Hartnett: Rangers Need To Get Embarrassing Loss To Lightning Out Of Their System Fast


It doesn’t matter if you’re John Davidson or John Q. Public, Joe Micheletti or Joe Sixpack, a 40-year season-ticket holder or a newer fan drawn to the Rangers by the arrivals of Kaapo Kakko, Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox.

No matter what your association to the Blueshirts is, you knew that this season would have its share of valleys to go along with the thrilling peaks. After all, the Rangers have the NHL’s youngest roster with an average age of 25.3.

When a roster is that youthful and stocked full of players taking their first strides in the NHL, growing pains are inevitable. That combined with a coach who is still learning in David Quinn means the Rangers are far from a finished product and a long way from their ultimate Stanley Cup goal.

The Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning each entered Thursday with 18 points, though it didn’t take long for the wide talent gap separating the teams to come into view. This was a far different result than the Blueshirts’ 4-1 home victory over the Bolts in late October.

The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate one of their nine goals against the Rangers on Nov. 14, 2019.Kim Klement/USA TODAY Images

This time around at Amalie Arena, the Lightning struck early and often. Bolts fans bayed for a 10 spot with chants of, “We want 10, we want 10!” They came close. When the final horn sounded, the Rangers left the ice humiliated after a 9-3 hurting.

The Rangers fed the Lightning’s offense through a combination of lackluster desire, standstill defense and a complete absence of discipline. Tampa Bay was gifted eight power play chances. Predictably, the league’s best power play took advantage of the Rangers’ self-inflicted wounds by converting five of eight power play opportunities.

Five-on-five and short-handed, Alexandar Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist were totally hung out to dry. Georgiev started the game, then was replaced by Lundqvist after he allowed four goals on the game’s first eight shots. Again, I want to stress that there was nothing either goaltender could do to prevent the onslaught. Lundqvist was then replaced by Georgiev to start the third period. It was that kind of night.

There were clear lanes for the Lightning to skate to goal-rich areas. The Rangers failed to communicate and missed assignments. The low slot was there for the taking without much resistance. If you give Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Brayden Point and Co. ample time and space, you’re going to have a bad time.

Granted, the Rangers were without Kakko and No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad. Losing key defenseman Jacob Trouba during the second period put further strain on a short-handed lineup. The flu has been going around in the Rangers’ dressing room, and maybe that played a part in the embarrassing defeat.

Whether the flu is to blame or not, the Rangers need to get this performance out of their system fast. Next up on the schedule is another Sunshine State opponent with a top-five power play and two of the league’s leading point-getters in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Repeat the same mistakes on Saturday and the Rangers could be in for another lopsided result. It’s time to stamp out these issues before it snowballs.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey.