Really, after putting forth 2 good efforts prior to the holiday, this is the hangover game we get? An absolutely dismal performance in Tampa Bay. I cannot even be bothered to look for pictures from the game or elsewhere. Official game recap here.
Even the Coach was speechless and could only say that everyone may have tried hard but the performance was not there. He sounded eerily like Tom Coughlin after the Giants' no-show performance in Denver on Thanksgiving night.
It was John Tortorella's and Vinnie Prospal's first return to Tampa since their departure. Bobby Sanguinetti made this 2009 debut by replacing the injured Wade Redden. The offense was anemic as the first line was shut down and the youthful defense corps did not play that well.
The Rangers were losing badly in the first period, but Henrik had kept them in the game with a series of great saves. But, the Rangers gave up a game-breaking goal with 35 seconds left in the first period to make the score 2-0. Ales Kotalik, looking rusty in his first game since Monday, was sitting in the penalty box when that score occurred.
The difference in all phases of the game between Wednesday's game against Florida and this one was stark. The Rangers may have played their best all-around game on Wednesday but Friday's certainly looked like their worst of the season.
The only good thing was Ryan Callahan finally scoring late in the game. It was a short-handed goal that made the score 5-1. Tampa scored 2 goals in the first and second periods. Their first 3 goals were unassisted.
You may question whether Lundqvist should have started against Tampa Bay, but the Rangers wanted to build on recent momentum so they went with their best. Henrik ended up getting pulled in the 2nd period after the Lightning scored their 4th goal.
The Rangers now have a home and home with the Pens, starting tonight and concluding on Monday evening at MSG. The Pens rested Marc Andre Fleury in their 3-2 loss against the Isles on Friday. He has a sparking 12-0-5 home record against the Rangers.
The Blueshirts are 10th in the conference (with many teams ahead of them holding games at hand) -- a win last night would have put them in 7th -- that's how close the Eastern Conference already is. And that's why it is important not to have regulation losses.
At 13-11-1, the Rangers are in danger of being a .500 team if they should get swept by the Penguins, with 1/3 of the season played after Monday's game. Right now, they are on a pace of not getting more than 90 points. Recall that Florida was left out of the playoffs last spring with 93 points.
The Rangers have wasted the benefits of their strong early start and are in the bottom of the pack for playoff purposes. Still, they are 2-1 in this latest stretch and strong showings/victories against Pittsburgh (which is definitely not invincible these days) would go a long way to turning around the Rangers' recent slide. Otherwise, the winter months for New York sports threaten to be irrelevant.
---The Graying Mantis
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