tied for fourth in the league in even-strength goals this season with 23. He only trails the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin, and Auston Matthews, whom are recognized as some of the NHL’s elitist snipers. With 25 goals in 58 games and just a two and a half million dollar cap hit, Grabner serves an attractive option for any team preparing for a playoff run.
Today’s 6-3 loss was the Rangers’ third straight, which now gives them five losing streaks of at least three games this season, and only three winning streaks of such. The disappointment continues for Blueshirt fans, as the Rangers sit in the cellar of the Metropolitan Division. The trade deadline is now only 9 days away, which means we might be witnessing the last week or so, of familiar faces like Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, and Michael Grabner in Rangers’ sweaters. This afternoon’s loss served as a deja vu, as the Rangers continued their struggles at the Canadian Tire Centre, the building in which the Rangers lost all three games played at during last season’s playoff debacle against the Senators. In fact, Rangers last win in Ottawa came on November 14, 2015. Oh, and to cap off the loss, the first star of today’s matchup was old-friend and fan favorite: Derick Brassard, who registered 3 points this afternoon against his former club.
The Blueshirts will get a chance to snap their losing streak tomorrow, when they return to Madison Square Garden for an always exciting contest against the Philadelphia Flyers (12:00 PM, MSG).
Brian Paget is on Twitter @BrianPaget17