Ducks need more offensive firepower to disarm Rangers

Dec 22, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67) celebrates his game tying goal against the New York Rangers during the third period at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks have a lot going right this season.

Under new coach Randy Carlyle, they are in the thick of the race for a Pacific Division title and John Gibson has played well as he takes the reins as the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender.

But as the Ducks come to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, there are scoring issues.

The Ducks will play their third game on this six-game trip and are in the midst of an offensive slump. They have scored two goals or fewer in six of their past nine games and lost the first two games of the trip while scoring three total goals.

“This is a tough road trip we’re on,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf told the Orange County Register. “This is probably the hardest one of the year in between these breaks, going out on the road for this long. We’re going to need everybody and that includes our goaltenders.”

Goaltending hasn’t been an issue at the start of the trip; Gibson and Jonathan Bernier both made 35 saves on 37 shots in the losses. Carlyle feels like if the Ducks and clean up things defensively, the offense will come as a result of it.

“There’s a remedy to it in a lot of ways,” Carlyle said, according to the Orange County Register. “Keep the puck going forward and try not to have the high rate of turnovers that we had in (a 3-2 shootout loss to the Lightning on Sunday). Six of their scoring chances we logged were direct turnovers. It was a result of us giving them the puck and leading to a scoring chance. That’s not good.”

What’s not good is the Ducks’ road record (11-10-7). What’s also not good is the Rangers’ home record, which is 15-11-1 with six losses in their past eight games at MSG.

The Rangers tried to re-establish home-ice dominance in their 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday, but it was a nail-biter that featured its fair share of poor defensive coverage and in-zone lapses that led to scoring chances.

“Since I’ve been here,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, “we’ve always played well and won at home. We’ve gone through a little stretch here. I don’t think it should affect our psyche at all. We’ve played well here. Our fans are behind us. It’s about execution and preparation.

Not quite sure what happened between the first and second, but the first and third periods were all right from my standpoint. There’s no doubt that starting this homestand with a win, hopefully we will build off that and have a better game against Anaheim.”

The Rangers didn’t play well but found a way to win, which was taken as a good sign by players.

“In the second period when we didn’t have our stuff and the momentum was against us, we did a really good job of defending in front of (Henrik Lundqvist),” Rangers center Derek Stepan said. “Hank made some big saves for us, but for the most part there was only one chance. There weren’t many second opportunities.

“I think that was something we discussed and something that is important going forward is to make sure that when the momentum isn’t with you or if you aren’t playing as sharp as you need to play, to make sure that you defend the right way and you don’t get hurt by those swings.”

If the Rangers are defending well and the Ducks are unable to mount an attack, they have 39 shots in their past two games — two goals may be enough for either team to win.