The Rangers had this one in the bag, but they couldn’t close it out.
Back home at Madison Square Garden after their four-game West Coast trip and facing an Edmonton Oilers team that had lost seven of its last 10 games — and had gotten spanked by the Devils and Islanders in the first two games of its three-game New York-area swing — the Rangers had opened a three-goal lead going into the third period Saturday afternoon.
But incredibly, the lead wasn’t safe. A pair of goals by defenseman Evan Bouchard and one by forward Dylan Holloway tied it, and Leon Draisaitl’s power-play goal with 2:02 left in regulation completed the Rangers’ collapse. They lost to the Oilers, 4-3, before a stunned Garden crowd that booed the home team off the ice after the final buzzer.
Igor Shesterkin (10-3-3) allowed four goals on eight shots in the third period after stopping all 24 shots he faced through two periods.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant seemed stunned by his team’s third-period collapse.
“I don’t remember any other period this year, four goals scored against us,’’ he said. “I mean, we might have had some bad periods, but I don’t remember a four-goal period. For tonight, we were awful. It’s embarrassing. It’s not acceptable.
“They get four goals in the third period for no reason besides us giving them the opportunity. Two dumb penalties, both goals, and then a couple goals in between that.’’
Defenseman K’Andre Miller took a hooking penalty at 2:39 of the third period and Bouchard scored at 4:39 on the ensuing power play. He scored his second goal when the puck ricocheted out to the top of the slot and he walked in and fired a slap shot that beat Shesterkin to make it 3-2 at 7:32.
Dylan Holloway tied it at 3-3 at 10:21, beating Shesterkin with a shot from the left wing that snuck inside the near post.
With 2:26 left, Alexis Lafrenière — who had scored the game’s first goal at 2:20 of the first period — was assessed a roughing penalty for removing the helmet of Edmonton defenseman Tyson Barrie behind the Oilers’ net. Draisaitl scored his 12th goal of the season when he drove past Chris Kreider to the back post to tap in a feed from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
To add injury to insult, the Rangers (10-8-4) finished the game without defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who left at 6:56 of the third period after being injured in a collision with Nugent-Hopkins. Gallant said he is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Rangers got goals 33 seconds apart by Kreider (at 15:54) and Julien Gauthier (at 16:27) in the second period to take a 3-0 lead. Afterward, the Rangers spoke of becoming too passive.
“I think we were trying to protect a little too much, and just played that whole period on our heels, and they’ve got skill and they were able to take advantage of that,’’ defenseman Adam Fox said.
“I think once you back off, once you become a little passive, I thought we kind of got away from the things that we did so well in the first and the second and got us the lead,’’ Mika Zibanejad said. “Then they get [within] 3-1 2 1⁄2 minutes [into the third period] and they started get some momentum, they start getting the energy going.
“And we couldn’t stop that. We couldn’t stop the momentum and try to get the momentum to go the other way. That’s obviously a tough, tough way to lose.’’
He added, “We just get away from the things that we’re doing, again. We were sitting back, myself included. [There were] probably times where you can skate with the puck and put it in an area where you can get it back instead of just like punting it away and try to kill the clock that way.’’