It was the problem at the beginning of the season, and Tuesday night it came back to haunt the Rangers again.
The slow start.
The Blueshirts found themselves down early and couldn’t fully recover as they fell 5-4 to the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. The loss broke the team’s four-game winning streak, and its eight-game streak at MSG.
The Florida Panthers netted three goals on six shots in the first 16:47 of the contest to go-ahead 3-0 and sent Henrik Lundqvist to the bench.
J.T. Miller tallied his fourth of the season at the 4:04 mark of the second, but the Panthers responded 4:32 later with a goal from Jonathan Huberdeau.
Down 4-1, the Rangers top line of Chris Kreider, David Desharnais, who filled in for an injured Mika Zibanejad, and Pavel Buchnevich went to work. Buchnevich started the rally with a goal, which was assisted by his two line-mates. Next to the party was Kreider, who finished a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Buchnevich and Desharnais to cut the road team’s lead to 4-3 at the 11:16 mark of the second.
The Blueshirts continued to apply pressure and knotted the score in the third period after Kreider scored again, on assists from Desharnais and Buchnevich. During the span of three straight goals, Kreider (two goals and one assist), Buchnevich (one goal and two assists), and Desharnais (three assists) finished with nine combined points.
But with the game on the line, the Rangers comeback try went to waste. Following a neutral zone turnover by Brendan Smith and a failed clearing attempt by Nick Holder, the Panthers gained possession and Denis Malgin beat Ondrej Pavelec to make it a 5-4 contest with 1:09 left.
Down a goal, New York couldn’t find any late-game magic.
What Went Wrong:
- A SLOW START: The Panthers netted three goals on their first six shots. Down early, the Rangers needed to play catch up, which they did but failed to end the night with two points.
- LATE GAME TURNOVERS: Nick Holden couldn’t get the puck out of the zone with the game on the line, which led to the game-winning goal. The Rangers failed to take care of the puck early in the contest, which put them behind and the game of catch up began.
- MINUSES: Both Brendan Smith and Nick Holden finished the game as a -2. Both players were on the ice when Florida jumped ahead late in the contest.
- SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE: The Panthers were 1-for-2 on the man advantage. Florida’s power-play goal came off the stick of Aleksander Barkov, which put the visitors up 1-0 at the 5:50 mark of the first. The Rangers’ man advantage went 0-for-3.
What Went Right:
- THE FIGHT BACK: This Rangers team doesn’t show any quit. Down early, they worked to knot the game at four. The battle is a common theme with New York this season, even when things start slow and they are down, they continued to compete and fight.
- KREIDER- DESHARNAIS – BUCHNEVICH: Even without Zibanejad, the trio continued to produce and carried New York’s offense. Kreider has five goals in his last four games and seven points (five goals and two assists) in his last five games. Buchnevich tallied a single-game career-high three points tonight. The wing also has 10 points (four goals and six assists) in his last 10 games.
- READY IN RELIEF: Pavelec stopped 19 out of 21 shots coming in for Lundqvist and gave the team a chance to win.
The Rangers return to action, Friday, Dec. 1, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes. Faceoff at Madison Square Garden is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
The Rangers showed that they battle for 60 minutes. But the team needs to start better on Friday. Coming back from a three-goal deficit is difficult and it put the team in a tough spot tonight. For future success, New York needs to play a complete game and needs strong goaltending. The Blueshirts showed they could do both in the past, so expect a bounce-back game Friday evening.