CALGARY, Alberta — The Rangers and head coach Gerard Gallant are understandably frustrated they received just one point in each of the middle two contests of their four-game road trip, when they certainly did enough to earn four points total.
But the fashion in which the Rangers were pushed to overtime by both the Canucks and Oilers — despite holding two-goal leads heading into the third period in each game — stung the most.
After Friday’s 6-5 overtime loss at Edmonton, Gallant pointed out that the Rangers had a strong 35 minutes or so and then “we started watching them a little bit.” That was a trait of the team during the David Quinn era.
The Rangers have had a couple of games this season in which they effectively protected a lead, such as the 3-1 victory over the Predators on Oct. 21 and the 4-0 rout of the Blue Jackets on Oct. 29. But there have also been substantial defensive breakdowns late in games that have cost the Rangers.
“I don’t know if we get too passive and try to protect the lead in a little bit too much of a defensive way,” said Mika Zibanejad, who entered the Rangers’ game at the Flames on Saturday night with a combined three goals in the previous two games.
Passive is the right word there. The Rangers, who have managed to win four games so far this season when they are outshot by their opponents, mustered just four shots in the third period Friday, compared to the Oilers’ 15.
The Rangers have been more effective at five-on-five and also dangerous on the rush in the past couple of games, so their ho-hum third-period performances have allowed wins to slip away. Gallant has made playing the same way for 60 minutes a point of emphasis, but it appears the Rangers are still learning how to do so.
There’s no question the Rangers ran into unforeseen obstacles in the two overtime losses to the Canucks and Oilers. Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko had a monstrous third period in the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday. He turned aside all 11 shots he faced, including a handful during the Rangers’ 36-second five-on-three power play despite losing his stick and blocker.
Oilers star Connor McDavid, who can’t be considered an unexpected factor, scored a sensational game-tying goal late in the third period Friday after skating through four white jerseys and then dekeing Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Sometimes, that’s how the best of the best in the NHL are going to play.
Prior to the rematch against the Flames, who won 5-1 at the Garden on Oct. 25, the Rangers set a new season high with five goals in their loss at Edmonton. But the Rangers know they’ll have to play complete games in order to secure two points.
“It’s the most goals we’ve let up this season, too,” defenseman Jacob Trouba said of the loss Friday night. “I guess you can look at it both ways. I think we know we have the offensive skill and the fire power, but you can’t be giving up that many goals. Our goalie actually made some pretty good saves.
“As a team, we’ve got to play better defense, that’s how you win in this league.”