Rangers must learn how to hold on to third period leads

January 22nd, 2021, Ryan Strome of the New York Rangers shots on Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry Photo by Justin K. Aller/NHLI via Getty Images

There was one constant in the New York Rangers two losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins this weekend. In both contests, they took leads into the third period and both times came away with losses.

Sunday night’s 3-2 loss to the Penguins hurts more than the club’s loss on Friday night to the same Penguins team. The Rangers keep finding ways to lose games they should be winning. Goaltender Igor Shesterkin struggle yet again when the team needed a big save, giving up the game-winning goal he most certainly would want back with just 1:31 left to play in the third period.

So Many Positives

The game was not a total disaster, with the team doing so many good things throughout the contest.

  • The Rangers held Pittsburgh to a single-game season-low 19 shots on goal in Sunday’s contest.
  • Colin Blackwell and Ryan Strome each registered their first goal of the 2020-21 season in the game, while Blackwell, Strome, Brett Howden, and Jacob Trouba each notched their first point of the season.
  • New York was credited with 32 hits in tonight’s contest.
  • The Blueshirts won 29 of 57 faceoffs Sunday night (50.9%). The Rangers posted a faceoff win percentage of 50.0% or better in a game for the first time this season.
  • The Rangers did not give the Penguins a power-play, something they have not done since  Jan. 31, 2020, vs. Detroit and for the first time in a road game since Mar. 16, 2016, at Anaheim.

Rookie K’Andre Miller had 21:39 of ice time in Sunday’s contest, which was the second-most on the team (only trailing Adam Fox). Miller’s ice time has increased from game to game through each of his first five career NHL games -13:59 on Jan. 14 vs. NY Islanders; 14:07 on Jan. 16 vs. NY Islanders; 15:10 on Jan. 19 vs. New Jersey; 21:17 on Jan. 22 at Pittsburgh; 21:39 tonight at Pittsburgh. (Courtesy New York Rangers)

The Early Problem On The Ice

With all the good a promise this young team showed, the one glaring deficiency is playing with a third-period lead. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the third period Sunday allowing only 4 shots on goal. Unfortunately, the club gave up two goals on those four shots turning their 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss, their third in the first five games of this season.

Truthfully the Rangers deserved a better result than a late goal loss, but they also need to learn how to help themselves out.

The Blueshirts had the only two power-plays of the contest, but couldn’t convert on either. Their last man-advantage opportunity was at the 6:56 of the third period with the score tied at two.  Currently, the team is ranked 21st in the NHL on the power-play converting 17.4% of the time.

Sunday’s result had a big correlation to the play of Igor Shesterkin.  He took the loss in both games this weekend, with at least three goals he would definitely want back. In the third period of Sunday’s loss, the Rangers rookie netminder should have made the saves,  ]letting the first goal beat him from an unusual angle, and the second of the period, the game-winner, one that appeared to go in as he lost his focus as the shot was taken from the top of the circle to his right.

Shesterkin has a .886 save percentage with a 2.89 goals-against average as he looks for his first win of this season after winning 10 of his first 12 games last seson.

The struggling Blueshirts can not only blame their goalies for the sluggish start to the season. David Quinn has to be responsible for the mess the team is currently in.

His benching of Anthony DeAngelo after the first game of the year because of an undisciplined penalty proved to be suspect at best. In a young season with a rookie defenseman in Miller and the new face of Jack Johnson, the benching didn’t seem to fit the crime.

Quinn has also continued to be impatient with his line combination failing to give the players time to create any chemistry. There have been many variations of different combinations with the forwards and on the blueline.

Wins and losses are a function of the team and are rarely the result of just one player. A player’s action on the ice can seem to end in a goal against or a loss in the standings, but the team effort always outweighs the individual end result.

Blown third-period leads and one-goal losses are a demoralizing ways to go through a season. The Rangers need to learn from their mistakes now and get some wins under their belts before it gets too late in the year.

They will play again Tuesday night when they visit the Buffalo Sabres.