The New York Rangers played a very winnable game Monday night. They faced the Winnipeg Jets, playing without arguably their best player, Evander Kane. They rode a hot goaltender, Cam Talbot, into the game following an emotional win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. Things were looking good after the first period, as the Rangers outplayed and outworked the Jets to a 1-0 lead. Then everything fell apart. The Rangers looked like the worst team in hockey in what ended up being an unacceptable 5-2 loss.
One play that symbolizes this game occurred in the second period. Derick Brassard‘s horrendous offensive zone turnover led to the Jets’ second goal, and pretty much gave momentum to Winnipeg for the remainder of the game. Throughout that entire period, the Rangers were outworked, outhustled and outhit. Their puck possession was non-existent and Talbot proved to be human in allowing four goals. Yes, the Rangers fought back to tie the game at two, but they never seized control back. Their poor play continued into the third period, and the Rangers allowed a man that failed them miserably in 2010, Olli Jokinen, to finish them off with two goals. It is a perfect example of adding insult to injury.
The players and coach Alain Vigneault sent a clear message after this game: .500 hockey is not going to cut it. They are absolutely right. The inconsistency this team has shown since early November is maddening not only for the team, but for the fans. To be so outworked at home by a team that is no better than they are during this critical stretch of the season is scary and extremely disconcerting. This mediocre play needs to stop now.
Next up for the Rangers is the worst team, record-wise, in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres. If the Rangers fail to defeat them, then it is possible they will never establish consistency. The Rangers called Monday’s performance unacceptable and talked a lot after the game about how it must change. It needs to start Thursday night.