Brad Richards said it best to reporters after the New York Rangers' 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night: "We played five minutes of good hockey," Richards said as quoted by The Record's Andrew Gross. "We didn't do enough in the game."
Five minutes of 'good hockey' isn't even nearly enough to get the job done against a poor hockey club, let alone one that is now in in the midst of a 12-2-3 stretch, 4-0-0 in their last four games. Thursday, the Rangers were at the Blues' mercy all night long as the home team thrashed them in every way possible.
It's not that St. Louis flew up and down the ice and the Rangers couldn't keep up with them as they scored goals at will. No, the Blues played the Rangers' game to a tee -- winning every puck battle along the boards, relentlessly pressuring the defenders and working the offense through behind-the-goaline play. Quite simply, the Blueshirts looked out of sorts: passes weren't clicking, they were beaten to pucks ad nauseam, their defensive-zone play was sloppy and they could barely keep the puck in the offensive zone for an extended period.
When the first frame was said and done, the Blues had two goals on the board -- one by Patrik Berglund and another by David Perron -- and Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko had already spent almost half the period on the bench as they were both on the ice for the two goals.
The Blues not only have the hottest goalie in hockey in Brian Elliott -- 13-2-0 record, 1.43 goals-against average and .950 save percentage -- they have a stout defense that limits opponents to the fewest shots in hockey. New York had 26, maybe only one or two of the high-percentage variety. It didn't make Elliott's job hard enough as he cruised to the victory.
Michael Del Zotto's goal at 16:18 of the second period off an excellent odd-man rush in which he jumped into the play gave the Rangers some life heading into the second intermission. But but a fluky Alexander Steen goal that ended up going in off of Henrik Ludnqvist's back about a minute in crushed any possible momentum. Jason Arnott would pot the empty-netter. The netminder had 32 saves in the loss.
Ultimately, the Rangers were outworked and outmuscled all over the ice by the Blues. They couldn't get anything going at all in the offensive zone. They were often one and done: get the puck into the zone, and either shoot once and lose it, or lose the puck off a bad pass or dump in they not win it back. Coach John Tortorella tinkered with about 50 line combinations after the first period, but the only constant was rookie Carl Hagelin skating all over the place, earning a season-high 16:40 ice time.
New York has scored one goal in its past two games after scoring 10 in the two prior. Tortorella is not a complacent coach, so some lineup changes -- with Mike Rupp and/or Sean Avery -- could be in store for Saturday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes.