WIth the amount of games yet to be played between now and the All-Star break, chalk this one up as a game the Rangers have to forget. Despite 40 shots on goal, the Rangers weren't able to capitalize on enough of their chances and they failed to play the style of hockey that has fueled so much of their season's success. The result was a 4-1 Carolina Hurricanes victory -- a score not truly a reflection of the game that was played, but a disappointing result for a team coming off such a dominating performance the previous night.
In reality, the majority of the game was not the kind of tilt the Rangers want to be a part of. The Rangers win when they forecheck, grind it out and out work teams. Tonight, the Hurricanes set the tone early in the first period, with a wide-open attack that resulted in exciting, fun-to-watch hockey, as each team had multiple scoring chances. The Hurricanes would take a 2-0 advantage, on 16 shots, into the first intermission and even though the Rangers would certainly create their own chances, that first period was costly. The defensive breakdowns in the first period carried over for the rest of the game, as the 'Canes just had too many point-blank scoring chances.
The remaining Carolina goals were scored when Artem Anisimov failed to pick up a streaking Brandon Sutter on his back check in the second and Derek Stepan didn't take his man, Jeff Skinner, in the front of the net during the third.
Brandon Prust, who also had a fight against a much-bigger Jay Harrison, netted the only goal for the Blueshirts. His goal was assisted by Chad Kolarik, making his Rangers' debut (he played two games with the Blue Jackets last year), and Ryan McDonagh, also earning his first NHL point. This was probably the brightest moment of the game for the Rangers. Kolarik will undoubtedly earn more minutes in the team's next game.
The fact that the Rangers only put the puck in the net once should not be disconcerting. Cam Ward made a number of solid saves, making the end result look like a convincing 'Canes' performance, but ultimately the puck failed to bounce the Rangers' way tonight.
Henrik Lundqvist, with 35 saves, was exceptional in net -- the game could have very well ended way worse for the Rangers without some of his top-flight efforts. Especially missing so many key players, the Rangers need to be tighter on defense. The Mark Staal-Dan Girardi pairing had an off night, but altogether the team didn't play tough enough on the defensive end. As constructed now, this
The Rangers play three more games from now until Tuesday (All-Star break); the next one coming against Atlanta, who is just three points behind the Rangers, on Saturday.