Kevin Hayes New York Rangers
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

In the first game since losing Chris Kreider to a blood clot, the New York Rangers fall to the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout, Friday evening at Little Caesars Arena despite Vinni Lettieri collecting his first NHL goal. 

  • New York Rangers 2 (20-13-5, 45 Points)
  • Detroit Red Wings 3 (14-16-7, 35 Points)
  • NYR Goals: David Desharnais (4), Vinni Lettieri (1)
  • DET Goals: Andreas Athanasiou (6), Henrik Zetterberg (6), Frans Nielsen (SO)
  • NHL, East, Final, Shootout, Box Score
  • Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan

The Detroit Red Wings showcased all the appearances of the better hockey team in the first period as they forced multiple turnovers, were much crisper, and out of their first five shots, three were of high-quality scoring opportunities.

Fortunately for the road-skating New York Rangers, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was equal to the task, stopping Gustav Nyquist on a power-play breakaway and then again via a one-on-one opportunity:

In the end, it wasn’t enough. Despite never trailing in the game, New York came away with just one point in the shootout loss.

As the Rangers have done all year, they weathered the storm early on and managed to turn the period around.

Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash were the only ones who were strong on the puck in the early going, when quite frankly it was beginning to look like a game of pond hockey for the Rangers. Hayes had one of his better periods of the season, despite not recording a point. He was brilliantly using his size and strength to protect pucks while maintaining sound positioning and creating a number of turnovers that created scoring opportunities.

However, it was the newly formed third unit that got things going for the Rangers as David Desharnais, scoreless in his last 11, broke the ice with an assist from Jimmy Vesey, adding another game to his point streak:

A wonderful anticipation play by Vesey to intercept the reverse D-to-D pass and then outwork the defenseman to get the puck out in front to Desharnais, whose only job was to tap it in. As Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill put it, the Wings are playing well enough to win games while simultaneously finding ways to lose. That was certainly the case after period one, a period in which the Rangers really had no business leading.

The second period certainly had some similar flavor to it, however, this time, the roles were reversed. The Rangers came out of the gate in second and set the pace earning a power play early. But it was the Red Wings who punched themselves on the board with a tricky goal from Andreas Athanasiou on a flipped puck by speedy and crafty Dylan Larkin:

Anthanasiou, who’s known very well for his speed, torched the Rangers first pair down the ice and snuck a tricky shot past Lundqvist.

Not much longer after, it was Lundqvist who was able to get the best of Anthanasiou. It was once again the Larkin and Athanasiou show, making the Rangers’ first pair look silly and slow.

Nick Holden makes a poor choice to step up in the neutral zone leaving Ryan McDonagh by himself. Kevin Hayes, the Rangers best forward of the game, was stuck in the middle of the ice unable to put back pressure on Anthanasiou. But hopefully, someone steps up to buy Lundqvist a steak dinner after that one.

The Rangers once again jumped out to an early start in the third period with recent call-up Vinni Lettieri scoring his first career goal on a nice pass from Boo Nieves. Lettieri, participating in his first NHL game, came right down the slot in the perfect spot. Nieves showed nice patience in finding him for the one-timer/quick-release (whichever you’d like to label it):

But as we all know too well, the Rangers are a turnover machine and it didn’t let them down as Boo Nieves, only minutes after he set up the go-ahead goal, gave up an unforced turnover to Gustav Nyquist who tapped it to Henrik Zetterberg who ultimately made the Blueshirts pay for their transgressions on a second-chance opportunity:

A questionable call on Brendan Smith and a missed call on a hit from behind on Kevin Hayes put the Rangers in a tight situation late in the third period, but the penalty kill was outstanding to end the game with Hayes and Nash once again leading the way.

The tough pill to swallow from the road-team perspective is what happened when overtime came to a standstill.

Brady Skjei was awarded a penalty shot in overtime off a fantastic feed from Desharnais. Desharnais was up in the neutral zone ahead of everyone and showed some great patience to wait for Skjei to outrace his defender and put a nice saucer pass in front of Skjei to skate right into it.

Unfortunately, Skjei, not known to get many opportunities in shootouts, went for the quick snapshot through the five-hole and Jimmy Howard shut the door.

Off to the shootout that saw former New York Islanders one-on-one with the goalie standout Frans Nielsen get it done. He was the only one to find the back of the net through six attempts on a sneaky five-hole shot. Jimmy Howard, who was rock-solid all night, stopped Mats Zuccarello, Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Shattenkirk:

The New York Rangers will rest the next two days prior to returning on New Year’s Day at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, for the 2018 NHL Winter Classic. First puck-drop comes your way 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.