Two days, two games, two regulation losses. That’s how the New York Rangers 2013 campaign has begun. After opening the season with a 3-1 loss in Boston, the Rangers looked flat in their home opener, dropping a 6-3 affair to the Penguins on Sunday night. Unlike the game in Boston, the game wasn’t as close as the scored indicated.
It’s not uncommon for two Atlantic Division rivals to start a game with a quick drop of the gloves. Last night was no different. Literally two seconds in to the game, new acquisitions Tanner Glass and Arron Asham went at it. The bout went on for some time, but Glass clearly won the fight. It was an appropriate foreshadowing for the rest of the evening. Pittsburgh jumped out in front at the 1:48 mark with a James Neal power play goal. Eight minutes later, Ryan Callahan answered back with his own power play goal to even things at 1. But that’s as close as the Blueshirts would be for the rest of the night. Tyler Kennedy and Matt Niskanen each lit the lamp for Pittsburgh to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead heading in to the 1st intermission.
The Penguins domination continued in the 2nd period. Pittsburgh did a good job of keeping the puck in the Rangers end for long stretches of the 2nd period. It would pay off at the 9:11 mark, when Pascal Dupuis scored the second Pens power play goal of the night to make it 4-1. James Neal scored his 3rd goal of the season 5:06 in to the 3rd to send many of the Garden faithful to the exits. The Rangers finally generated some offense midway through the 3rd period, as Taylor Pyatt and Rick Nash (shorthanded) each scored their first goals as Rangers. A Kris Letang empty-netter sealed the deal to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 start to the season with both wins coming within the Atlantic Division.
If you’re a Rangers fan, while it may be second nature, it’s too soon to start panicking. They’ve looked like a team that’s still finding chemistry among the lines. The lack of a pre-season is no excuse, since every team had to deal with the same situation (although teams with new head coaches get a little bit of slack in that department). In a condensed season, a team can afford to have one slump, but that’s it. If I’m Rangers head coach John Tortorella, I bag skate the entire team tomorrow. Other than Rick Nash (who has displayed the talents he brings to the Rangers in the first two games), everyone looks a step slow. The Blueshirts have two days off before they see the Bruins again (at MSG this time), and then travel down to Philly on Thursday night. Tortorella hasn’t been shy about shaking lines up in the past, and I’d expect to see some changes for that two game stretch. One change could be Chris Kreider, who took a high hit late in the game and was slow to get up.