TORONTO — The madness that was Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers defense allowing five goals in the first period was only matched by the fact that it didn’t put them in an insurmountable hole, but at the end of it all, the Rangers know playing like they did Saturday is unacceptable.
They trailed by four just 17:19 into the game, and by the 14:06 mark of the second period the Blueshirts managed to tie it up after Lundqvist was pulled during the first intermission for Ondrej Pavelec. But after crawling all the way back from an alarming opening 20 minutes, the Maple Leafs scored three in the third to hand the Rangers a wild, 8-5 loss. They open the season 0-2 for the first time since 2012-13.
“It’s an embarrassing start,” said Mats Zuccarello, who had a goal and three assists. “We let in eight goals. That’s not our identity at all. We’ve got to realize we’ve got to defend first here. We’re not gonna win games like this. It’s gonna be a long season if we play like this. Just not good enough.”
Tyler Bozak breezed right up to the goalmouth and easily deposited a Jake Gardiner pass for the go-ahead goal. The Rangers challenged for offside and because they were unsuccessful, per a new rule, they were assessed a delay-of-game penalty, and after Kevin Hayes was called for slashing with five seconds left on that power play, Leo Komarov scored 40 seconds later.
(Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
Not only was this not the first time Lundqvist, who faced 17 shots in the first, allowed five goals in a period, or even five goals in the first period, it wasn’t even the first time he’d done so in this building. On Dec. 16, 2006 Lundqvist, in his second NHL season, gave up five goals to Toronto here in a 9-2 loss during which he surrendered eight goals.
“That was a tough one,” Lundqvist said after allowing five goals in a period for the fourth time in his career. “I’m not gonna try to look for excuses. I need to be better.”
Lundqvist also let in four goals in the second period on Oct. 12, 2014 against none other than the Maple Leafs at the Garden, and in the third period on Jan. 28, 2009 in Pittsburgh, according to data on hockey-reference.com.
Mats Zuccarello (36) celebrates a goal with J.T. Miller (10) and Ryan McDonagh (27).
(Tom Szczerbowski/USA Today Sports)
Pavelec, who stopped 21 of 24 shots, was slated to make his first start Sunday vs. Montreal at the Garden, but after the game Vigneault said he needed to talk to goaltending coach Benoit Allaire to decide if plans were changing.
The Rangers’ comeback began when Kevin Shattenkirk scored his first goal as a Ranger, a man-advantage tally late in the first. His power-play prowess was on display again when he set Mika Zibanejad up at 7:43 of the second to cut the deficit to two. All three of Zibanejad’s goals so far have come with a man-advantage.
Marc Staal — moved up to play with Ryan McDonagh to begin the second, as Shattenkirk shifted to play with Brady Skjei — scored less than five minutes later before Zuccarello tied the game by deflecting a Staal shot.
The bounce-back effort was wasted. “That period means nothing now,” Zuccarello said. “It’s hard to put words on it.”