VANCOUVER — So many of the Rangers’ games lately have had a familiar look to them – they fall behind, make a spirited comeback, lose in overtime or a shootout, and talk afterward about all the positives they can take from a loss.
Well, this one was quite different.
Ranger forwards Chris Kreider and Brendan Lemieux were both ejected from the game in the second period Wednesday — according to Rogers Sportsnet, the Rangers became the first team in the NHL this season to have two players ejected from the same game — and the Blueshirts, forced to kill two major penalties and play with 16 skaters for more than half the game, lost to the Vancouver Canucks, 4-1 at Rogers Arena in the second game of their four-game road trip.
“You lose two forwards, you’re completely out of sync and you kill 12 minutes in penalties in that period,’’ Rangers coach David Quinn said. “I mean, you’re really at an incredible disadvantage.’’
Quinn said he never got any explanation from the referees, Ian Walsh and Ghislain Hebert, as to why Lemieux was ejected.
“You all saw it,’’ a frustrated-sounding Quinn said. “It gets real tiring talking about these things, but, what are you going to do?’’
Kreider was sent off at 4:23 of the second period, after he went to check Vancouver’s Elias Petterson into the end boards and his right elbow swung around and hit Petterson in the jaw. Petterson fell to the ice and stayed down, and, at first, Kreider skated to the penalty box. But a few moments later, after the replay of the hit was shown on the video board, Kreider was given a five-minute major for elbowing and the automatic game misconduct.
After the game, Kreider was approached and asked for a comment in the hallway outside the locker room, but he declined.
The Canucks scored only one goal on Kreider’s penalty, that from Brock Boeser, at 6:07. But, 11 seconds after the penalty expired, Tyler Motte got a breakaway and beat Henrik Lundqvist to make it 2-0, at 9:34. Then, 11 seconds after that, at 9:45, Motte scored again, on a long shot through traffic, right as Antoine Roussel appeared to skate into Lemieux. Roussel also went down hard, and was writhing on the ice in distress, and Lemieux was sent to the penalty box.
But, just as with Kreider, the officials took Lemieux out of the box and sent him to the dressing room, giving him a match penalty for hitting to the head, and giving Vancouver another five-minute major power play. Video of the hit appeared to show Roussel was looking the other way and simply turned into Lemieux, who stood his ground. The replay also appeared to show that Lemieux contacted Roussel shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to hitting him in the head, so it is possible that it could be rescinded on Thursday, as Zibanejad’s major boarding penalty in last week’s 1-0 loss to Dallas was the next day. Quinn said the Rangers have already received an apology for the call.
Having to kill 10 minutes of penalty time in the second period — they allowed just the one power play goal — meant players who don’t normally kill penalties spent extended time on the bench. Later in the period, when the Rangers got their first power play of the game, they were missing Kreider and Lemieux, who both normally play on the power play. That led to Jesper Fast — a penalty killer who never plays the power play — actually getting a shift on the second power play, taking Lemieux’s spot in front of the net.
Pavel Buchnevich scored a power-play goal for the Rangers at 10:28, but when they got a five-on-three power play for 1:33 late in the period, they couldn’t cash in. Vancouver got an empty-net goal from Jake Virtanen at 19:35.