A day after their most impressive defensive performance of the 2011-2012 season, the New York Rangers had probably their worst one. The Blueshirts had trouble dealing with the Toronto Maple Leafs' speed in their first two games of the year, but Saturday adjusted and put on a clinic at defending and limiting their space in the offensive zone. Sunday, against another team built on speed, the Montreal Canadiens, defensive lapses were evident throughout and the end result was a 4-1 loss with nothing to speak highly about.
New York is 0-5-1 at Belle Center in its last six games.
The Canadiens have a bunch of small forwards with the ability to skate circles around other teams if you're not going to take the body enough. New York had 48 hits against a similarly-constructed Leafs team. On Sunday, it had just 26. But on Sunday, the Rangers looked like one of the worst defensive teams in the league, rather than a top-ranked one.
The Habs' first goal less than three minutes into the first period was a mixture of a bad line change, lackadaisical backchecking efforts from the fourth line and a Marc Staal turnover. Staal had the puck in his own end and instead of throw the puck up the same side of the ice, he sent it softly cross-rink barely out of the zone and it was picked off by the Montreal player. Staal then gets a piece of Henrik Lundqvist causing him to lose his stick and fall out of position, Stu Bickel gets in the way and Max Pacioretty sends in his first goal of the night. New York answered at 12:49 on a John Mitchell goal, but that would be all the good news in this one.
Montreal scored three goals in the second period as the Rangers continued to break down in the defensive zone. There's just no sugar coating it: New York played its sloppiest defensive game and rarely picked up the right forwards on the Habs' goals. Pacioretty deflected in his his second of the game as Bickel, who had a terrible night and played only 5:17 as a result, contributed to blocking Lundqvist's view. Michael Blunden sent a one-timer via a Scott Gomez behhind-the-net pass in another scrambled sequence for the Rangers and in a matter of less than four minutes, the Rangers were down two. They'd be down by another as David Desharnais converted at 12:18.
Luckily for the Rangers, the game didn't become even more ugly in the third period.
On the not-so-good side was Michael Del Zotto's poor defensive showing with a negative-two night and 16:11 where his ice time was limited for stretches. The fourth line of Wojtek Wolski (negative-three), Mike Rupp (negative-two) and Kris Newbury (negative-three) was just eaten alive. Wolski and Newbury played just over six minutes, which is a horrible rate of goals allowed in that short of time. Rupp played 10:26, but didn't have a good game, either.
It was one of those nights that the Rangers looked so bad, they'd be better off throwing out the tapes. They hadn't been this bad defensively all season.