The Rangers beat up on the Devils, but can they keep the win streak alive against a better Penguins team?
The New York Rangers have improved their play significantly and are getting healthy, all at the right time. They’ve gotten several players back from injury and would be adding Jacob Trouba to that list prior to Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers have been rolling and are looking to extend their winning streak. Phillip Di Giuseppe was scratched on Saturday, but returned to the lineup to take the spot of Colin Blackwell as the fourth line right winger.
Trouba would slot back in alongside K’Andre Miller and Brendan Smith dropped to the bottom pairing with Libor Hajek instead of Jack Johnson. Alexandar Georgiev would start his second in a row.
1st period: Happy for Mika, but…
The Rangers got on the board early with a great goal from Mika Zibanejad, who needed it desperately. His play had picked up recently and he was on a point-streak, but a goal like this is what he really needed. The hope is that this gets him going.
This goal doesn’t happen without Pavel Buchnevich, who continues to be incredibly impressive on all ends. Unfortunately, the excitement and happiness that stemmed from this goal would dissipate, fast.
Some serious defensive blunders and truly awful goaltending saw the Rangers fall behind 3-1. Georgiev was replaced by Keith Kinkaid, who would be making his Rangers debut.
Some more good news: Trouba looked like he hadn’t missed any time and even got an assist on the goal.
Would the Rangers be able to climb out of this hole?
2nd period: Are you kidding me, Keith?!
The Rangers looked deflated throughout most of the second, but this wasn’t a dreadful 20 minutes for them. They looked great on the penalty kill, as they have for some time, and their solid shorthanded play gave them some offensive momentum later on.
However, they weren’t able to take advantage of that momentum to score.
On the bright side? Kinkaid looked really, really good. He came up with some big saves and didn’t look like he hadn’t been getting consistent starts in the NHL.
3rd period: That was ugly
The third period wasn’t a great one for the Rangers. They conceded two more goals, one being the result of a bad line change, something that’s happened too often this season.
The Rangers weren’t able to get on the board again and would need to learn from this ugly loss and put it behind them.
Kinkaid gave up two goals in the third, but played well enough to earn the start on Tuesday if Igor Shesterkin still isn’t quite ready to go.
Georgiev has proven time and time again that he isn’t able to play back-to-back, and that isn’t something David Quinn and the rest of the coaching staff should ignore.
Key Moment: Finally, Mika
The key moment of the game was Zibanejad’s goal. It didn’t end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things, but that was a goal that he and his teammates needed.
If this set something off for Zibanejad and gets him going, this team is going to do big things. It was also a vintage Zibanejad goal, one that he scores when he’s at his best.
Player of the game: Mika Zibanejad
It’s about time Zibanejad receives this honor. There wasn’t much to celebrate after this loss, but Zibanejad had a solid game all-around. The success that this team will achieve if he can consistently play like he did in this game is great.
His numbers: 19:18 TOI, 1 G, 54.55 CF%, 0.45 iXG, 1 block, 0.83 xGF, 0.39 xGA, 1.06 GF, 0.99 GA, 0.19 defensive rating, 0.42 offensive rating, and 1.05 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.