Rangers Find A Way

by | Jan 22, 2024

Rangers Find A Way

by | Jan 22, 2024

Anaheim—Sunday, while the real game was being played (Oh come on, you know that the Bills and the Chiefs were contesting an NFL game to survive into the final four next week), the Ducks managed to perpetuate the frustration of the New York Rangers, carried over from a 2-1 loss to the LA Kings and, before that, a 5-1 dumping by the Vegas team. This happened on Sunday late afternoon into the evening while most of the country, and probably Canada, was watching the NFL. How bad was it for the Rangers? Through a period, the New York squad recorded only eight shots on goal versus Anaheim. Worse, they saw the Ducks take a 2-0 lead on five shots. Was this going to be another in a string of losses, and if so, why?

New York passed up shots, and more often, shot the puck wide or high against Ducks’ netminder Lukas Dostal. It wasn’t boring hockey, like what they played against the Kings, a team with no pace and which rarely highlights any foot speed they might have. No, the Ducks are a freewheeling group, and they move the puck with fluency, snapping passes this direction and that. Sometimes they shoot the puck at the net. In fact, their coach said a week ago that that’s what he needs his guys to do more often than they do. They started early Sunday night, scoring with under a minute elapsed.

The play started with an offensive zone faceoff for the Ducks, followed by a pass from Adam Henrique to Leo Carlsson, then back to Henrique. It appeared to hit the goalie somewhere in there, but Henrique slipped a quick rebound past him. On this night, the goalie was Igor Shesterkin. Jonathan Quick had played the evening before in LA, a homecoming that was, as IH reported, met with a tribute video, to which Quick raised his arms in thanks.

Sunday’s match was set against the backdrop of thousands of Ranger blue sweaters in the California crowd, and a chant, “Beat the Rangers,” being encouraged on the big board and by the arena organ. Laid over that was “Let’s Go Rangers,” something the visiting team might have needed but did not heed. The Ducks added a second goal in period one, a quick series of passes from Troy Terry to Carlsson, followed by a shot from distance. Henrique followed up the play and put in the rebound by squibbing it over a falling goalie.

What was happening to the New York team?

Relax. Things got better. From down 2-0, it was gradually more the Rangers’ game. They can take credit for a second period that had more of the play in the Ducks’ end. Dostal was good, as on one chance when Erik Gustafsson zoomed in on the right side of the net (goalie’s left) and took a quick shot from close in. He made the save on one knee.

Action continued as a puck got past Dostal, rolled onto the goal line behind him, and skirted along it until Mason McTavish swept it away. It was almost the same play that made him famous as he scooped a goal away in the playing for Canada at the World Junior Championship a couple of years ago.

The Rangers continued to dominate period two, and they scored their first goal on route to outshooting the Anaheim team 11-5 in that period. Still, the game was not lopsided, as the Ducks kept attacking, on the angles. Defenseman Robert Hagg flipped a puck on the diagonal with Brett Leason on the far post. He missed as he tried to redirect it.

The Rangers started period three with most of a penalty on Kreider left unserved. This allowed a two-on-one as Kreider got out of the box. He fed Vincent Trocheck but saw the play broken up. At the time, they were down 2-1 and looking to be facing another loss.

The Ducks then scored a goal, it appeared. In the end, a review called it off for being offside. Play resumed, but Anaheim didn’t look the same.

Both sides explained their reaction to the lost goal after the game. For the Rangers, Adam Fox said, “It seemed like the breaks weren’t going our way. . . but we kept working. We kept building on it.” He talked about the misses against LA, where the puck would hit the post and not go on, then said, “We’re trying. We definitely could have just laid down in the third period, being down. Obviously, we got fortunate with that offsides call there. As I said, the breaks haven’t been going our way, it seems, but that was one that went our way. We got some momentum, too.”

IH got a chance to talk to Artemi Panerin about the same incident, and he said, “That’s our video coaches making a great decision. We were really happy, because if it looked like they had a third goal, it’s a big punch for us.”

Greg Cronin, coach of the Ducks, also addressed the cancelled goal. “To go up 3-1 in the third period on that disallowed goal, I thought there was some energy happening for us. Then they came at us after they disallowed the goal, and had some sustained zone time, and we kind of never found our footing after that.”

He said he knew the apparent goal would be reversed, “But I just wanted to get going again. We played a measured first two periods . . . [but after the disallowed goal] I thought we were on our heels, didn’t have a lot of energy. . . . After that goal was disallowed, it kind of woke [the Rangers] up, and they put the pressure on us.”

Cronin, whose specific and detailed analysis is always enlightening, said, “They must have wristed sixty pucks down there to our net. Low-high, wrist pucks down there, and they’re getting sticks and bodies in front of the net. . . . It puts pressure when they’re able to put pucks back on the other team’s net or end wall and keep the puck alive. They did a good job on that.”

The Rangers would eventually score four goals in the third, including a last one into the empty net. Whatever had slowed them down versus the Golden Knights and Kings was no longer dragging them down. Or maybe talent just prevailed. “They’re a talented team. They can pass the puck and find people,” Cronin said after the game.

He said, by contrast, that when the Ducks tried the same strategy, it was hitting sticks or other obstacles and going away. He said the coaches had challenged the Ducks’ players to play on their toes in period three. Had they done that and stayed with it, he implied, the game might not have swung so quickly to the Rangers.

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