So, the final 5:45 of the first period Monday night? The stretch in which the Senators out-attempted the Rangers 21-0 at the Garden?
“They started skating faster, playing harder and competing harder and it took too long for us to be able to identify what was happening,” Jacob Trouba said after the Blueshirts had dutifully absorbed their 6-2 spanking. “You have to be able to reset. We didn’t elevate.
“That’s part of the learning curve.”
Mama said there’d be nights like this and so did David Quinn. As long as there are not too many they can be withstood, though that’s not exactly how the players responded to the forfeiture of the two-game winning streak.
“They played hard, we needed to find another level and we didn’t,” Chris Kreider said. “We didn’t have a pushback.”
Literally, they did. Tony DeAngelo and Brendan Lemieux were each in fights within a span of just over five minutes in the first period. Ryan Strome became involved in a tussle. Even if the Rangers made out OK in the bouts, they seemed to come undone in their aftermath.
The Blueshirts unraveled and lost their poise, perhaps caught on the wrong end of a couple of calls late in the first period, but unable to cope with adversity. What seemed as if it would be easy became very hard.
There is, after all, some downside to dressing the youngest team in the league and a defense featuring 21-year-olds Adam Fox, Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren; 24-year-old Tony DeAngelo; 25-year-old Brady Skjei and 25-year-old Jacob Trouba. Of course there is also some downside when the senior member of the crew has as difficult a night — and that is putting it mildly — as No. 8 did in this one.
At least no one will be able to blame this one on Marc Staal, who assuredly will return to the lineup Wednesday against the Red Wings, perhaps in place of Hajek who had his toughest night of the young season.
It was 1-0, Rangers, on Kaapo Kakko’s third goal of the season off a nifty backhand in front at 8:47. The Blueshirts recorded 11 of the first 12 shots against a team that had entered the building 3-8-1. But then, in an instant, the worm turned.
Tyler Ennis put one on net with 5:45 to play in the period, Jean-Gabriel Pageau tied the match at 14:46 from in front and the Rangers never got a sniff against Anders Nilsson at the other end. Ottawa fired 13 shots at Alexandar Georgiev while seven missed the target and one attempt was blocked. Meanwhile, Ottawa took the lead on a five-on-three goal by Ennis at 18:31 and that pretty much was it, the Rangers — young and old(er) — marked AWOL most of the remainder of the match.
“We let in one goal,” said Georgiev, a co-conspirator in his own demise, “and everything broke down for some reason.”
It happens to the best of them. The Rangers are not in that group. Nevertheless the team seemed flustered and unable to quite cope with Ottawa’s chippy approach. A Tkachuk; the Rangers’ kingdom (not the King) for a Tkachuk, with Brady being the family member who rattled his opponents in this one.
“We played right into his hands,” said Quinn, who coached Tkachuk for a year at BU. “A few too many of our guys got distracted.”
But Kakko did not. Indeed, the 18-year-old played with zest and confidence throughout, opening the night on the third unit with Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden before finishing it on the top line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
When Mika Zibanejad returns, perhaps Wednesday, it will be time for Quinn to unite No. 93 with Panarin and Kakko. Time to let the young man loose.
The Finn, who got 6:56 in the third period and 17:10 for the night, had the puck on his stick throughout, carrying into the zone, working below the hash marks and below the goal line. He appeared as in command as he has since the season’s opening puck drop. Kakko also recorded an assist on Panarin’s third-period power-play goal off a sweet cross-feed.
“I thought [Kakko] had a really good night,” Quinn said. “You can just see him playing with a different level of confidence right now.
“He might have been the only guy to have a good night for us.”
If there was going to be only one, the Rangers couldn’t have picked a better one. Monday’s defeat is already in the rearview. Kakko represents the long view.
And it is the long view that counts most of all in 2019-20.
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