Luck can only take you so far; that’s why gambling is so unpredictable.
And much like a gambler in a rut the Rangers learned that your fortunes can turn on the drop of a hat.
The Blueshirts 2-1 loss can be attributed to the following factors: injuries, flagging offense, inconsistent effort and defensive miscues.
The Rangers are missing their top-line power forward Chris Kreider — out with a blood clot in his right arm. And then they lost Kevin Hayes to a lower body injury during the game.
Early in the first period Hayes received a hit into the boards and quickly headed to the locker room. While he briefly returned — for 17 seconds — in the second period, the injury ended his night.
Adding to the Blueshirts’ woes, they’ve now gone eight straight games without a regulation win; scoring just 16 goals in that span. For a team that heavily relies on its’ offense, scoring two-goals a night isn’t going to cut it.
The Rangers started the game off better than they did against Arizona, but still not clicking on all cylinders.
Then 13:05 into the opening period Mika Zibanejad deftly used a Vegas defender as a screen to rip a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury for the 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately a defensive zone turnover by Paul Carey led James Neal to tie the game just 4:18 after Zibanejad scored.
The Blueshirts played a solid first period, but the game went South from there.
Vegas controlled play throughout the second period as they outshot the Rangers 14-6 and could have had several goals, if not for the stellar play of Ondrej Pavelec.
Then the Rangers came out firing in the third period, but at a cost. The visitors abandoned their disciplined structure and got burned.
8:58 into the third Reilly Smith went through the neutral zone and skated along the left side of the Rangers’ zone. All the Blueshirt skaters leaned left — getting caught puck-watching — and Smith sent a cross-ice pass to William Karlsson.
Karlsson sniped the puck past a hung-out-to-dry Pavelec and Vegas had their 2-1 lead.
The Blueshirts valiantly tried to get pressure on Fleury in the final few minutes, but it was too little too late.
Vegas won 2-1; sending the Rangers into their bye-week with a bitter taste in their mouths.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
SUBSTITUTE: Ondrej Pavelec continued his stupendous play of late; stopping 32 of 34 shots. Going back to his start against Pittsburgh on December 5th, Pavelec has turned aside 147 of 153 shots. That’s a 1.45 GAA and .961 SV% over four starts.
PENALTY-KILL: A one-for-one showing on the penalty-kill continued the Rangers’ strong season when down a man. Of the last 95 penalties called against the Blueshirts, they’ve successfully killed off 83; that’s an 87.4% success rate.
The Rangers face John Tavares and the Islanders Saturday (Jan. 13) at MSG. Game time: 1 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Network. NOTE: Rangers have a mandatory bye-week January 8-12.
The bye-week couldn’t come fast enough for this team.
Since the calendar turned to 2018 the Rangers have had the following performances:
A shaky win against a game Buffalo team in the Winter Classic.
Then came their 5-2 loss to Chicago where they were skated out of MSG.
Next was their lucky win over the worst-in-the-NHL Coyotes.
And finally their gritty loss to the Golden Knights.
The Rangers need to use this week off to get their heads straight; hopefully coming out strong against the Islanders on Saturday.