CHICAGO – Funky stuff happens sometimes, and some real funky stuff happened to the Rangers on Thursday night.
A pair of defensive mishaps led to goals that put the Rangers in an early hole, and there were a couple of video goal reviews in the third period. It ended up as a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the opener of a four-game road trip that now moves to California for games against the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. The Rangers will play the Kings on Sunday afternoon.
After they were outshot 37-19 – and managed only one shot in the third period – there was a lot of frustration in the Rangers’ locker room.
“Most games this year, we’ve given ourselves a chance to win, but we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win tonight,’’ forward Chris Kreider said. “We weren’t doing the right things. We played right into what they were trying to do, and we didn’t do the things we do well.’’
Coach David Quinn said the team played “probably as poor as we’ve played all year.’’
“One of the things I think we’ve done a good job of is skating and competing, but that certainly wasn’t the case tonight,’’ Quinn said. “That’s just not acceptable.''
Quinn said that after the Rangers fell behind 2-1 midway through the second period, he thought they regrouped and played well to finish that period. But they didn’t carry any of that momentum into the third.
“We just didn’t have enough people competing shift in and shift out, didn’t take away time and space on them. We just weren’t good enough in any area,’’ he said.
And there was more bad news: The Rangers (3-6-1) lost defenseman Adam McQuaid, who left in the second period with a lower-body injury. Quinn said he didn’t know how bad the injury is or how long he will be out. With defenseman Fredrik Claesson already on injured reserve because of an upper-body injury, Quinn said he did not know whether the Rangers will need to summon a defenseman from Hartford.
The Blackhawks (6-2-2) took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jonathan Toews at 2:55 of the first period. Brady Skjei slipped and fell as he was backskating, then accidentally tripped defense partner McQuaid, who also fell down. Toews skated around the two fallen defenders and beat Henrik Lundqvist for his sixth goal.
Quinn said the Rangers were out of position in the neutral zone on that play. Had they been in proper position, he said, Toews never would have gotten the puck.
The Rangers tied it on a goal by Pavel Buchnevich, who banged in the rebound of a shot by Brendan Smith at 4:09 of the period and punched the air hard in celebration. But Chicago scored the only goal of the second period when Alexandre Fortin tapped in a cross-crease pass by Nick Schmaltz at 10:33. Fortin had an easy time of it because Smith, who was attempting to defend him, was doing so without a stick, having broken it earlier in the play. That goal came right about the time when the Rangers announced McQuaid would not return.
Kevin Hayes nearly tied the score at 2-2 when he took a cross-ice feed and ripped a shot off the crossbar with about 5:30 to go. Patrick Kane scored his ninth goal at 4:21 to make it 3-1 and Alex DeBrincat sealed it with an empty-net goal with 1:09 left.
On Kane’s ninth goal, video review determined he did not interfere with Lundqvist in the crease. That came after another video review, with 7:53 left, determined that a puck that had been covered up by Lundqvist and eventually jammed in did not cross the goal line before the whistle was blown to stop the play.