The Rangers have not played well recently but they may have hit rock bottom in this one.
The last place San Jose Sharks, who were 1-26-2 when trailing going into the third period, scored two goals in the final stanza to tie and got the game winner in overtime to stun the Rangers with a 3-2 win.
The Rangers finished the four game, West Coast swing with a 1-2-1 record but the bad habits that have creeped into their game in recent weeks, reared their ugly head once again.
Poor decisions with the puck and defensive lapses that led to consecutive goals in a short span along with too many east-west passes when they should be shooting the puck and trying to get to the net, all led to what happened in San Jose last night.
“I do think we could’ve pressed more in the offensive zone. I thought that we were a little bit too much east-west all night, power play and five on five,” a frustrated Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Need more straight delivery to the net, more pucks to the net, more people to the net. Look to make something happen, we’re being too selective. Just put the puck towards the net and get some bodies in there, often times, that’s how goals are scored.”
It was eerily reminiscent of the first game between the teams in New York in early December when the Rangers had a 6-3 lead in the third period but had to hang on for dear life in a 6-5 win.
This time, the Rangers, who had a 2-0 lead entering the third, did not hang on, as the Sharks tied the game with two goals in a span of 2:08. Tomas Hertl, who once scored four goals in a game against the Rangers, scored the game winner at 1:29 of overtime to hand the Blueshirts their most crushing defeat of the season.
“It’s disappointing, obviously you want to build off kind of a resilient win the other night [against the Anaheim Ducks], said Fox, who had a goal and an assist. “I think we took our foot off the gas a little there, 2-0 lead. I guess that just can’t happen. We wanted to finish strong and we didn’t do that.”
Igor Shesterkin made 19 saves while Sharks goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, the former New Jersey Devil, made 29 saves including 10 in the third period and two in overtime. The Rangers were 18-3-1 with a lead entering the third, which made this loss even more head scratching.
In overtime, Blackwood made a save on Miller and stopped play. The Sharks won the ensuing faceoff and were cycling in the Ranger zone when Mika Zibanejad was picked off in what appeared to be interference, but no call was made. “There’s two picks out there that should’ve been called,” said Laviolette who was denied a chance to tie Al Arbour for 7th place on the NHL’s All Time Coaches Wins List, but that will have to wait.
The Sharks completed a pretty passing play to score the game winner. Hertl, who was on the doorstep, took a pass from Jan Rutta and put the puck past Shesterkin who was helpless to make the save.
The Rangers had a 2-0 lead after two thanks to goals by Fox in the first period and Artemi Panarin in the second. However, what has now become an alarming trend, the Rangers gave up consecutive goals in a short span as the Sharks tied the game less than five minutes into the third period.
An errant pass by Erik Gustafsson led to the first Sharks goal.
The Ranger defenseman passed the puck behind the net, assuming that a Ranger would play it but it went right to San Jose’s Nico Sturm, who buried the puck past a helpless Shesterkin to cut the Rangers lead to 2-1 at 2:19 of the third period
Two minutes and eight seconds later, Ryan Carpenter scored on a deflection to tie the game at two as the Sharks scored on two of their first three shots. Alexander Barabanov won the offensive zone face off and got the puck back to Rutta, who fired from the point. Carpenter was able to get his stick on the puck and get it past Shesterkin for the game tying goal.
Less than eight minutes into the first period, the Rangers took a 1-0 lead.
After Fox fired a shot from the right face off circle, the rebound came to Vincent Trocheck, who put it on net. The Ranger defenseman was able to capitalize on the rebound in front as he buried the puck for his 8th goal of the season and give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Alexis Lafreniere (16) and Trocheck (30) had the assists. For Trocheck, it was his 300th career helper.
Shesterkin had to make a couple of big stops n the final minutes of the first period, as the Sharks pressed for the tying goal. San Jose had the final six shots on goal in the period and 8 of the last 9 shots in the final ten minutes.
Kyle Burroughs missed a tip in with a wide open net and then Fabian Zetterlund’s shot in front was corralled by Shesterkin with the glove. Trocheck took a penalty for kneeing to give San Jose a power play and Shesterkin had to make a save on Logan Couture’s shot with :03 seconds left to preserve a 1-0 lead after one.
After killing off the penalty, Artemi Panarin gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead with a nifty move.
Panarin took the puck on the left and skated towards the middle of the ice. The Ranger winger made a move around Nico Sturm and fired the puck past Blackwood for his 29th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead. Fox (27) and K’Andre Miller (11) assisted on the goal that gave the Rangers a two goal lead after two.
The Rangers are fortunate that they still occupy first place in the Metropolitan Division with 61 points, five ahead of second place Philadelphia, who has lost three in a row and six ahead of third place Carolina, who has two games in hand.
The Rangers will have a long flight home before they host the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night at MSG. “We wanted to get the win, end the road trip on the right note. We got two games left before the break, so obviously make sure we try to get the four points,” Barclay Goodrow said.