In a game where Alexis Lafreniere was left out as the healthy extra, the New York Rangers would fall short. Lafreniere was the major story coming into the night because of the public fallout he seems to have had after being demoted to the fourth line against Washington and then being sent to the press box for a major game against Tampa, which he would have had an excellent chance to be a difference maker in.
New York played well in this one. There is no shame in being bested by the team that has represented the Eastern Conference in the last three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals and won two of them. But this defeat has a stench like it could have gone better if the Rangers had another winger who could have put an aging Tampa Bay defensive core under pressure. Someone who has good hands and an ability to dissect the play, even if his defensive game isn’t the best all the time.
For the Rangers, their only goal would come in the first period as Mika Zibanejad who would slap home a loose puck from the top of the slot past Andrei Vasilevskiy. New York would hold this lead until late into the beginning of the third period when Brayden Point would level the game up at 1 for the Lightning. That would be the end of the goals and an Alex Killorn shootout winner would be the nail in the coffin.
Sammy Blais, who came in for the excluded Lafreniere, played well. In a game where there was a lot of physical play and after-the-whistle mayhem, the Rangers’ 4th liner was up to the task despite his inability to provide offense. Give credit where it is due, putting Blais in for this game was a good decision on the part of the coaching staff. He did well in the little ice time he played.
This shootout defeat leaves the Rangers in a rough spot. They’ve scored just one goal in the last 120 minutes of hockey and that was in this game. They are now outside of the playoff places on the tiebreaker because of the Islanders’ result tonight, and they are starting to show regression to what we saw before the Rangers started to heat up. This was a spirited defeat at the hands of a dynasty, but those bad habits are creeping in again.
Next up on the docket for the Blueshirts is a game with the other team in the sunshine state as they will visit FLA Live Arena for a game with the Panthers. Both teams will be desperate for points to get themselves back into the playoff places so it should be a fun game when that comes around on New Year’s day.