The Rangers may be able to lean on the fact that, as a team with several new faces and new management, there’s bound to be an adjustment period while building chemistry.
But it doesn’t numb the sting of an overtime loss and an 0-1-1 start to the season.
On a night when the late Rangers great Rod Gilbert was honored, with the whole Gilbert family introduced in an emotional pregame presentation that included his wife, Judy, taking part in the ceremonial puck drop, the Blueshirts came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Stars at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.
The Rangers collapsed after falling behind in their season-opening loss to the Capitals in Washington on Wednesday, but when faced with the same two-goal deficit the following night against the Stars at home, the response was certainly there.
Turning up the forecheck and making a point to put pucks on net, the Rangers took charge of the pace of play in the second period and knotted the game 2-2 behind goals from Adam Fox and Chris Kreider.
It was enough to force overtime, but a goal from the Stars’ Miro Heiskanen at 1:38 of the extra period put a damper on what was otherwise a meaningful night at MSG.
When asked if he focuses on having yet to win in two games or the Rangers making strides to start the season, defenseman Adam Fox said it was a little bit of both.
“Obviously, you want to win hockey games, but at the same time, you want to improve,” said Fox, who cut the Rangers’ deficit to 2-1 at 8:43 of the second. “I think for a team like us, with new players and a new coaching staff, I think improvement is important. But at the end of the day, you play to win hockey games. Definitely better than the other day, but I think putting together a full 60 you will come out with a win.”
Head coach Gerard Gallant said after Wednesday’s season opener he told the Rangers they had to play the same way every shift, and that began to come through in the middle frame.
“We started playing north hockey,” Kreider said of the second period, in which the Rangers outshot the Stars 18-8.
Just under halfway through the third, goaltender Braden Holtby headed to the locker room and Anton Khudobin took over in net for the Stars. Despite coming in cold, Khudobin stood tall and stopped all six shots he faced in the final 13:31 of the contest.
The Rangers haven’t been able to have continuity with the lineup through the first two games. With Sammy Blais unavailable for Thursday’s matchup after sustaining an undisclosed lower-body injury Wednesday, Julien Gauthier slotted in on the third line. Plus, after offseason addition Jarred Tinordi’s rough showing against the Capitals, rookie defenseman Nils Lundkvist took his spot on the third defensive pairing next to Patrik Nemeth.
“I expected it to start clicking [Wednesday] night,” Gallant said, seemingly half joking. “We’re like every other team, it’s a work in progress. I see some real positive stuff tonight and that’s all you wait for as a coach.”
While one point is better than none, the Rangers are seemingly still working out the kinks and navigating a new system.
So how many games should it take for the Rangers to settle in?
“Two games,” Kreider said sternly. “Play the full 60, like we did in the second and third, should be able to be the two points.”