Anger was palpable.
Anger at what had transpired. Anger at an opportunity missed.
Anger at themselves.
“It’s embarrassing,” Ryan McDonagh said after the Rangers were outclassed by the Lightning, 6-2, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. The best-of-seven is tied one game apiece, with Game 3 set for Wednesday night at Amalie Arena (8 p.m., NBCSN).”There are a lot of things you want to say right now but talking doesn’t do much. Our guys better figure it out quickly and realize that stupid, selfish penalties are going to cost us against this team. [The Lightning] have too much skill, [and we were] shooting ourselves in the foot from the very first few minutes.”
Indeed, there was precious little the Rangers could point to as positives coming out of the nationally televised rout, outside of the two power-play goals scored by Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.
The Rangers surrendered the first hat trick in Lightning playoff history to Tyler Johnson within the first 28:17 of the game. A lack of discipline was costly as Tampa scored three power-play goals. Fallen Rangers led to the game-opening 3-on-5 shorthanded goal and Johnson’s hat trick goal. The Rangers were credited with 14 giveaways.
“We worked hard but I don’t think we were very smart,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who yielded all six Lightning goals. “[Taking] penalties, losing the puck in the wrong area, it’s something we have to work on and do a lot better in the next game. They showed why they’re a good team. They made us pay on some of the mistakes, especially on the power play. It’s going to be a tough series if we take too many penalties.”
Nine Lightning players recorded at least one point, led by the triumvirate of Johnson, Alex Killorn [two goals and an assist] and Nikita Kucherov [three assists] who finished with three points each. Steven Stamkos [a power-play goal and an assist] and Valtteri Filppula [two assists] followed with two points apiece.
By comparison, only Kreider, Stepan, Dan Boyle and Martini St. Louis recorded points Monday night. Following the loss, Alain Vigneault told the assembled media that the Rangers needed more production from their star players, without naming names.
St. Louis has six assists in the playoffs, but has not scored a goal. Rick Nash has scored two goals, the last coming in the Game 6 against Washington.
“There is no doubt their top players had avery strong game, and a couple of our guys didn’t have their best game,” Vigneault said. “Without a doubt, [Johnson] took his game to another level. We need our top guys to do the same thing.”
So, collectively, the mental mistakes, the breakdowns and lack of production would have been cause for concern following a mid-December game. In the Conference Final? Sound the alarm.
“We continued to be undisciplined,” McDonagh said. “We continued to not play hard in front of our net. And these guys are going to make us pay. It’s tough to say at this stage of where we’re at–Conference Finals, Game 2–that we have to learn from this example and take a loss like this because who knows what can happen now down the stretch.
“[We are] just killing ourselves and you are not going to beat teams like this when we are doing that.”