NEW YORK – For the first time this season the New York Rangers have lost back to back games as they fall to the Florida Panthers 3-2 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers had control of their game until a bad bounce off J.T. Miller redirected into the back of Henrik Lundqvist that ultimately tied the game for the Panthers. It was the first time this season the Rangers played in an overtime game and then a shootout. This was also just the third time this season the Rangers lost on home ice.
The Blueshirts were able to open the game and take advantage of a Panthers team coming off a game from last night and fired 14 shots in the opening frame. Chris Kreider, who hadn’t scored a goal since the third game of the season opened the scoring picking up his forth goal of the season.
It wouldn’t be a Rangers game without an old foe coming back to score against the former team and sure enough Keith Yandle was able to cash in with traffic in front of Lundqvist and get the equalizer in the second period to pick up his first goal of the season. It wasn’t the highly entertaining game we are used to seeing from the Rangers this season. It also seems the four goals per game numbers are also starting to come down a bit as this is the second game in a row in which they only scored two goals.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 of 30 shots he faced while appearing in his 700th career NHL game in tonight’s contest. Lundqvist is the fifth goaltender in NHL history who has appeared in at least 700 games with one franchise (Martin Brodeur – New Jersey; Tony Esposito – Chicago; Terry Sawchuk – Detroit; Olaf Kolzig – Washington). Lundqvist is the 25th goaltender in NHL history who has made 700 career appearances, and he tied Tomas Vokoun for 24th place on the NHL’s all-time appearances list.
Lundqvist is the first goaltender in franchise history who has appeared in 700 career games with the Rangers, and he is the 12th player in franchise history who has appeared in at least 700 career games with the Blueshirts (along with Harry Howell, Brian Leetch, Rod Gilbert, Ron Greschner, Walt Tkaczuk, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield, Jim Neilson, Adam Graves, Dan Girardi, and Andy Bathgate).
Mats Zuccarello tallied an assist and posted a plus-one rating in 20:03 of ice time. He has registered nine points (five goals, four assists) in the last 12 games, including six points (two goals, four assists) in the last seven contests. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, 147 of his 183 points have either been a goal or the primary assist on a goal (80.3% of his points have been primary points over the span).
Mika Zibenejad tallied a goal in the game as well but when down in overtime with a significant leg injury that will set him out 6-8 weeks. This is a tremendous loss for the Rangers who will now have to see who they can put in that spot with Pavel Buchnevich out and going for an MRI tomorrow and not traveling with the team.
Head coach Alain Vigneault on tonight’s game went on to say, “I thought we had good opportunities in the first two periods. I thought we lost some momentum in the third with those penalties we took. They got some grade-A opportunities off of them. Their breakout was crisp and they were getting some opportunities on the rush. They had a couple opportunities in tight where Hank (Lundqvist) had to make some big saves. But that’s the type of game right now that seems to be played throughout the league, tight. We were pretty even on both sides and lost in the shootout”.
When asked about the Zibenejad injury the coach said, “Every team has injuries and we don’t expect to be any different than anybody else. Every coach says it in these moments, it’s an opportunity for somebody else to get more ice time. We are confident with our guys, whoever we decide to put in that spot will do the job for us.”
As for Lundqvist who was upset with the game tying goal that bounced off Miller went on to say, “Obviously we want guys to block shots and he’s trying. From that distance, I should stop it if no one is in front of me, so it’s kind of that conversation we had that if he doesn’t have time to get there with his body maybe just leave that shot for me. It’s easy to have that answer when you’re sitting here. But you see what happens – he’s trying to get there with his stick, but obviously it fooled me a little bit”.
The Rangers had their share of opportunities on the power play including a 5-on-3 opportunity and Derek Stepan went on to say, “I think entries are so important. I actually liked our first couple of power plays. I thought we got a lot of shots. Our 5-on-3, we generated the exact looks we were looking for. I think the power plays in the second period weren’t as sharp, but I liked our first period power plays. We shot everything and we generated the looks we wanted to. The goaltender [James Reimer] just made the saves.”
The next test and quick turn around comes against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night in what is going to be their toughest test. This will be the first meeting of the season between the two teams since the Penguins knocked the Rangers out in the first round of last years playoffs.