The New York Rangers conclude a three-game Western road trip on Tuesday night when they face the defending Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights. And the way the first two games of the trip have gone, David Quinn’s squad may want to avoid trying its luck at the casinos during Monday’s day off.
The Rangers hit the road following a 7-2 pasting at home by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, and abruptly took two losses by a combined 10 goals — 6-1 at Colorado on Friday night and 5-0 at Arizona on Sunday.
All-Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been pulled in each of his last two starts, leaving Sunday’s loss to the Coyotes late in the second period after yielding all five goals on 32 shots. He surrendered six goals on 18 shots against the Penguins, lasting less than 45 minutes.
Now comes a Golden Knights’ team that is in the midst of a season-best six-game winning streak and is 14-3-3 at home this season.
“We’re fragile mentally and physically the way things are going,” Quinn told reporters after the Arizona loss. “You lose three games like that there’s a whole heap of problems right now and we’ve got to address them.”
Penalties and slow starts — the Rangers (17-7-7, 41 points) have trailed 2-0 after the first period in each of the first two games on the trip — are certainly part of the problem.
“We’re not starting very well and it snowballing on us and we’re just not playing good enough to win,” defenseman Marc Staal told reporters. “We’re making it too easy for teams, turn a lot of pucks over, just doing things that lose you hockey games. Right now we’re doing it in a big way.”
Vegas, meanwhile, has given up just seven total goals during its six-game win streak and hasn’t lost a game in regulation at T-Mobile Arena since a 4-1 loss to St. Louis on Nov. 16.
The Golden Knights (26-15-4, 56 points) entered Monday’s action tied with Calgary for first place in the Pacific Division and play five of their next seven games at home before going into the league’s All-Star break.
“They’re real important,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said of the remainder of the season’s first half. “I think we have seven games left to our break and we just have to keep getting points because everybody else is winning in our conference so we’ve got to keep winning and playing hard.”
This is the final of the two regular-season meetings between the two teams. Vegas won the first one, 4-3, in overtime at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 16 on a goal by Alex Tuch.
The Golden Knights also got goals from Paul Stastny, Reilly Smith and William Carrier in that contest. Carrier won’t play in Tuesday night’s rematch, however, after being put on injured reserve with an illness while Smith left Sunday afternoon’s 3-2 victory over New Jersey with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day.
With Carrier, who has eight goals and an assist, out at least for two games, the Golden Knights recalled AHL scoring leader Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Wolves. The 27-year-old forward had six goals and nine points in seven games earlier this season with the Golden Knights and has scored nine goals in nine career games with Vegas.
–Field Level Media