The Rangers’ physicality flags after an impressive 20 minutes

After 20 minutes on Tuesday night, Alexis Lafreniere and Ryan Reaves each had four hits, Ryan Lindgren and Patrik Nemeth both had three and that was just a small part of the bruising Rangers just about put on the Penguins.

That’s what Chris Drury was hoping for last offseason when he added Reaves. That attitude was missing from Rangers last season when they were pitted by Tom Wilson. These were the Rangers who showed they belonged in the postseason, that they could hit and bruise with anyone.

Some four hours later, Gerard Gallant was on the podium trying to explain a heartbreaking 4-3 triple overtime loss in Game 1, which saw Rangers gamble away a two-goal lead in part because they stopped controlling the game after those first 20 minutes.

“I mean, we couldn’t play 60 minutes like that,” Gallant said. “I would like to say that we could. But the pre check was great. We had a great opening 25 minutes and Pittsburgh are a proud team and they will come back and play harder.”

Barclay Goodrow (21) and Adam Fox tussle with Jeff Carter during Rangers' 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Penguins.
Barclay Goodrow (21) and Adam Fox tussle with Jeff Carter during Rangers’ 4-3 triple overtime loss to the Penguins.

How much heavier?

The Penguins beat the Rangers 25-8 in the second half, forcing Igor Shesterkin to make 79 saves by the end of the night. That included 32 high-risk chances and 8.99 expected goals per natural stat trick. Your eyes haven’t deceived you – the game has turned on its head.

“They had a couple of power plays that changed the rhythm and the five-a-side game [goal in the second], obviously,” said Ryan Strome. “I think we weren’t as assertive and tough in the pre-check in the second period, but all in all I thought we played well.”

The two penalties Rangers conceded in the second half were indeed costly – despite a goal from Chris Kreider who was the man down. Jacob Trouba’s boarding gave Pittsburgh a two-man advantage that the blueshirts couldn’t match. But after that there was no further power play on either side for the rest of the game.

In truth, Rangers weren’t that assertive in the 80 minutes that followed the opening 20, and that was always going to end badly

“It seemed like we started doing these little plays again,” Gallant said. “Rather than drive it deep and finish our controls like we did in the first period, we started to pull away from that a little bit and I thought it cost us. And then the penalties we got slowed the momentum a bit and they got that five-a-side goal.

Now all the Rangers need to do is rest, recover and move on.

“Just keep playing our way,” said Mika Zibanejad. “We have to do this for 60 minutes.”

Not 20 minutes, 60 minutes. The Rangers’ physicality flags after an impressive 20 minutes


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