NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, December 10, 2015, 1:45 AM
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault returns to his former home, Vancouver, but sees his Blueshirts fall 2-1 at the hands of the Canucks.
VANCOUVER – The tone of this Rangers Western Canada trip snapped back from rosy to reality in the blink of an eye in the third period of Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the middling Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Alain Vigneault’s club had arrived here two days early, excited about Sunday night’s 4-1 home win over the Ottawa Senators as a building block to a bounce-back week. But the Blueshirts couldn’t score during a dominant first period, and slowly momentum turned through two scoreless frames until Vancouver’s Alex Edler and Daniel Sedin scored in the third period to cancel out Dan Boyle’s shootout finish.
“This is one of those games where I probably think we deserved to win this one,” said center Jarret Stoll, who was at the center of some third-period chaos. “We controlled play and got one of our better periods of the season in the first, but we couldn’t get it done in the third.”
The Rangers (18-8-3, 39 points) will be kicking themselves especially for leaving Canucks forward Daniel Sedin, one of the most skilled players in the world, alone for the go-ahead tip-in at 9:24, just 30 seconds after Boyle had converted his game-tying forehand shootout attempt on Ryan Miller (32 saves).
Henrik Lundqvist (23 saves), Vigneault and the Rangers were cranky about an officiating crew that whistled 12 total penalties, including four on the Blueshirts in the first four minutes of the third. They even said Sedin had scored off an improper face-off. But they knew the game was still within their control when they lost it.
“Both wingers weren’t in position and one of the linesmen probably should have stopped that play so it was a proper puck drop,” Vigneault said. “But even though (that happened), the puck ends up in our zone and there were a number of mistakes from different people on that same play that ended up with a goal for them.”
He was talking about Rick Nash standing still while Sedin beat him easily to a puck on the wall, and the apparent lack of communication between Nash, rookie Oscar Lindberg and Dan Girardi to leave Sedin alone.
The Rangers, who were overtaken by the Washington Capitals on Tuesday in their see-saw act for first place in the Metropolitan Division, slipped to 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They are scheduled to practice at the University of British Columbia on Thursday morning, and they’ll have an opportunity to redeem themselves Friday in Edmonton and Saturday in Calgary.
Losing to the Canucks (11-11-8, 30 points) was difficult to swallow, though. Vigneault’s former Canucks club, now coached by Willie Desjardins, had won just four of their previous 17 games.
The Rangers, though, lost their discipline in the early third. The first two penalties, a hook by Dominic Moore and a delay of game penalty by Jarret Stoll, led to Edler’s point-shot goal for a 1-0 Canucks lead on the two-man-advantage at 3:19.
Stoll and the Rangers strongly disagreed with the delay call. The veteran forward said “I kept the puck within my body. I didn’t cover it with my hand. And it’s a tough spot, laying there as all those guys are spearing at me and jabbing. That’s a tough one to call to put us two men down.”
Vigneault’s bench then earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty immediately following the goal, which the irritated coach explained with: “I guess we were complaining too much.” Then captain Ryan McDonagh gave Canucks agitator Alex Burrows a cross-check to the head, perhaps as payback for Burrows’ cheap shot last November in this same building that separated McDonagh’s shoulder.
Lundqvist and the penalty-killers otherwise held the fort. Nash and Chris Kreider then forced the bounce the Rangers needed, creating chaos at Miller’s crease until Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev was called for delay of game to set up Boyle’s penalty shot.
But then Sedin immediately tallied off Edler’s second point of the night. Vigneault challenged goalie interference on Canucks forward Jannik Hansen, but it was an easy no-call by the review officials.
The result was extremely frustrating because so many Rangers had done so many things well. Kevin Hayes had a shot at an open net off feeds from Keith Yandle and Mats Zuccarello blocked by the skate of Canucks forward Jared McCann in the second period. Just after the second-intermission horn sounded, J.T. Miller – who was forceful and determined all night – tipped a Yandle point shot past Miller, but it was too late.
“I felt we were making plays, we had the puck the whole time, we were on the same page,” center Derick brassard said. “But we’re all thinking, ‘What could I have done better? What could I have done better to help the team win?”
THOUGHTS WITH HAMHUIS
Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis “probably broke his jaw” and “lost some teeth” and was hospitalized overnight, per Vancouver’s coach Desjardins, after being hit in the face with 7:33 left in the third period by a rising Boyle slap shot. Hamhuis was bleeding all over the ice and stumbling as he was helped off by teammates.
“His wife was with him when he left; he’ll spend in the night in the hospital,” Desjardins said.
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