LAS VEGAS – Before the finale of his team’s three-game Western road trip Tuesday night, Rangers coach David Quinn said his team had lost its mojo. Trying to get it back against the streaking Vegas Golden Knights was always going to be a tough task.
They may not have gotten all of that mojo back against Vegas, but though they flew home following their 4-2 loss winless on the trip, the Rangers just may have rediscovered some confidence in their game as they prepare for their upcoming home-and-home against the rival Islanders.
“We had much more of a take-charge attitude,’’ Quinn said of his team’s showing against Vegas. “There was no feeling sorry for ourselves, and we certainly had much more of the approach that we’re going to need, if we’re going to have success. We’ve got to build on it. We’re going to get home tonight, gotta rest up, and quick turnaround Thursday night against the Islanders.‘’
The Rangers lost all three games — in Colorado, Arizona and Vegas — and in fact have lost four in a row and have been outscored, 22-5 over that span. They have fallen below the NHL version of .500, and are now 17-18-7, good for 41 points, through 42 games.
But after having been drilled by the lowly Arizona Coyotes, 5-0, on Sunday, the Rangers put up much more of a fight against the Knights, who won their seventh in a row and improved to 27-15-4 on the season.
The Rangers skated with speed and managed to keep the Knights off the scoreboard until Marc Staal made a mistake by going for a puck in the neutral zone that he was never going to get to. Alex Tuch chipped the puck past Staal and set up Cody Eakin for a breakaway that he converted for his 13th goal of the season, at 16:02 of the first period.
Vegas added two goals in the second period, the first coming on a power play with Tony DeAngelo in the box for boarding, when Brandon Pirri dunked a rebound off the goalpost behind goaltender Alex Georgiev for his seventh goal of the season, in his eighth game, at 7:06. DeAngelo, who had been driven into the boards from behind by Vegas’ Max Pacioretty and missed the final 11 minutes of the first period, retaliated and got called for the penalty. He was also given a 10-minute misconduct penalty on the play.
Jonathan Marchessault made it 3-0 when he finished a breakaway that resulted from a missed shot by Staal that ricocheted off the back boards and sent Marchessault on his way.
Mika Zibanejad finally got the Rangers a consolation goal, driving the net and tapping in a pass from Mats Zuccarello behind Marc Andre Fleury (27 saves) for his 12th goal of the season, pulling the Rangers within 3-1 at 11:43. The goal was Zibanejad’s first point in five games, since he had a career-high four assists in the 4-3 win over Nashville on Dec. 29. It was his first goal since Dec. 16, in the 4-3 overtime loss to Vegas at the Garden.
Chris Kreider said the Rangers didn’t seem as discouraged and down after falling into an early hole, and even after giving up the power-play goal to go down by two. They played with energy the entire game, he said, and the shots finally fell for them in the third period.
“Someone referenced to a ketchup bottle in between periods — you hit the ketchup bottle over and over, it comes out all at once,’’ Kreider said. “It’s a good analogy. But at the same time, we’ve got to shoot more pucks.’’
Ryan Carpenter scored an empty-net goal with 1:20 left, but Jesper Fast scored a second for the Rangers with 24.1 seconds left, and all that was left was that long plane ride home.