Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 3/6/12

The New York Rangers have not disappointed often this season, but what we saw on this night against a rival in the New Jersey Devils was more than just disappointing. It was a disgraceful effort by a hockey team that did not look like they currently possess the first place spot in the Eastern Conference. I know, they cannot win every game, but this outing was absolutely pathetic on many levels. It was possibly the very worst of the season for New York, actually.

The horrors began just 49 seconds into the tilt when the Blueshirts turned the puck over in the neutral zone and suddenly faced a beaming Ilya Kovalchuk headed straight to the net. The man covering Kovy, Ryan McDonagh, took a spill at the blue-line, so in came Ilya all alone on Henrik Lundqvist and he beat Hank to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. You cannot get off to a worse start than that, right?

Wrong. How about allowing a goal in the opening minute and then following that up by getting pummeled in a fight that was intended to swing the momentum? Because that’s exactly what Brandon Dubinsky did when he challenged Ryan Carter to drop the gloves soon after the goal was scored. Dubinsky did not land one punch, took several to the face, and left for the night after that with a hand injury. Yeah, that’s a pretty messed up start to a game if you ask me.

New York was clearly focused on the extracurricular activity in the first period, rather than the hockey game that was being played. The coaching staff was responsible for this, as they repeatedly put the bruising duo of John Scott and Mike Rupp out on the ice. At that point neither of those guys had any business being out there other than to goon it up to no avail, so I partly blame the coaches for the lack of focus in the opening stanza.

Not to mention when Scott finally did fight with Cam Janssen, it was a complete snooze fest. Totally not worth the build-up.

The Rangers responded well in the second period after their lackluster first, and they were able to tie the game less than seven minutes in. Carl Hagelin made a nice play behind the net to create space, fed Derek Stepan in the slot for a one-timer, and that one-timer whizzed by Marty Brodeur to lock things up at one. Stepan and Hagelin played very well together upon being paired, and you saw the developing chemistry on that goal.   

The Rangers continued to apply pressure in that period and wound up outshooting the Devils, 14-7. So their chances going into the third were looking pretty good until they actually hit the ice.

That third period ended up being one of the worst I’ve seen this team play all season. The club, as a whole, was lifeless; New Jersey took advantage and ran away with the game.

First it was Petr Sykora’s shot deflecting off David Clarkson in the slot and past Lundqvist for a 2-1 Devil lead. Then, just under two minutes later, the Devils struck again of a turnover as Ryan Carter also beat Lundqvist to give New Jersey a comfortable 3-1 advantage. This play was all started by defenseman Dan Girardi’s carelessness with the puck, which makes it three straight games in which he’s cost the team a goal. Not good.

Patrik Elias buried the empty-netter and that was all she wrote for this one. That’s probably a good thing because who knows what would’ve happened if there was any additional time on the clock for things to get even worse.

Mistakes were made before the puck even dropped for the opening faceoff in this one. Obviously Ryan Callahan needed to be reinserted into the lineup, but John Mitchell should not have been the odd man out. I’m pretty confident when I say I remember head coach John Tortorella saying John Scott wouldn’t play very much right away since Torts liked the lineup how it was. Well, Scott has played in every game he’s been available for since being acquired at the deadline. 

And on defense, why was Steve Eminger in the lineup tonight? I thought the Rangers, for at least two out of the three periods on Sunday, looked great defensively against the Boston Bruins. Why the sudden need for change against a less threatening team in the Devils?

And then, to make matters worse, Torts proceeded to pair Eminger with Michael Del Zotto. Does he not remember how those two formed the pairing from hell last season? Completely unnecessary.

That’s all I got for this loss. I’m not going to delve into individual performances, because this was one of those that I like to call a “team loss.” Everyone is to blame for this sloppy effort that resulted in an embarrassing final score.

It would be in their best interest to clean up their act before facing the Senators and Blackhawks on Thursday and Friday. Losses of this magnitude cannot build up at this point of the season. 

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