Rangers captain Jacob Trouba may have played Brady Tkachuk one-on-one as the game drew 1-1 in the second half, but the Senators captain beat the entire Blueshirts team by scoring the hard-hitting, game-winning goal and the overtime winning KO.
The way Rangers have run over the past week and a half made this 3-2 loss to the Senators, who are lagging behind the Atlantic Division, an even harder blow. It was a brutal defeat with another lost lead that certainly reopened a wound in a Rangers team that had just put a band-aid over it after beating Ottawa in their building earlier this week to end a three-game losing streak to stop.
“Wasn’t good enough,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “We had two chances in overtime but we didn’t play well enough to even be there, to be honest.”
The Rangers repeatedly failed to remove the puck from their zone, although there were still seconds left as a rule. Vincent Trocheck then threw the puck right into Trouba, which sent it bouncing out to Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot, who threw it into the net for Tkachuk to tap in for the 2-2 score. The collective gasp of the Madison Square Garden crowd as the puck went between Igor Shesterkin’s pads could have pulled the already sagging pinwheel cover further towards the ice.
It ultimately forced overtime, where Tkachuk ended it with a grueling right hook in the form of a backhand shot with 17.4 seconds left in overtime to even win the home-and-home series by one piece. Down go the Rangers.
“Very disappointing,” Ryan Lindgren told the Post after the loss that dropped Rangers to 11-9-5 for the season. “We had a lead there late in the third and our goalkeeper played incredibly. We just gave them too many chances and they had to get one. We’ve said it before, we need to pull together.”
You’ve said it before because this is the sixth time a lead has been snatched from Rangers since early last month. The team’s confidence is now badly damaged.
Not even the two breaks the Rangers caught during the night helped them. The first came on Senators forward Claude Giroux’s goal in the second third, which Rangers challenged for offside and won. The other was late in the third before Tkakuk’s first record when traffic around Shesterkin appeared to push the puck over the goal line, but the game was declared dead before it crept under No. 31’s pad and was not ruled a goal.
However, Trouba took a seat in the box just after the offside goal, allowing the Senators to score a goal that counted. Shesterkin denied several Senators trying to wedge the puck around the crease before jumping out to Tim Stutzle, who backhanded it in to level the game.
From there, the tug-of-war for control of the game began, and Trouba did just the right thing to get his team going, hitting them with the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Tkachuk in a captivating Captains tilt recorded on the middle ice.
“We didn’t play the way we had to play and he steps forward and drops the gloves,” Lindgren said. “Sends some sort of message to the entire team that we need to take it up and match its intensity. It was a big spark for us.”
Rangers played a little meaner from there and Mika Zibanejad went 5 holes against Senators Netminder – and former blueshirt – Cam Talbot at 6:03 of the third hole to regain the lead. Gallant wasn’t pleased that it took a few fights – Barclay Goodrow also dropped the gloves – to ignite his team.
But there won’t be time to stay down and catch your breath. The Rangers get right back in the ring against the Blackhawks on Saturday night.