Last season, the New York Rangers were among the NHL leaders in comeback wins. This season an inability to maintain leads is a key contributor to their middling start following a dynamic run to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Rangers will attempt to snap a three-game home losing streak (0-2-1) on Saturday night when they host the struggling Chicago Blackhawks, who are on an eight-game overall losing streak (0-7-1).
After earning 27 comeback wins last season, the Rangers are 9-3-2 when scoring first and 11-3-5 when leading or tied through the second period. They also are a middling 4-5-4 through their first 13 home games after blowing leads in losses to the Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators in the past week.
On Nov. 26, New York allowed four goals in the third period of a 4-3 loss to Edmonton. Two nights later, the Rangers scored the first two goals before taking a 5-3 loss to New Jersey.
After recording a 3-1 win Wednesday in Ottawa, the Rangers were 49 seconds away from sweeping the home-and-home set on Friday but took a 3-2 overtime loss when Igor Shesterkin allowed two goals to Senators captain Brady Tkachuk.
The Rangers held a 2-1 advantage after goals by Vitali Kravtsov and Mika Zibanejad but did not do enough to expand upon the margin.
“We had two chances in overtime, but we didn’t play well enough to be in there, to be honest with you,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “But we were fortunate to be 2-2. But no, it wasn’t good enough, especially the first two periods.”
Chicago starts its three-game trip through the New York area winless since beating the host Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Nov. 12. In the eight games since then, the Blackhawks have allowed at least five goals six times, including the past two games.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks fell 5-4 to the visiting Oilers while allowing Edmonton stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to combine for three goals and two assists. Chicago trailed 4-1 before Max Domi and MacKenzie Entwistle scored 19 seconds apart late in the third period.
For the sixth time during the skid, Chicago faced a three-goal deficit.
“If we play with that desperation, a little bit of emotion in our game, like we did in the third period, it can go a long way,” Entwistle said after Chicago lost for the 14th time in 16 games (2-10-2). “Now we see it. We’ve seen it for the past couple games now. We just have to get out of this little drought.”
In an attempt to spark the offense, Blackhawks veterans Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews appeared on the first line together on Wednesday, but the two were a combined minus-6 with Toews making two mistakes that led to goals.
Chicago is on its first eight-game skid since going 0-8-0 from Nov. 27-Dec. 11, 2018. The Blackhawks last endured a nine-game skid Nov. 19-Dec. 11, 1988. Coach Luke Richardson is hoping an upbeat practice session Thursday can start translating to wins.
“This is a great place to be, so why not enjoy it?” Richardson said. “We’re not happy in the position we’re in, but we have to work our way out of it, (and) there’s no way of doing that if we’re grumpy.”
New York has won the past four meetings with Chicago.
–Field Level Media