When the Rangers return to work on Saturday head coach Gerard Gallant already forewarned one of the things his team would focus on. After playing a competitive two periods, the Rangers fell apart in the third, registering just two shots on net as they eventually went on to lose in overtime to the San Jose Sharks.
It was an effort that perplexed Gallant to the point of having a hard time verbalizing what went wrong for the Rangers in the final 20 minutes. The Sharks ran circles around them putting up 16 shots and generating 12 high-danger chances compared to the Rangers’ two, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“That third period I have no idea where that came from,” Gallant said. “I have no idea what went wrong. It was just a total collapse. It’s embarrassing actually. Guys are just standing in front of your net banging in four rebounds and (Igor Shesterkin) had made to make four saves in that one spot. That doesn’t happen with our team. With any team in the NHL.
“It wasn’t just one line or one play, it was a total collapse of the whole team and that’s what’s disappointing.”
While Gallant emphatically pushed back on the notion that the Rangers have had issues in the third period, a trend has started to build, The Rangers appeared to take their foot off the pedal in the third a bit in Monday’s win over the Anaheim Ducks and it was in the third against the Winnipeg Jets that a 1-1 game became a 4-1 loss.
But Thursday’s loss to the Sharks and the third-period collapse took on a different feel than the other two that have occurred in the young season.
“Obviously not the third period we like. It’s been a problem for us early,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. “It’s just playing a full 60 minutes the way we want to play. I’d say we’ve yet to do that and that’s going to be our focus going forward is playing that consistent game for a whole game.”
Trouba described the Rangers’ play as “sloppy” in that third, while crediting the job the Sharks did at the same time. When Trouba’s comments about the Rangers’ third-period letdowns were brought up to Gallant he called the events of Thursday different than the previous times that they had occurred this season.
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“I’m just telling you it was a complete difference,” Gallant retorted strongly. “We were in control the other night. … Tonight is a complete difference. Tonight was a 2-2 hockey game and we laid an egg, but the other game we were in control of the game and we made a couple of bad plays that turned into goals. So complete difference.”
The Rangers are only a handful of games into the young season and this could very well be a forgotten memory by the time they board they wrap up their four-game homestand next week. Right now, though, it will be something the Rangers need to address starting Saturday at practice.