NEW YORK– Special teams aren’t that special if you can’t produce in crunch time. For the Rangers, three missed power play opportunities characterized a poor offensive effort in a 3-1 Game 3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Goals from Arturri Lehkonen, Shea Weber, and Alexander Radulov, with the first two coming on the power play, headlined the Montreal win to give the visitors a 2-1 series advantage.
Both teams entered Sunday night a combined 0-14 on the man advantage but only the Rangers’ woes continued as they are now 0-10 on the power play this series.
“We’re not making any plays,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “You’ve got to make plays.”
Their offense as a whole couldn’t do much as they were only able to get 21 shots toward Carey Price’s goal.
A tentative Rangers start didn’t necessarily prove that they were over their heartbreaking Game 2 loss, either.
For an offense that experienced four minutes of power play time during the first period alone, New York could only muster six shots in a scoreless opening 20 minutes compared to Montreal’s 10.
“I think, first of all, you have to make the passes,” Rangers forward Rick Nash said. “Just the execution wasn’t there.”
Had it not been for Henrik Lundqvist stopping a trio of point-blank Montreal chances, the Rangers would have headed to the dressing rooms down at least a goal.
The Canadiens continued to create more offensive chances in the second, including a pair of Grade-A looks from Torrey Mitchell, who was activated on Sunday, but Lundqvist turned both close-range uncontested shots.
Michael Grabner had the Rangers’ best chance of the second with 10 minutes gone. After a turnover in the Canadiens zone, J.T. Miller looked to feed a streaking Grabner on the left of Price’s gaping goal, but the speedster was unable to get a piece of the delivery.
Any sort of tap in would have put the Rangers ahead.
Instead, they had to play catch up as the Canadiens struck on the power play, their first special-teams tally of the series.
Quick off a face-off win, some tic-tac-toe passing started by Tomas Plekanec to Brandon Gallagher found Lehkonen 10 feet in front of Lundqvist’s goal. The swift one-time shot beat Lundqvist blocker side into the upper right-hand corner of the net to put the Canadiens in front with 2:23 left in the second:
It was a frustrating end to a period in which the Rangers once again could only muster six shots on goal.
“We don’t get a lot of shots. A lot of one and dones,” captain Ryan McDonagh said. “We’re not making passes in the offensive zone, just making hope plays.”
Their deficit doubled when they were down a man once again. Mats Zuccarello’s high stick on Andrei Markov rewarded Montreal with four minutes of power play time, which was more than enough to strike.
Late in the man advantage, Galchenyuk took advantage of a tired Rangers defense to find the decisive pass, which went to Weber at Lundqvist’s unguarded right side. His wrister found twine with 12:18 left in the game.
Radulov, the hero of Game 2, provided the final nail in the Rangers’ Game 3 coffin with 4:25 remaining with a one-handed effort that deked Lundqvist out of position all while Kevin Hayes was draped on his back:
New York received some consolation with 2:56 remaining after Brady Skeij rocketed a slap shot stick side past Price, but they now face an uphill battle heading into Game 4.
“I think it’s important that we start with ourselves and not with what they’re doing,” Lundqvist said. “We just have to do more.”