The New York Rangers' on-again, off-again trend has continued this week, even on a trip to California that will conclude Saturday afternoon with a game against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Rangers have followed a victory with a loss four consecutive times going back to Thanksgiving weekend and hope to disrupt that pattern after earning a victory Thursday at San Jose when they tied a season-high with six goals.
The Rangers even spoiled the debut of Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner, who took over for the fired Peter DeBoer.
The Sharks failed to show an early burst of energy that often comes when a team changes coaches and played the Rangers to a 2-2 tie after two periods. San Jose even took a 3-2 lead in the third period before the Rangers turned it on with four late goals, including two from Artemi Panarin in the final 3:11 to earn his third career hat trick.
Panarin's hat trick was his first with the Rangers. His other two came against the Rangers, one as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks (Feb. 17, 2016) and the other with the Columbus Blue Jackets (March 20, 2018).
Panarin has seven points in three games on the current road trip and has scored a goal in all three games. He has 18 goals on the season.
"He enjoys scoring goals, I'll tell you that much," Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said of Panarin, according to NHL.com. "It's fun to watch him and to get a chance to play with him. He's unbelievable. And he's a happy guy. What he means to this team, what he does for this team, when he's able to do it he's even happier, and the team is happier."
Happy is not a word floating around the Ducks' locker room of late. Anaheim will enter Saturday's game having lost three of their last four and five of their last seven. Making matters worse was a 2-1 defeat at home Thursday to the rival Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks are playing their opponents close, falling by one goal in four of their last five defeats, but they just can't find the scoring punch when they need it.
"It was a good team effort, but we need to find a way to not just get the puck to the goal line a couple of times, but over it," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said after Thursday's defeat, according to the Orange County Register. "It's something we'll continue to work on."
Eakins is looking for more traffic in front of goal and being more opportunistic with second chances. The Ducks scored once Thursday despite 37 shots on goal, 17 in the third period alone.
"We were playing with a little desperation (late) and had good control and some good looks, but their goalie played well, and we couldn't get it done," the Ducks' Derek Grant said on Fox Sports West after scoring Anaheim's lone goal of Thursday's game.
At one point this season, the Ducks were 6-1 on their home ice. They are 2-6-2 since then.
--Field Level Media