ST. LOUIS – Sometimes, after a particularly embarrassing loss, a team can convince itself to just forget it and move on, writing it off as an aberration, and not a reflection of who the team really is.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant wasn’t inclined to forget Thursday’s hideous 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, however. Gallant was furious after having to pull goaltender Igor Shesterkin from the game 15 seconds into the second period. And he wanted very much for his players to remember everything about this one, in the hope they will be able to learn from it.
"I hope so,’’ he said. "Yeah. [There are] a lot of lessons.’’
"We're a little – whether it's lackadaisical, or not fully dialed in… we're making little mistakes in the ‘D’ zone and it's costing us right now,’’ forward Barclay Goodrow said. "So we have to learn from those, but also turn the page. We’ve got a big game on Saturday.’’
The Rangers close their four-game trip Saturday in Dallas against the Stars. They are 1-2 on the trip, having lost two straight, to Minnesota and St. Louis. They have not lost three games in a row in regulation all season, but they will have to fix a few things if they are to keep that record intact.
Against St. Louis, they lost by four goals even though they killed all three Blues power plays and scored two power-play goals in three chances. Gallant called them "soft’’ after they allowed three goals on shots from the slot and one off the rush on a backdoor tap-in in the first 20 minutes and 15 seconds.
Mostly, the coach was mad his team once again got off to a slow start. They have done that often this season, but Shesterkin has bailed them out time and time again, keeping them in games until they finally got their act together. Thursday proved to be one slow start too many.
"I mean, how many times do you need to do it?’’ Gallant asked.
Gallant bemoaned the fact he said the Rangers have been giving up too many wide open shots from the slot all season. When asked how the team can fix that, he was short on specifics.
"Defend it better,’’ he said. "Defend it better.’’
Defenseman Ryan Lindgren had a tough night, taking two early penalties and leaving Ivan Barbashev uncovered in the low slot to sweep in a pass from behind the goal by Brandon Saad to make it 2-0 at 13:50 of the first period. That was 45 seconds after Robert Thomas scored the first of his two goals to put St. Louis ahead, 1-0.
Lindgren and his defense partner, Adam Fox, were both minus-4 on the night, as was forward Chris Kreider. Kreider’s linemates, Mika Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere, were minus-3.
Gallant was asked if, after two consecutive brutal performances, it might be time to make some changes. He has kept the top two defense pairs together all season, for instance, and could get his team’s attention by tweaking those, or tinkering with the top two forward lines.
But he said he doesn’t see the need for changes, and pointed to the fact that the team is dealing with some injuries – specifically to forwards Kaapo Kakko, Kevin Rooney and Greg McKegg – that have weakened the lineup.