The New York Rangers snapped a three-game losing skid in style on Monday night, handing the Florida Panthers their first regulation loss of the season in a 4-3 victory.
It was a triumphant return home to Madison Square Garden after a four-game road trip, and they answered the bell by slowing down a Panthers team that had started the 2021-22 season 10-0-1 — the best start to a season by a team since the Buffalo Sabres went 10-0-1 to kick-off the 2006-07 campaign.
That’s probably where the good feelings ended for Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant, who was less than impressed with his team’s effort once again.
The Rangers held a 4-0 lead going into the third period and yielded three in the final stanza, including a pair in the last 1:26 to raise anxiety levels around MSG. But it was a miracle that they were up that much in the first place considering they were outshot 45-18 on the night.
“No fun watching that,” Gallant said. “You win a game against an undefeated team and you don’t feel good about that win. I’ll take the two points later, but that’s not the way you’ve got to play hockey.”
In the third period alone, they were outshot 17-3, continuing an unsettling trend of lackadaisical play in the final frame that headlined losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in recent days.
“We battled for two periods and that third period, it’s not acceptable for us,” Gallant said. “We’ve got to fight through it. We’ve got to grow up. We’ve got to be men and fight through it late in the hockey game.”
It continues to put added stress on goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who continues to stand on his head to keep the Rangers competitive despite the alarming amount of high-danger chances allowed by the defense.
“I wish I had the answer for you right now,” Gallant said on his defense’s malleability. “We’ve been talking about it, we’ve watched video on it, but it seems like we’re giving up the slot shots more than anyone else. It’s frustrating.”
Shesterkin made 42 saves in the victory, raising his 2021-22 save percentage to .931, which ranks seventh-best among goalies with at least five starts in the NHL this season.