David Quinn behind the bench during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center

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Hartnett: Young Rangers Need To Show More Effort

Sean Hartnett
November 16, 2018 - 1:32 pm

The Rangers had an opportunity to make a big statement against an Islanders team that has had their number. This was a chance for a new-look Rangers team built around youth to prove why things would be different against their pesky crosstown rivals.

It was time to bury old history. After all, first-year head coach David Quinn has sparked a commitment to defense and intensity that resulted in a seven-game point streak entering Thursday. What could go wrong?

Well, a lot went wrong.

It was more of the same on Thursday night at Barclays Center. The Rangers were bested by the Isles, 7-5, and it looked like a game straight out of Alain Vigneault’s worst nightmares.

After claiming a 2-0 lead, the Rangers allowed the Isles to skate straight to the net-front unabated. Eventual hat-trick scorer Anthony Beauvillier scored his first of the night by walking straight to the blue paint past the sleepy coverage of Brady Skjei and Tony DeAngelo.

Brock Nelson evened the score at 2-2 on a deflection goal after Henrik Lundqvist lost his stick and was screened by Tom Kuhnhackl. Kevin Shattenkirk gave a half-hearted push to Kuhnhackl. That wasn’t the kind of clear-out that was required because Kuhnhackl stood his ground and took away Lundqvist’s vision.

The Islanders gained a 3-2 lead after Beauvillier was sent to the races and scored from a brilliant Valtteri Filppula lead pass. Though Kevin Hayes would score a nifty tying shorthanded goal, it wasn’t long before the Isles regained a 4-3 lead. Beauvillier completed his hat trick on another tip-in on the power play. Neal Pionk had him tied up, but wasn’t strong enough to move Beauvillier out of prime real estate.

At this point, the game spiraled out of control for the Blueshirts. Anders Lee camped out in front and no Ranger followed him. Go ahead and take it. Another Isles’ power play goal made it 5-3.

Henrik Lundqvist was replaced by Alexandar Georgiev at the start of the third period. Neither goaltender received the kind of help they needed. The Isles circled around the net like sharks and kept skating to the crease without any real resistance. Leo Komarov capped the second set of three unanswered Islanders’ goals.

There was push-back from the Rangers in the form of resilient offense, there just wasn’t any push-back against the Isles claiming crease.

Chris Kreider gave the Rangers a breath of life by scoring his second of the night on the power play. Filip Chytil continued his hot play by pulling the Blueshirts within a goal while Georgiev was pulled for the extra skater, but Cal Clutterbuck sealed the win for the Isles with an empty netter.

Rangers fans have every right to be enraged after this one. This isn’t the way that a professional hockey team defends.

Shattenkirk needs to bring more than a chicken wing to the table in net-front battles. Skjei needs to take a serious look at his game because he’s been in a funk for quite some time. Tony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk are showing their shine in the offensive end, but still have a lot to learn in the defensive end. Quinn can’t jump in a time machine and replace the current Marc Staal with the 2011 version. When Fredrik Claesson was salvaged from the Ottawa Senators’ scrap heap and is now playing like your most consistent two-way defenseman, you’ve got a problem.

Though the Rangers entered the night with six wins in their previous seven games, this game served as an early progress report in their young season. The Rangers knew they needed to bring their full intensity and spirit to Barclays Center and match the Isles’ desire every inch of the way. Instead, the Islanders have continued a 12-1-0 streak against the Blueshirts.

Quinn has always preached the right things to this team about defensive structure, discipline and net-front defense. If this team isn’t carrying out the message, it’s not on the coach. It’s on the same players who shied away from clearing out the net-front under Vigneault.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey