In a game that the New York Rangers desperately needed to keep the points flowing towards an NHL playoff spot, the defense broke down and fans learned that Rick Nash alone can not carry this team as they lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3.
As a team, the Rangers won almost every battle that they needed to win: shots, face-offs and hits. But when defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi are not at their best, the only stat that matters is the final score.
Nash attacked the net all night and came away with two impressive scores while his line-mate Derek Stepan added another for the Rangers. The Blueshirts had an opportunity to pull even with the Ottawa Senators for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a win, while inching closer to the fifth place Leafs.
That was not in the cards for tonight and with nine games remaining, the push for the playoffs are in full swing. Since trading Marian Gaborik last week, the Rangers came into tonight’s game riding a 2-0-1 streak where they had been 5-of-11 on the power play. Ryane Clowe presented four shots on goal and was a presence on the boards again, but the defense allowed too many quick break opportunities by the Leafs.
All game long, the Leafs were able to go on fast breaks and rush Henrik Lundqvist, while making the most of their opportunities. Breakdowns in coverage in their own zone can not happen as the Rangers plan to go forward, and will be a key to staying in the playoff hunt if the defensemen can get back to covering the ice.
If the Rangers are going to make a serious run at Lord Stanley’s Cup this year, taking shifts off and being caught out of position on defense will not be a recipe for success.
One good thing fans learned tonight was that the Rangers never quit, and they have a better chemistry today than they have all year. Newcomers Clowe, Derik Brassard, John Moore and Mats Zuccarello have made sure of that.
Finally head coach John Tortorella has the players he feels he may need to make a run. Let’s just hope he can come up with a finished product on the ice in the next few games, or he might have a very long offseason to figure out a new strategy.