The New York Rangers were exposed tonight in Minnesota. They are a team that relies too much on the superlative goaltending of Igor Shesterkin who has repeatedly covered up for defensive mistakes, giving the Rangers a chance to win even when they aren’t playing well. The Rangers were a hot mess in this game and it cost them big time.
Okay, before we start cancelling our season tickets, it’s important to remember that they were playing a very skilled Minnesota team that desperately needed a win. The Wild have the fourth best points percentage in the West and they have lost only six times in regulation in 24 home games.
After the game, coach Gerard Gallant said as much. “We didn’t play as good as we should have. I thought we should have played harder, we could have been better. They were the hungrier team…their top two lines were really good, hard to contain.”
There’s no doubt that the discussions about Alexandar Georgiev will go late into the night. He allowed five goals on 26 shots. He didn’t have a chance on at least two of the five goals and was victimized by a lousy defense, but if he makes some of the stops, it’s a different game.
Gerard Gallant would not criticize his goalie, but did admit that it wasn’t a great night for his young netminder. “It is what it is. It’s tough on the kid. He doesn’t get many games, but that’s the NHL right now. He’s a man, he’ll own up, he’ll play his games, he’ll get his opportunities…I still feel very good about him. Doesn’t bother me one bit. ”
This was the first game this season that the Rangers didn’t have a single power play and it’s become obvious that teams are taking care to stay out of the box. Ryan Strome admitted that they need to draw more penalties. “I think it’s probably getting to the net more. Keeping the plays alive in the O-zone just a little bit longer. Sometimes it may not result in a goal, but if you wear a team down you get a penalty…it comes from simplicity, driving the net harder, maybe just skating a little more…we need to get on the man advantage more often.”
The Wild got on the board first, scoring about 10 minuts into the game. Kirill Kaprizov gave a drop pass to Ryan Hartman who snapped a shot from just iside the blue line that Georgiev missed off his arm.
Four minutes later the Wild scored what Gallant called “a big goal” when Joel Eriksson Ek knocked down an errant Marcus Foligno shot into the net. It looked like he might have hit it with a high stick, but that is not eligible for a coach’s challenge, it has to be called back by Toronto and they let play go on.
The period ended with the Rangers down 2-0 though shots and scoring chances were even.
The Blueshirts began their patented comeback when Dryden Hunt scored his first goal in 30 games five minutes into the period.
Artemi Panarin fed Ryan Strome in center ice and he broke in with Hunt on a two-on-one. Strome made a lovely pass to Hunt and he buried it.
Patrik Nemeth took a tripping penalty at 7:26 and the Rangers penalty kill made them pay when Mika Zibanejad stole the puck from Mats Zuccarello and put the puck past Cam Talbot.
Wild coach Dean Evanson was berserk, claiming that Zibanejad had fouled Zuccarello,but the goal counted, the Swede’s first shorthanded goal of the season.
Momentum was with the Blueshirts, especially since the goal came right after an outstanding save by Georgiev who kicked out a shot headed for the open net.
It didn’t last. The Wild spent the rest of the power play in the Rangers zone as the several attempts to clear the puck didn’t get out due to bad Ranger bounces. There was a scrum in front of the net and Matt Boldy got to the puck and fed a wide open Kevin Fiala who had an open net. K’Andre Miller had left Fiala alone when he abandoned his side to get to the puck in front of Georgiev. The goal came 1:06 after the Blueshirts had tied the score and it deflated New York while giving the Wild new life.
The rest of the second period belonged to Minnesota. The Wild scored on a set play after winning the faceoff in their own zone. Matt Dumba fed Marcus Foligno who split Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller for the break-in and he beat Georgiev with a slick backhand. It was a good shot, but Georgiev was out of position to make the stop.
The last goal of the game came from Kevin Fiala, as he beat Georgiev on a backhand for his second goal of the game.It was a nice move, but the Ranger goalie didn’t look good on those last two goals.
The Wild were content to play keepaway in the third period and the Rangers couldn’t mount any kind of sustained offense. They had 20 shot attempts to 18 for the Wild, but Minnesota had the 8-5 advantage when it came to high danger chances.
Here is a five minute video recap of the game.
To his credit, Georgiev spoke after the game. He made no excuses, though he said that the first shot may have been a “knuckle puck.” He said he didn’t want to evaluate his game, “I don’t want to grade my game, it’s been frustrating, it’s been a tough streak. I just try to come in. Every shot is a new opportunity for me and go from there.”
He addressed his lack of playing time saying “I think there’s only one way to be in that game rhythm is to play…every game is a new challenge. I try to come with that attitude.”
Georgiev did make some excellent stops, but that’s not what will be remembered from this game.
Considering their records, it will be hard for Georgiev to get that chance to play a lot and that is an issue for the Rangers moving forward.