SEATTLE — The Rangers are still struggling to play at the level they want to for a full 60 minutes.
Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena was just the latest example of a trend that plagued the Rangers at the beginning of last season and has resurfaced again through the start to this 2022-23 campaign. Despite Vincent Trocheck’s game-tying power-play goal with 1:54 left in regulation to force the extra period, Kraken defenseman Justin Schultz scored his second goal of the game with less than a minute and a half left in overtime to secure the victory for Seattle.
“Obviously it’s better than coming out of here with zero [points],” said Mika Zibanejad, who tied the game at 1-1 in the first period with a power-play goal. “But I don’t think anyone’s happy with the point right now. We’ll see at the end of the year if that meant something, but disappointing to not get off to a good start on the road.”
For a team that showed so much spark and so much fight last season, the Rangers have had one too many blah performances through the first 18 games of this season. So far, more often than not, there will be at least one period in which they are severely outshot, out-willed or just simply out-hustled. Perhaps the most concerning part is what appears to be a lack of energy at times.
It was the second period on Thursday night, and the Kraken did just about everything but score. The Rangers had goalie Igor Shesterkin to thank for keeping Seattle off the board in a second period that saw the home team hold a 16-5 edge in shots on goal, in addition to a 13-3 advantage in high-danger chances, per Natural Stat Trick.
“If that’s what it looks like, it’s because we’re not playing the right way,” Chris Kreider said when asked if the Rangers are missing some energy. “You end up chasing pucks if you’re not doing the things that allow you to advance pucks and forecheck and play north. You’re going to look tired if you’re constantly turning pucks over and playing deep.”
For the second time in the past three games, the Rangers were called for having too many men on the ice. It marked the first of three penalties the Rangers took in the second, but Seattle hit a couple posts and wasn’t able to capitalize with the man-advantage or at even strength. The team consensus on the second period was simply that they got away from their game, which is something that has happened rather consistently since a complete team effort against the Lightning in the season opener.
After failing to put up a single shot through the full two minutes of their first opportunity, the Rangers’ top power-play unit — which had gone 5-for-20 in the previous six games — tied the game twice, once in the first period and again in the third. The reliance on the power play for offense has left too many of these games up to their ability to draw penalties at pivotal moments.
Though it worked this time around and ultimately served as the reason the Rangers were able to snag a point, it’s not a sustainable approach for a team that has struggled with consistency throughout games.
“It’s disappointing,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought the first period could be the toughest period for us on this road trip, to be honest with you, and we played great. Disappointing the way we played in the second.”