The Rangers returned to Madison Square Garden on Saturday after a week-long West Coast road trip.
After splitting their four games out west, Saturday against the Oilers could have been exactly what the 10-7 Rangers needed to string some wins together and climb the ranks of the Metropolitan division.
What instead happened was one of the team’s most gut-wrenching losses of the season. The Rangers entered the third period up 3-0 and were en route to starting their brief run at home with a victory. But the Oilers scored four unanswered goals to defeat New York, 4-3.
“I don’t know what to say… it’s disappointing,” coach Gerard Gallant said after the game. ”We had a couple of timeouts, tried to reset to get going again. Mistakes happen, they get four goals in the third period for no reason besides us giving them the opportunity. Two dumb penalties, both goals, and a couple of goals in between that.”
Gallant said the team played great in the first two periods, but he felt the Rangers became careless and sloppy in that final period. A few Rangers felt the collapse happened for a different reason.
“We just got passive in letting them get in our zone and they capitalized off that,” Adam Fox said. “We didn’t do a good job of getting behind them like we did in the first two and we gave them way too many chances."
Mika Zebanajed added, "We become a little bit too passive. You want to go for it... It’s hard once you become as passive as we did – and that’s on us. I’m not saying that we should chase and risk for a fourth goal, but we stopped doing the things that we did in the first two periods."
Gallant agreed with his players’ assessment during his postgame news conference before offering up some advice for the veterans on his team.
“It looked like [they played passive]. It’s never been the message before but it looked like that,” he said. “We were real passive. We let them skate in our zone and we just stood there watching.
“[The veterans] better have a chat with them. There’s a lot of guys responsible. It’s a team collapse, it's not one guy. Sure you’re disappointed with those penalties but … that can’t happen. You play the two best players in the world and you sit back and watch them dominate that third period.”
In that third period, the Oilers’ Evan Bouchard picked up his first two goals of the season five and eight minutes into the final frame. Dylan Holloway picked up his first goal of the season to tie the game while Leon Draisaitl scored the go-ahead goal on a powerplay with just two minutes to go.
The Rangers could not muster a response to any of it, managing just six shots in that final period.
“Tonight we were awful,” Gallant said. “It’s embarrassing. It’s not acceptable.”