CALGARY, Alberta — The Rangers avoided any ejections in the second period Friday night, so their struggles weren’t masked by being two men down.
For the second game in a row, however, they allowed a pair of goals in quick succession that proved to be the difference and their offense remained lifeless in a 5-1 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Rangers (28-30-13) dropped to 0-2-1 on their road trip while losing for the ninth time in 10 games. Only 11 games remain in their season, which has turned south in a hurry.
Coach David Quinn had pleaded before the game for more of an attacking mentality on offense, not just trying for the “pretty” goals. But instead of putting it in play, the Rangers were shown how it’s done by the Flames. After New Jersey’s own Johnny Gaudreau had a pretty one on a breakaway in the first period, the Flames did the rest of their damage in front of the net, led by Matthew Tkachuk’s two goals and three assists.
“We do a lot of good things, but when it comes time to getting to the net and having an attack mentality offensively, we just don’t have it right now,” Quinn said before Neal Pionk scored the Rangers’ lone goal on a four-on-four slapper that tied the game 1-1 in the first period. “I thought we had it for a while, but over the last three or four games, we just haven’t had that. … Too often right now, we’re taking the path of least resistance.”
Tkachuck scored and assisted on a pair of goals in a 70-second span in the second period to put the Flames ahead for good 3-1. He then added a second goal and assist less than five minutes apart in the third period to blow the game open.
Goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who had 27 saves, didn’t get much help from the defense in front of him.
The Rangers, meanwhile, were futile on the power play once again, putting just four shots on net during three separate man-advantages.
Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, who not long ago powered the first line that carried the Rangers offensively for a stretch in January and February, were also held without a goal for the eighth straight game.
“Pucks and bodies. It’s simple,” Kreider said before the game. “We’re too perimeter right now. You look around the league, goals aren’t scored from outside the dots. You gotta get inside the dots, you gotta get in to the net, you gotta attack the net.”
Kreider in particular has been in a funk offensively. He had just worked his way back up to the first line Wednesday night in Vancouver before getting ejected early in the second period for a high elbow. The $5,000 fine he received as punishment was the least of his worries.
“As a group, we gotta fall in love with winning and fall in love with the details that allow you to win hockey games, because losing sucks,” Kreider said. “It’s a weird time, obviously. But it’s a time where guys can get better individually and get better as a group. An -game stretch now where we can work on our game, work on our process and get back to winning hockey. We’ve done it in spurts over the course of the year and no better time to start stringing together wins than right now, right? What’s happened, happened. All you can do is learn from it.”
Kreider had little interest in talking about Wednesday’s ejection and the ensuing fine.
“No comment,” he said. “It’s a game day. We’re moving on. What happened, happened. Obviously it was unfortunate.”