This wasn’t nearly as bad as the scoreboard might indicate, but it sure wasn’t good.
The Rangers had themselves a big-time letdown, dropping a 4-1 game to the Golden Knights at the Garden on Monday night. It broke the Blueshirts’ five-game points streak, as they went down early and just could never dig themselves out of the hole.
The Rangers (13-10-3) had been pretty high on their horse, having gone 4-0-1 in their previous five and 10-4-2 in their previous 16. There were a couple real clunkers in there, and although it wasn’t quite that bad against the Golden Knights (14-11-4), the Blueshirts still started the third period down, 4-1.
They had a chance to claw back, getting two power plays in the opening five minutes of the third. But neither resulted in a goal, making them 0-for-4 on the man-advantage at the time. As the Golden Knights scored on both their power-play chances early on, the Rangers special-teams rollercoaster hit a low point.
The Rangers got one more power play with 2:14 remaining in regulation, with coach David Quinn pulling Henrik Lundqvist for the extra attacker. But it was muddied when Ryan Strome was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the game ended with a whimper.
The game did not start well for the Rangers, as Alex Tuch ripped a shot coming up the left wing that snuck through Lundqvist’s left arm and trickled towards the goal line. Before it crossed, Lundqvist spun around and ended up knocking it over the line with his legs, giving Vegas a 1-0 lead just 1:34 into the game.
Brady Skjei was then quickly called for a holding-the-stick penalty, and Tuch scored his second goal in a span of 2:16, finishing a great goalmouth feed from Nate Schmidt for a power-play goal to make it 2-0.
The Rangers did wrest some momentum back with a good 10 minutes to finish the first, but could never beat goalie Malcom Subban — the regular backup, with starter Marc-Andre Fleury recently getting hurt. But it couldn’t carry over into the second, as a Brett Howden turnover sprung Reilly Smith — brother of Rangers forward/defenseman Brendan Smith — on a breakaway that he buried at 4:44 to make it 3-0.
Kaapo Kakko then took a high-stick penalty, and the Vegas power play struck again, a terrific cross-crease pass from Cody Glass finished by Max Pacioretty at 6:20 to make it 4-0.
That seemed to take some of the air out of the Rangers sails, but they didn’t quit. Brendan Lemieux managed to tip in a Jacob Trouba shot at 15:15 to get the Blueshirts are the board and cut the deficit to 4-1 going into the third.