ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rangers simply got goalied in this game against the Ducks, from their side of the ice and the other.
Jaroslav Halak is still searching for his first win in a red, white and blue jersey after allowing a couple of soft goals that put the Rangers behind the eight ball in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Pacific Division-trailing Ducks Thursday night at Honda. Center. It put a damper on what was otherwise a successful road trip out west in which the Rangers compiled a 2-1-1 record.
Ducks netminder John Gibson, like in the two team’s first meeting earlier this season, curbed several grade-A chances from the Rangers throughout the night before finishing with 41 saves. From reaching his stick out to block a Mika Zibanejad shot on the power play, stonewalling Kaapo Kakko on a clean breakaway out of the penalty box and everything in between, Gibson gave every Ranger fits from inside the blue crease to propel his team to their first. win in regulation this season.
The posts took care of the rest for Anaheim, six times to be exact.
“It kind of frustrated us,” Adam Fox said of Gibson’s performance. “Then we give a little too much and they take advantage.”
At the other end of the ice, Halak was off and on — but the Ducks capitalized whenever he was off. The second period was particularly all over the place for Halak, who is now 0-5-1 after the loss. He denied Anaheim around the crease whenever traffic built up, in addition to stopping one-time Blueshirt Frank Vatrano on a shorthanded breakaway.
By giving up a pair of weak goals in the middle frame, however, Halak had the Rangers chasing for the rest of the game.
From the boards, Ducks defenseman Dmitry Kulikov flung the puck at the Rangers net, and it somehow trickled behind Halak 39 seconds into the second period. Less than five minutes later, Troy Terry sniped a top corner on Halak to extend the Ducks’ lead to two goals.
The 37-year-old Halak has shown flashes of play that make a strong backup goalie, but there have also been some significant gaffs in a majority of his six starts that have cost the Rangers. As an NHL veteran and one who has served in a No. 2 role before, Halak has acknowledged how difficult it is to bounce back from tough games when his playing time is so limited.
“He didn’t get much work, but I’m sure that second goal he’s not happy about, obviously,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant said. “You stay with it. He’s a veteran guy, he’s won a lot of hockey games in his career. We’ll get some wins for him.”
Braden Schneider scored his second goal in as many games to pull the Rangers within one at the end of the second period, but the visitors couldn’t net the equalizer in the third despite outshooting the Ducks 17-2 in the final 20 minutes. Vincent Trocheck even whiffed on a loose puck off a rebound on a wide-open net to add to the Rangers troubles.
The puck still isn’t bouncing the Rangers way, but good teams can turn that around. The Rangers need to prove that much.