As far as Mika Zibanejad was concerned, the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday at Madison Square Garden was “a different loss from the other games.’’ The Rangers outshot the visiting Flames 45-26, but not one person in the locker room seemed to believe the Rangers had played well enough.
“We didn’t do a good enough job for long enough to be able to give ourselves a chance to win today,’’ Zibanejad said.
Zibanejad’s wicked wrist shot from the left circle found its way over the right shoulder of Calgary backup goalie David Rittich for a power-play goal at 6:41 of the third period to pull the Rangers within 3-1. But Rittich held his ground, making 44 saves as the Blueshirts fell to 2-5-1.
Still, the Rangers were not in the mood to write off this loss as simply getting beaten by a hot goalie.
“We threw a lot of pucks on net,’’ defenseman Marc Staal said. “I’ve been on the other end of those games, where you feel like you’re playing well defensively and teams are just firing it. We didn’t really have too many guys getting to rebounds and second opportunities, those types of things — where on a night like that, that’s how you score.
“[Rittich] made some great saves. We’ve still got to find a way to get a couple.’’
“These types of games are starting to add up,’’ said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 22 saves. “We’re playing good enough to win games, but we’re not finding ways to win games. That’s obviously something that we need to change fast.’’
Garnet Hathaway, who had scored his first goal of the season in the second period, ended any suspense when he scored on a breakaway with 1:53 left. Some Rangers may have stopped playing for an instant as Brady Skjei took down Calgary’s Rasmus Andersson at center ice to punish him for a hard hit on Mats Zuccarello, but the Flames kept going and Hathaway ended up with a breakaway.
An upper-body injury to defenseman Fredrik Claesson already was going to force Rangers coach David Quinn to make at least one change from the team that lost in overtime to the Capitals in Washington on Wednesday, with Adam McQuaid re-entering the lineup to take Claesson’s place. But Quinn also scratched forward Ryan Spooner for the first time, replacing him with Cody McLeod.
Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring with a spinning backhand shot from the slot at 17:00 of the first period, but according to Quinn, Hathaway’s first goal — he redirected a pass from Mark Jankowski at 12:21 of the second period — was the killer.
“That was their second shot of the period. We had some good looks, some good chances — and you could just feel it on the bench,’’ Quinn said. “You’ve got to take advantage of your chances. And we had plenty of them. Couldn’t do it. And I thought after they made it 2-0, we really lost our way a little bit.’’
Gaudreau then got free in the high slot and whipped a shot past Lundqvist at 14:55 for his second goal of the game and fifth of the season to make it 3-0. (Gaudreau is a former Boston College star whom Quinn knows well from his Hockey East days when he coached at Boston University.)
Rittich took it from there.
“He played great. He played well,’’ Quinn said of Rittich, who started in order to give No. 1 goalie Mike Smith a rest. “ . . . But you’ve got to find ways to take advantage of your chances. And we just haven’t done that. And that’s not just tonight. Throughout the season so far, we haven’t been able to be opportunistic.’’