Lost Rangers dishonored themselves by losing Penguins

PITTSBURGH — The Rangers dishonored themselves and their season with a total eclipse in Monday’s 7-2 debacle of a Game 4 loss to the Penguins, putting the club one loss away from ignominious extinction.

There’s no excuse, none at all, for the way the team’s marquee players were swept away like so much junk in this game. They were so overwhelmed in their matchups that you wanted to take your eyes off the carnage, especially during Pittsburgh’s five-goal second half.

What did Mika Zibanejad do? What about Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome? What about Adam Fox? Jacob Trouba? This – and this series – is not on the Young’uns. This series is on the team leaders.

“We played quietly. We were soft all over the ice,” said head coach Gerard Gallant, whose team was beaten one-on-one all night. “That’s the biggest difference. We were soft all over the ice.”

There is no greater charge from this coach. But it’s not as if he and his staff were innocent bystanders during this series, as blueshirts structure was generally weaker than papier-mâché. Gallant called 7-2, “a team effort”. That includes the guys behind the bench.

The Rangers cannot or will not maintain a forecheck. The Rangers can’t or won’t play straight-line hockey through the neutral zone, planting the puck deep and forcing Pittsburgh defenders to turn and chase. Their five-man defensive game is in shambles. Their physical element, which was so strong at home during the first two-game split, has evaporated.

Rangers dishonored their season with their Game 4 performance.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

And at the worst moment, playing behind a shabby and ugly hockey, Igor Shesterkin was unable to do anything about it. With cacophonous taunts raining down on the Rangers MVP for the second straight game, Shesterkin was once again shaken, even if he was on his own too often. What else is new?

What was new was that Shesterkin once again struggled to find pucks in his feet and in traffic, and couldn’t take any breaks in play as the penguins camped carelessly on his doorstep while they dig for loose change.

The 26-year-old wasn’t the problem, but it wasn’t a solution either. Shesterkin came to Pittsburgh after conceding six goals on 124 shots in 165-39 (0.952 percent, 2.17 GAA) in the first two games of the series. He then gave up 10 goals on 45 shots in 59:53 in those two (0.778/10.01) after being drawn for Alex Georgiev for the second straight game, this time after 40 minutes.

In the 2016 five-game first-round loss that saw The King drawn from games 4 and 5 of the series Penguins third-string goaltender Jeff Zatkoff recalled starting the first two games he to Henrik Lundqvist against the Penguins.

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Still, Gallant said he’s coming back with Shesterkin for the potential elimination in Game 5 on Wednesday. The decision has been made.

“The best goalkeeper in the league,” he said.

The Penguins celebrate a goal in the third period during their Game 4 win over the Rangers.
The Penguins celebrate a goal in the third period during their Game 4 win over the Rangers.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Three of the Penguins’ five goals in the second period that extended the score from 1-1 after 20 to 6-2 after deflections. Two lost right in the defending zone, one by Zibanejad, the other by Filip Chytil. One of the goals came when Ryan Strome failed to clear the zone and the team failed to cover the middle of the ice. What else is new?

Rangers are bleeding shots again, back to where they spent much of the season. Worse, they seem to have lost their poise. They were out of joint and unwatchable for most of the night, allowing the Penguins to score two goals within 24 seconds early in the second period and then two goals within 35 seconds of late. That was just a hysterical game.

Zibanejad, who failed to score, is beaten like hell in his match with Sidney Crosby. It’s hard to see how this proud Swede has had such a difficult time after a season that saw the No.93 reassert themselves as a member of the league’s upper division.

The Panarin Strome connection has gone haywire. Both were eliminated. The Zibanejad-Chris Kreider connection is shorted. The Blueshirts have conceded twice as many power play goals as they have scored.

Their great strengths, their business cards throughout the season, have been reduced to rubble here. They could do nothing – nothing – to shake the confidence of third-row goalkeeper Louis Domingue.

The Blueshirts were overwhelmed in Games 3 and 4. In games 3 and 4 they were overtaken. In Game 4 they were humiliated.

If the playoffs looked like this, they could have just picked up their attendance trophies at the end of Game 82 and saved everyone from all this trouble. Lost Rangers dishonored themselves by losing Penguins


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