NEW YORK -- The Rangers cannot afford to employ excuses in the wake of the 2-0 blanking they suffered at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens in Monday’s home opener at Madison Square Garden. Their offensive response was, again, lacking as the team fell to 3-7-0 on the season.
The Blueshirts have been blanked on three consecutive occasions by the Habs dating to last season. And while Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj was superb in stopping all 27 shots he faced, the Rangers need to focus on finishing.
As it stands, they are in 15th place in the Eastern Conference with a mere six points, just one more than the downtrodden Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers are dead last in the league with a paltry 1.50 goals per game.
And that can’t be explained away with one night of tough calls.
But there were some legitimate gripes to be made about the officiating in New York's latest loss. To be fair, Montreal could’ve blasted the refs for some suspect calls, too.
With the Rangers on the losing side of the ledger, however, a second-period roughing call on Brian Boyle proved the most costly. Though officials seemed to think the hulking forward caught Brendan Gallagher up high with an elbow, a replay showed no such contact.
With Boyle in the penalty box, the Habs made easy work of the Rangers’ penalty kill, executing a surgical passing sequence that left goaltender Henrik Lundqvist all alone as Tomas Plekanec deked him and backhanded the puck home with 3 minutes, 26 seconds to play in the frame.
“From his angle it looked like I probably hit him in the head,” Boyle said of the official's view of the incident with Gallagher. “That was pretty low to the ice and it’s unfortunate that we get scored on, but again, there’s plenty of time for us to generate offense and score ourselves and we didn’t do it.”
In the third, the Rangers went on the power play with the chance to tie the game, only the man advantage was negated 21 seconds in when Chris Kreider was whistled for an interference penalty that had fans practically screaming for blood.
Kreider was trying to hold the blue line as two Habs defenders, skating backward, got tangled up with each other and toppled to the ice. Kreider made incidental contact, but it was enough for the official to send him off for two minutes.
He talked to the officials after the call. The explanation he received?
“When they’re backing up, it’s their ice. I can see them coming so I need to make some effort to move out of the way,” Kreider explained. “I guess it’s on me to see where they are.
“There might have been some calls we didn’t like, but there are always going to be calls we don’t like,” he added.
And to top off the night, the Rangers were in the midst of a late-game attempt to knot the score and push it into overtime when the officials upheld a video review of Alex Galchenyuk's goal with 2:51 left in regulation.
The initial call on the ice, a good goal, stood after review of the play. Lundqvist strongly disagreed.
“If that’s not a kick, I don’t know what a kick is,” he fumed. “Seriously, there needs to be some sort of consistency in the calls.”
The Rangers won’t get far if they blame the stripes moving forward, though. The team’s offensive effort needs improvement, and soon.
“We need to find a way to get a couple in,” said defenseman and alternate captain Marc Staal. “You can’t win a game without scoring any goals.”