Coming off a two-game losing streak, the New York Rangers looked to right the ship against the Penguins. In trying to do so, Coach Quinn benched Jack Johnson for the first time and inserted Colin Blackwell on the 4th line for Brendan Lemieux. Other than those two changes, everything from Friday’s heartbreaking loss remained the same, including the lines. The game started out pretty similar to Friday night’s tilt. Both teams were defensively sound for the early portions of the game before the Rangers got on the board. Blackwell, the newest Ranger, deflected an Adam Fox shot past Tristan Jarry to put the Rangers up 1-0. The lead would not last, as Bryan Rust would cash in on a breakaway. The Penguins erased a 2-1 Rangers lead and would score in the final two minutes to win the game. The Rangers lose another frustrating one to the Penguins.
A Solid Defensive Showing
A huge story in this game is the Rangers’ defense. Through the first period and a half, the Rangers allowed just 11 shots on goal and barely allowed any high-quality scoring chances. The defensive lines seemed to work very well with the lack of Johnson. The Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren pairing, which always looks good, led the way against the Penguins’ top lines. Fox and Lindgren each had more than 20 minutes of ice time as we saw the Rangers lose to the Penguins. Next in the pecking order was the pairing of Jacob Trouba and K’Andre and there are not enough good things to be said about them. A moment from Miller that really stood out came after an awkward line change with Lindgren. When Lindgren came off, Jarry sent a pass almost the length of the ice which resulted in a two-on-one. Miller raced back and blocked an Evgeni Malkin pass to avoid any further trouble.
The Rangers’ true defensive lapses came with Brendan Smith and Tony DeAngelo on the ice. This pairing was never going to be perfect but they played well enough to keep the team afloat when they were on the ice at times. The biggest lapse came on the Rust goal. The puck bounced up in the air in the Rangers’ offensive zone, Smith tried to play it forward. It bounced right to Sidney Crosby who led Rust up the middle for a breakaway where he would beat Igor Shesterkin through the legs. The second Penguins goal came as a result of bad defensive plays by the Smith/DeAngelo pair. As a whole, the defense played well for the first 40 minutes, and outside of the early and late third period goals, they looked good in the Rangers’ bad loss to the Penguins.
Contributions From the Bottom Six
The Rangers’ top six is truly yet to get going five games into the season. Much of the heavy lifting is being done by their bottom two lines. The third line, which was centered by Filip Chytil before his injury, has been consistently one of the best lines on the team. Phil Di Giuseppe has become a solid Jesper Fast replacement with his ability to forecheck and with how hard he’s skating. Kaapo Kakko is starting to come into his own on this line as well. Kakko has been noticeable winning board battles and making strong plays to create shots. The Rangers’ 4th line has also been really good over their last three games. Brett Howden is really finding his game on the forecheck and has played both center and right-wing.
A Look Ahead
Coming off this Rangers loss to the Penguins, the week ahead is one where they need to capitalize on their schedule. The Rangers will head to Buffalo and play two games against the Sabres on Tuesday and Thursday. Then they will come back home to host these same Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers need to find a way to get the top six going if they want to start winning games. The defense played well and the bottom six played well. Shesterkin didn’t have a terrible game, however, there were likely a couple of goals he might want back. The Rangers have now fallen to 1-3-1 in their first five games. A really tough start.