TORONTO – Keith Yandle’s dangerous, surprisingly un-penalized hack at Artemi Panarin as the Blackhawks rookie finished Wednesday night’s hat trick into an empty net presumably demonstrated Yandle’s frustration over his late costly penalty and the Rangers’ 5-3 home loss.
Panarin’s goal, though, also stung the ego of a Rangers team defined by its defense in recent years. Suddenly, the Blueshirts have allowed four hat tricks through 57 games this season after surrendering just four hat tricks total over the past five seasons (376 games) combined, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Per Elias, only the Edmonton Oilers (five), the NHL’s 29th ranked team, have allowed more hat tricks this season. The 23rd-ranked Ottawa Senators and Thursday night’s Rangers opponent, the league-worst Maple Leafs (20-26-9, 49 points), are the only others who have surrendered four.
The Rangers (32-19-6, 70 points) allowed no hat tricks all of last season. They even have held opponents to two or fewer goals in five of their last seven games (5-1-1), rising to sixth place in the league.
Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin shoots and scores in the second period vs. the Rangers.
But Panarin became the first rookie ever to record a hat trick against Henrik Lundqvist, per Elias – including two scored on the King and his empty-netter – five days after the Kings’ Anze Kopitar scored three on backup Antti Raanta.
Former Ranger draft pick Lauri Korpikoski got the ball rolling for the Oilers on Dec. 11, with two goals on Lundqvist and an empty-netter, scoring three of his six total goals this season. Then Washington’s Justin Williams scored two on Raanta with an empty-netter on Jan. 17 in the nation’s capital.
Predictably, the Rangers have an 0-3-1 record in those games. The last time they allowed four hat tricks in one season was in 2009-10 (four), though they are still way shy of the franchise’s all-time record of 18 given up by the 1943-44 squad, per Elias.
Still, Raanta factors prominently in this season’s failure to shut the door on dominant individual efforts. Add in his lack of confidence during last Friday’s 5-4 OT loss to Los Angeles – and the fact he has not won a game since Nov. 15 – and it was all the more important Raanta got the start and the win Thursday in Toronto.
He’ll need a better effort from a penalty kill that went 1-for-4 with Lundqvist in goal against Chicago, though. Unfortunately, Artem Anisimov’s presence on the Blackhawks was a reminder of how many shorthanded assets at forward the Blueshirts have lost since 2012.
A linesman picks up a couple hats tossed on the Garden ice after Panarin’s hat trick.
President Glen Sather traded Anisimov to Columbus in the Rick Nash deal that summer, dealt Ryan Callahan to Tampa in the spring of 2014, let Brian Boyle walk to the Lightning in free agency the next summer, and sent Carl Hagelin to Anaheim last June.
Jarret Stoll wasn’t the solution after signing as a free agent late last summer and was put on waivers. Alain Vigneault basically implored first-year GM Jeff Gorton to sign Daniel Paille out of the AHL in January to help the kill, but Paille and defenseman Dan Girardi were both victimized on Panarin’s first of three goals on a second-period Chicago power play, as well.
The Rangers do miss Nash on the penalty kill, and he will miss his 11th straight game Thursday with a left leg bone bruise and no timetable to return. But center Dominic Moore, the Rangers’ core defensemen and Lundqvist are still here, and they’re not getting the job done.
Marc Staal is expected to rejoin the lineup in Toronto after missing Wednesday night’s game due to the birth of his and his wife Lindsay’s second daughter. So hopefully he’ll stem the tide and at the very least keep the home fans’ blue and white hats off the ice.
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