New York Rangers fall 3-2 (SO) to the Florida Panthers; Zibanejad injured

The New York Rangers fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Florida Panthers. Let’s take a look through the game action and analysis.

In a new feature that will be running here at Blue Line Station, we will be providing thoughts and analysis following every Rangers game. Make sure to stop by after games to see what you might have missed!

Game Action:

-Against a Florida team that puts a priority on the possession game, the Rangers came out flying. New York dominated the first five minutes of action, including a series of controlled zone entries. The Rangers have moved past the slow starts they were previously prone to.

-A controlled zone entry that led to the first Rangers goal. Marc Staal dished it to Derek Stepan, who carried the puck through the neutral zone. A drop pass from Stepan to Kreider left Kreider with an open shot, and he fired home his first goal in ten games.

-If anyone needed a goal, it was Kreider. Kreider emphasized a need for additional scoring this offseason, but his scorecard has seen primarily assists. The Rangers success has masked Kreider’s goal scoring struggles, but he must contribute in that regard.

-New York next went on the Power-Play thanks to another controlled zone entry and long shift in the Panthers zone. The Power-Play forced another penalty, with Mike Matheson flipping the puck over the boards. It would be safe to expect an abundance of mental mistakes against the Rangers this season thanks to their consistently potent offense.

-Chances galore on the pair of Power-Plays resulted in no goals for the Rangers. Still, New York came out of the first period with a 13-4 shot advantage and 1-0 lead on the scoreboard.

-The beginning of the second period mirrored that of the first. New York controlled play and peppered Panthers goalie James Reimer. A few strong chances failed to materialize, but the Rangers controlled the action.

-New York lost the first ten face-offs of the first period, but spent most of the time in the offensive zone. After the obsession over the struggles in the dots last season, the lack of concern is refreshing. It is only a minor aspect of the game.

-Florida found the scoreboard after a hectic series of events. The Rangers dominated in the Panthers zone, earning a Power-Play in the process. The Power-Play turned into a Panthers rush, leading to chaos in the Rangers zone. Brady Skjei put the Rangers on the penalty kill by covering the puck with his glove.

-In a twisted turn of events, Keith Yandle slapped home a boomer past Henrik Lundqvist. It was Yandle’s first goal of the season, and first since leaving the Rangers.

-Florida dominated the remainder of the period, but the Rangers escaped tied up, leading 23-14 in shots.

-Quickly into the third period, the Rangers struck. Yet another controlled zone entry mixed with pretty passing slid the puck past Reimer. Mats Zuccarello attempted a pass to Mika Zibanejad, only to see it ricochet off of Aaron Ekblad’s skate and into the net. The goal was credited to Zibanejad, his fifth of the season and second in as many games. An odd yet deserved goal for the newcomer.

-The Rangers appeared to have scored moments later, but the goal was waived off for being offsides. Worth mentioining the MSG camera showed the play as onside. Still, no goal.

-Down 2-1 rather than 3-1, Florida soon knotted up the scoreboard once again.  Aaron Ekblad wristed a shot off of J.T. Miller and past Henrik Lundqvist. The deflection completely altered the direction of the puck, making Lundqvist a sitting duck.

-Miller’s play is a perfect example of what players must not do. The shot was originally an innocent, weak flick from the point, but Miller’s deflection turned it into a curveball. Lundqvist spoke to Miller about it during the ensuing intermission, and rightfully so. Blocking shots is not an inherently valuable activity.

Overtime/Shootout:

-The game moved into overtime for the first time this season for the Rangers. Only 41 seconds into the extra time, Mika Zibanejad lost an edge and crashed into the boards. Zibanejad writhed in pain until play was stopped, then had to be helped off the ice by Jim Ramsay.

-Once play resumed, the Panthers and Rangers exchanged chances. Florida dominated two minutes, then New York took control. The strongest chance  was a Derek Stepan breakaway thwarted by James Reimer.

-After 5 scoreless minutes, the game moved into a shootout. Mats Zuccarello’s patented move failed, but Vincent Trocheck potted a tally. After Brandon Pirri out-deked himself, Aleksander Barkov ended it for the Panthers. 3-2 (SO) final.

-On the Barkov goal, Barkov slid the puck back successfully to deke out Lundqvist. By the rules, sliding the puck backwards should result in no goal. The rule is not enforced nearly enough. Rules are rules.

Final Thoughts:

-The first period was a perfect indication of how Corsi is not always indicative of possession play. The Rangers were below even, yet out shot the Panthers 13-4. Worriers about the Rangers success being unsustainable should consider play-makers often hold the puck to find the right play.

-Henrik Lundqvist was phenomenal following a weak showing against the Blue Jackets. Lundqvist made a variety of grade-A saves to match Reimer. Florida’s two goals came on a lethal slap-shot and a deflection that no goalie could stop.

-The biggest concern following the game has to be Mika Zibanejad’s health. Zibanejad’s injury looked especially brutal, and if he is out long-term the Rangers will have some line shuffling to do. That does not bode well for forming consistent lines and players gaining chemistry.

-Zibanejad’s goal added a tally to the group of Rangers that joined the team in the offseason. New York has brought in 31 goals and let 14 goals play elsewhere.

-Kevin Hayes, Rick Nash, and Mats Zuccarello had especially strong evenings. Hayes and J.T. Miller will see their roles further expanded if Zibanejad is out for extended time.

-The loss handed the Rangers their first consecutive losses of the season. New York failed to score three goals in consecutive games for the first time this season as well. Next up? The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

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