Goals hard to come by this time for Rangers in loss to Penguins at the Garden
There’s no point in scoreboard-watching for the Rangers as they try to hang in the playoff race with time running out in this 56-game season. The out-of-town scoreboard doesn’t matter if you can’t win your own games.
Two nights after scoring eight goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers managed only two on Thursday. That wasn’t nearly enough as the Penguins beat them, 5-2, to split the two-game set at Madison Square Garden.
"They made it hard for us and we were maybe a little bit too stubborn with the puck and our decisions, and forcing a little bit too much,’’ center Mika Zibanejad said.
The loss, coupled with Boston’s 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals, left the Rangers (18-16-5) seven points behind the Bruins for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. The Rangers have 17 games left, beginning with Friday’s visit to Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders. Boston has 19 games remaining.
The Rangers were outshot 32-24, but some of that was because the Rangers passed up opportunities to shoot and overpassed the puck instead.
"Not shooting the puck has been a problem for us all year long, and it’s been a problem since I’ve been here,’’ coach David Quinn said. "Sometimes when you win a game 8-4 [as the Rangers did Tuesday], or you score the amount of goals you have, you change your mindset a little bit. And you do that at this level and you’re going to get what you deserve.
"We’ve got to find that balance of being effective offensively and playing the right way. That’s just the balancing act we’re always battling. And it bit us in the [butt] tonight.’’
Igor Shesterkin, who started his career-high fifth straight game for the Rangers, made 27 saves. Quinn had promised last week that he would not give Shesterkin more than he thought the goalie could handle and that he would carefully watch for any signs that Shesterkin might need a night off. He said he didn’t see any, but Alexandar Georgiev will start against the Islanders on Friday night.
"Shesty’s played a lot of good hockey for us and he made some big saves early, that’s for sure,’’ Quinn said. "They blitzed us early. You know there was gonna be a big push by them. And I thought as that first period went on, we kind of got our wits about us and did a much better job to kind of balance things off in the first period. But goaltending was the least of our problems.’’
The Rangers were swarmed in the first period, but the only goal Shesterkin allowed was by Radim Zohorna at 6:26 of the period. With the puck on his backhand, Zohorna cut in from the right wing, around Libor Hajek and across the slot and tucked a forehand shot behind Shesterkin for his second goal of the season.
Colin Blackwell’s power-play goal at 2:02 of the second period tied it at 1-1, but Pittsburgh quickly retook the lead when Kris Letang’s innocent-looking shot deflected off the shaft of Chris Kreider’s stick and got by Shesterkin at 3:23.
Evan Rodrigues made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 11:28.
Kreider had a chance to get a comeback started late in the second period when he was tripped from behind by Cody Ceci while on a breakaway. Kreider was awarded a penalty shot with 2:01 left, but Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry (22 saves) got his glove on Kreider’s shot and made the save.
Jason Zucker scored for Pittsburgh at 10:29 of the third period before Kevin Rooney made it 4-2 at 13:48 with his sixth goal. Adam Fox earned an assist on that goal to extend his point streak to 12 games.
Pittsburgh’s Mark Jankowski scored into an empty net with 1:31 remaining.