What worked for the Rangers for 13 games disappeared in No. 14.
Too little emotion, too few shots and an inability to avoid puck pressure, and the Blueshirts watched a five-game winning streak go by the boards in a 5-3 loss to the reeling Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night at Madison Square Square Garden.
Instead of celebrating at home, it was a sobering evening: the Canucks, coming off a loss to the Islanders on Monday, broke their own nine-game losing streak. It was their first road win and only the second in regulation in 13 games.
“Our execution was non-existent, we couldn’t make a 10-foot pass,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “When you execute like that and you can’t pass, can’t put your speed on display, we didn’t deserve to win. It’s that simple.”
Still, the Rangers trailed only 2-1 early in the third, but after Antti Raanta was steamrolled by Markus Granlund and the back of his head hit the ice at 4:27 of the third, the goaltender was told to leave the game at 8:27 because NHL’s spotters demanded he go through concussion protocol.
“It’s the rule, you have to respect that.” he said. “I pretty much knew when (trainer Jim Ramsey) was watching me from the bench there might be a goalie change. I tried to do (the test) as quickly as possible. Last year, when I had a concussion, I had way different symptoms. It’s tough to come off the ice and lose, but you have to do what the league wants you to do.”
After four weak power plays, on the Rangers’ fifth, with Granlund off for the collision, Rick Nash scored his 400th career goal, and seventh of the season, at 5:27 to tie the score at 2 after rookie Pavel Buchnevich’s pinpoint pass in front.
But when Raanta left, Henrik Lundqvist, without a warmup, came in cold. After Lundqvist stopped the first shot he saw, Alex Burrows put in a loose puck for a 3-2 lead at 9:21, and Sven Baertschi scored on the sixth shot Lundqvist faced at 13:08. Raanta did return, but Burrows scored again with 3:06 left on an empty-netter for a three-goal lead. Mika Zibanejad scored with 58 seconds to play.
“That (the rule) wasn’t the difference,” said Vigneault, who jugged lines in the third “trying to find anybody that could make a 10-foot pass . . . and skate, pass, shoot. You try to go with veteran players. Tonight, nobody even had a ‘C’ game. That’s what we got.”
Buchnevich, with a goal and two assists, his first multi-point game in the NHL, came the closest to a good grade.
“We weren’t sharp, but they were pretty stubborn,” said captain Ryan McDonagh. “We talked about it going in: They were a desperate team and played like it tonight. They won more puck battles.”
The power play also stumbled badly in the first four tries, unable to set up before Nash’s goal, and Henrik Sedin had put the Canucks up 2-1 after the clubs exchanged goals in the first from Buchnevich and Loui Eriksson.
“You could kind of see (the loss) coming in the last three games, how much time we played in our zone. We were kind of playing with fire,” said Nash. “We knew that if we didn’t score the way we had been scoring (26 goals in five games), we could be in some trouble, and that happened.”