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Inconsistent Rangers can't handle surging Senators

Ryan Strome of the Rangers makes a pass

Ryan Strome of the Rangers makes a pass as Nick Paul of the Ottawa Senators defends at Canadian Tire Centre in the first period on Nov. 22, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

KANATA, Ont. — After nearly every big victory they’ve had this season, the Rangers have talked about trying to do all the right things, the things that win games for them, on a consistent basis.

Up to now, they haven’t been able to do it.

The yo-yo season continued Friday, in the front end of a two-game weekend trip to French Canada when the Rangers played with little energy, and little regard for the importance of possessing the puck. They were punished with 4-1 loss to the surging Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre. The Rangers will try to rediscover their game Saturday in Montreal, when they take on the Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada.

"We didn’t learn our lesson from the other times where we beat good teams — not that Ottawa’s not a good team — they’ve been on fire, said Chris Kreider. "We’ve got bad short-term memories when it comes to the success we’ve been having."

The Rangers had beaten Ottawa, 4-1, in the Senators’ home opener back on Oct. 5, but Ottawa (11-11-1) was not a very good team at the time. The Senators have turned things around for themselves, beginning when they beat the Rangers, 6-2, at Madison Square Garden. They are 8-3 in their last 11 games, beginning with that win.

"An abysmal game, in so many ways," said coach David Quinn.  "Give Ottawa a lot of credit . . . And the trend for us is, when we start feeling good about ourselves, we don’t do a really good job of handling it. This is as disappointing as it’s been, because I thought we were actually going in the right direction and building off a couple of good games for us. But, we’re back to Square One.''

From the opening faceoff, the team with the better effort was the Senators, who hemmed the Rangers in their own zone on the game’s first shift and took the lead just 57 seconds in on a goal by Thomas Chabot. They made it 2-0 at 6:32 of the first period, on a power-play goal by rookie Logan Brown, his first in the NHL.

The Rangers looked lethargic in that first period, turning the puck over often, and often in dangerous positions on the ice. Henrik Lundqvist, starting his third game in a row, and his first game since he tied Curtis Joseph for fifth on the all-time wins list with his 454th victory Wednesday, was pummeled with 18 shots in the period. The Rangers managed nine against Anders Nilsson.

The Rangers did get on the board, though, when a funky bouncing shot by Jacob Trouba somehow skipped by Nilsson at 17:20 of the period, and so, as poorly as they had played in the opening 20 minutes, they were down only by 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

But any thought of building on the momentum created by Trouba’s goal vanished when Tyler Ennis danced around Brady Skjei and beat Lundqvist from the slot to make it 3-1 at 1:11 of the second period. The Rangers had a golden opportunity to get back in the game when Ottawa’s Christian Jaros was given a double minor high sticking penalty for cutting Brendan Lemieux. But the Blueshirts failed to score with the four-minute man advantage.

Twenty-two seconds after the power play ended, Filip Chytil was sent off for high sticking, and the Rangers’ troubles were compounded when they were called for having too many men on the ice, giving Ottawa a 5-on-3 advantage for 28 seconds. They needed only 23 of them before former Ranger Anthony Duclair hammered a shot past Lundqvist to make it 4-1 at 13:24.

The Rangers were still killing the bench minor penalty when Trouba was sent off for shooting the puck over the glass, giving Ottawa another 5-on-3, this one for 1:21. But they managed to survive without allowing any more goals in the period.

"It’s been going on, pretty much since the start of the season," said Lundqvist. "We take a step in the right direction and then we have a game where we’re just not ready."

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