Playing their second game in as many nights in Western Canada, the Rangers did not fair any better Tuesday then they did on Monday. After dropping a 4-1 decision in Calgary 24 hours earlier, the Rangers were defeated by the Edmonton Oilers 5-3 at Rexall Place Tuesday night, dropping the Blueshirts pre-season record to 1-3-0.
The back-to-back defeats lead up to Thursday's pre-season showdown in Vancouver in which their new head coach Alain Vigneault returns to face his former club, the Canucks, while the Blueshirts will skate against their previous bench boss, John Tortorella
That storyline will have to wait another day because there were a string of issues for the Rangers on Tuesday night. They allowed three goals on in-close deflections, and the fourth goal the Rangers surrendered was a shorthanded tally by Ben Eager seconds after a failed 5-on-3 power play opportunity. The Blueshirts were 0-for-4 on the power play until Dan Girardi's power play tally with 3:41 remaining in the third period, and their penalty kill was beaten for the first time after 11 straight successful pre-season kills. Add to the mix a slow start offensively---the Rangers managed just three shots in the first period---to go along with a penchant for surrendering odd-man rushes the other way, and it did not make for a fun night for the visitors.
However there were some bright spots. J.T. Miller, the Rangers first round selection in the 2011 draft who has recovered from a sore hamstring which slowed him early in training camp, appeared in his first pre-season game and promptly netted a goal 2:10 into the second period. What had to make Vigneault the happiest was that Miller drove hard to the net--as the coach has been preaching to his forwards throughout camp---to convert a rebound of Arron Asham's original right wing shot.
In addition Marc Staal---playing on back-to-back nights---scored his second goal in as many games, and had another prime scoring chance off the rush late in the second period. Staal's goal opened the scoring at 7:12 of the first period, a bullet from inside the blueline after Mats Zuccarello came away with the puck following a steal and then proceeded to zip a pass to the Rangers' alternate captain.
The fact that Staal has not only been able to play, but play a high level through three pre-season appearances, has been perhaps the most positive development for the Rangers, considering the frightening eye injury he suffered last March.
It was not a pleasant night for goaltender Martin Biron, who allowed four goals on the first 13 shots he faced. The first three goals against Biron were scored on deflections---two by David Perron in the low slot, which turned a 1-1 game into a 3-1 Oilers lead by the 1:07 mark of the middle stanza. Positioned to the side of the net, Edmonton's Taylor Hall evened the score at one apiece 12:47 into the opening period when he perfectly redirected a Justin Schultz pass past Biron.
The goal that certainly had to bother Biron the most was Eager's shorthanded tally at 11:25 of the second period, which made the score 4-2. As the Rangers' two-man advantage was ending, Derick Brassard lost the puck inside the Oilers' blueline to veteran winger Ryan Smyth, who fired the puck up left wing to a wide-open Eager, just out of the penalty box. Eager skated away with the puck and hammered a slap shot which hit the post flush. But to Biron's dismay the puck caromed off the post, off his leg, and over the goal line for the backbreaking score.
Jordan Eberle, robbed twice by Biron earlier in the match, gained revenge with 6:45 left to play in the third period when he lifted a backhand shot from the low slot over the goalie's gloved hand to make the score 5-2.
Vigneault took another long look at several younger players on Monday. Chris Kreider, Danny Kristo, Marek Hrivik, and Oscar Lindberg all played on back-to-back nights, joining Miller and young defensemen Conor Allen and Tommy Hughes in the lineup. Kreider picked up an assist on Miller's goal, though he was also penalized twice in the game's first 11 minutes; while Kristo, Hrivik, and Lindberg were all held off the scoresheet in their respective third appearances of the pre-season.
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