Few Clouds 32° Good Evening
Few Clouds 32° Good Evening

Special teams breakdowns prove costly for Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers reacts after allowing a goal by Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Justin K. Aller

PITTSBURGH — The Rangers’ special teams were ordinary, and so was Derick Brassard, one of the catalysts on the power play during the season.

Twenty-two of the center’s 57 points this season were scored with the man-advantage, but in this series against the Penguins, he was held without a point in all four losses and was a minus-5.

Brassard’s best performance came in the 4-2 win in Game 2, in which he had a goal and two assists.

To add an insult to the power play’s ineffectiveness (2-for-19), with the Rangers trailing 3-2 Saturday, Brassard chased down the puck in the middle of the defensive zone but had it stripped away by Bryan Rust, who turned and passed to Matt Cullen, who fired the back- breaking goal past Henrik Lundqvist at 9:26 of the second period.

“It was my fault,” Brassard said. “And we never could recover.”

To be sure, it was a collective lapse by the Rangers on special teams. The Penguins scored eight goals on 21 power-play chances.

“Their power play was dynamite and their penalty kill outworked our power play,” Dan Girardi said.

Brassard, 28, who has three years remaining on a five-year, $25-million contract, struggled to explain his emotions in the Rangers’ somber postgame locker room Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center.

“The way we lost — in the first round — was the most frustrating thing,” he said. “I don’t think we were expecting it. We were confident that we had a good team, good enough to go all the way. We have to learn from this. But there’s a lot of good teams in the league.”

His assessment of the series, compared to last year, when the Rangers beat the Penguins in five games, was simple.

“They changed a few guys, changed their coach, got a second wave,” he said. “Their defensemen are not overly physical, but they fronted everything, blocked shots, and we had a hard time making plays. Their speed was big; they were quicker than us. We were always a second late. It was tough. They made us frustrated a few times, and we weren’t patient. We opened up our game and it cost us.”

Brassard, who played for Columbus for six seasons, said being knocked out so suddenly was different from losing in the Cup Final or the Eastern Conference finals.

“A deeper run is always going to hurt a little more,” he said. The first round is hard, then it’s harder to move on and on. Those losses are always more painful. We just have to come back next year and be hungrier.”

New York Sports